Recently the federal NDP party was ordered by the Board of Internal Economy to repay $ 1.17 million for misusing their House of Commons mailing privileges. The MPs in question owe $36,000 to the House, while the remaining $1.13 million is owed to Canada Post.
Given that members of Parliament rely on mailing as one of the tools to stay in touch with their constituents, I thought it was important to clarify how the NDP broke the rules. The neutral House of Commons administrative officials determined that the NDP mailings violated the rules for using MPs’ Commons envelopes and free postal privileges. They violated this in several ways;
* The mailings were not messages from the individual members as members, but rather were prepared by and for the benefit of the NDP as a political party, including directing recipients to a website where they could donate to the party. Party fundraising is strictly forbidden when using House of Commons resources.
* They sent 1.8 million pieces of mail by 23 New Democrat MPs – including NDP Leader Tom Mulcair – into 26 ridings currently held by other parties/members. Not since March 2010, when a motion to have this practice disallowed passed, have MPs been allowed to send so-called Ten Percenters into their opponents’ ridings.
* Members of Parliament may not use their member’s budget to hire external printing services to print, produce or distribute printed materials other than season’s greetings cards in volumes exceeding 4,500 copies. The NDP printed 1.8 million pieces, grossly violating that restriction.
Members of Parliament are obligated to communicate with our constituents and provide them our contact information so we are accessible. We use the opportunity to highlight what we are doing in Ottawa and around our constituencies.
All other parties’ – Conservative, Liberal and Bloc Quebecois – MPs had complained that the NDP is using taxpayer-funded, parliamentary resources for purely partisan activities, which are supposed to be funded by political parties. This practice is simply not acceptable, and in violation of the House rules. The NDP needs to repay the money.