Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another 10 percent solution

I didn't much like MacGyver, but there was one episode that really stood out for me -- the "10% Solution." Seems MacGyver stumbled upon a plot to take over the five western-most states in the Lower 48 and to have them secede and reform as a neo-Nazist entity. When MacGyver said why not all 50, his nemesis said that Hitler's "Final Solution" went way too far in its attempts at world domination. Hence, they'd settle for five out of fifty states, or 10%.

I do not say this to impugne the motivations of the Conservatives here in Canada, in any way. I do this to make an argument about bending the rules to get one's way.

I note, as have others (including my colleague Scott Tribe, here) that the House of Commons has long had a rule that allows MPs to use their franking privileges to send flyers to 10% of any district -- even one not their own -- in addition to the two or three householders we get every year. All parties, and the independent MPs too, have long used this quirk in the law. Without prejudice, I too would call it a ten percent solution -- of sorts.

The only stipulation is that the flyers can only provide information about an issue or a party's perspective; it cannot actually attempt to campaign outside of official campaign periods.

Recently, however, the Conservatives seem to have found a way around this. They get ten of their MPs to send flyers to 10% of a targeted riding so as to get 100% coverage. All fine and good ... except they've chosen to pick ridings that just happen to be having by-elections right now to fill vacancies. Today, the Liberals filed a complaint about this practice. They demanded the Speaker of the House rule this too clever by half and to reimburse the house the cost for mailing those flyers out.

I'm beyond annoyed by the letters I get from my and other MPs which seem to be on an almost weekly basis. Most of you probably are too. But this one takes it to another level. By flooding propaganda into a district while a by-election is going on it appears to be an attempt to circumvent official spending rules.

It's up to the Speaker as well as the Chief Electoral Officer to determine whether the rules are being broken. But during a time when the ruling party is already under investigation for alleged spending irregularities (possibly putting its public financing at risk as well as the MPs that were elected under suspect circumstances), not to mention the government managing to run a deficit despite record high fuel prices ... one would expect a bit more caution from the Cons.

The Speaker can't wait until the House resumes sitting. We need a ruling ASAP. If the Conservatives are allowed to make ten plus ten equal one hundred then the other parties get to do the same. It is as simple as that.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I've noted several times on my blog too, they are also going after Goodale's seat in Regina Wascana where I am.

It's blatant campaigning with blatant propaganda. It's not ethical, and is probably illegal.