Remember those silly little eight and a half by eleven inch pieces of paper with an obscure MP's (most often a Conservative backbencher) Ottawa Government Caucus Services office as a return address that some Canadians used to get stuffed into their mailboxes on a regular basis? They looked like they had been designed by a rather talentless graffiti artist and generally criticized the outlook of the Opposition and their leader. Well, they're baaaaack!
Through some Ottawa-inspired loophole, this stupid waste of taxpayers' money seems to have magically reappeared despite the decision made by the Board of Internal Economy back in March 2010 that was supposed to put an end to this practice. At that time, the Board decided to change the rules on partisan "ten-percenter" mailouts, those flyers that MPs had been sending, at taxpayers' expense, to households outside their constituency in a rather desperate attempt to sway a few voters particularly in vulnerable ridings. The original intent of ten-percenters was a means by which an MP could inform his constituents of various issues that were pertinent to their riding. Instead, the Harper government (as they are so fond of being called) corrupted the process and used the mailouts as a taxpayer-funded campaign tool.
Here's what the Board decided back in March:
· That each Member would retain the current right to 4 householders per year for distribution in his/her constituency (my bold)
· That each Member would return to the right to an unlimited number of 10 percenters for distribution in his/her constituency (the original definition of 10 percenter being retained: that is, a communication that goes to 10% of the households in the constituency; each of these communications being 50% different from one another)
The Board confirmed:
· That there would be no more regrouped 10 percenters (i.e. communications regrouped by party Whips once a month for distribution to targeted constituencies);
· That there would be no 10 percenter allowed for distribution outside of the constituency of the Member producing that communication. (my bold)
It was also decided that there would be limits set on paper supplies chargeable to central budgets by each Member:
· A limit to envelopes equal to 3 X the number of households in his/her constituency
· A limit of 60,000 sheets of paper (that's a stack of paper 20 feet high)
Any supplies in excess are charged to the Member's MOB.
The Board also reconfirmed the prohibition against Members charging external printing services to their Member's Office Budget for large-volume printing.
This letter arrived in the mail at a residence thousands of kilometres from the office of Randy Hoback, MP for Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Who, you ask? Mr. Hoback is a first term Conservative MP and farmer from Prince Albert. Here is his full biography and, as I suspected, he sits in the snore-filled and rarified air WAY, WAY back in the cheap seats on the government side of the House. Here's a screen capture of his expenses for the fiscal year ending March 31st, 2010:
Notice that Mr. Hoback spent $60,705.73 on ten-percenters? That is a lot of money for little pieces of paper that end up in the recycle bin but I guess it's easy money to spend when you don't have to work for it!
Rather than just supplying a mass-printed, impersonal mailout, this time the Harper Conservatives have gone all out, at taxpayers' expense, of course. In an individually addressed window envelope (with the House of Commons logo on the back so it looks like really important government business), a lovely letter that is personally addressed to the occupants of the home (both husband and wife) is enclosed. The two page (front and back) letter goes on to explain just how great the Conservatives have been at battling the economic downturn and even gives a couple of specific examples of what has happened in a particular riding. The letter also included the mandatory "Ignatieff-led Coalition" talking point just in case we didn't understand it the first ten thousand times that we heard it.
The letter closes with a request:
"Our Government is seeking your input for the next phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan. Your opinion is important, so please take a minute to fill out the response card." (their bold and underline)
Yes, we all know just how important our opinion is to Mr. Harper, a man who barely listens to his own Cabinet.
Sorry for blacking out parts of the letter but I'm invoking the National Security cone of secrecy.
I'll let the second page speak for itself:
Mr. Hoback. I would ask that you consider NOT wasting taxpayers' hard-earned money to campaign for Mr. Harper no matter how charming he may seem to you. As Canadians, we work hard for every cent we make and it's really quite annoying to get a letter from you in the mail that is so clearly partisan politicking, especially when we know that you are spending our money to do it.
...and by the way, you sent two copies of the exactly the same letter to exactly the same address. Better get your records straightened out if you are planning to continue to waste Canadians' money.