by Linda Leon
Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:
I returned from holidays to discover three Ten Percenters, from you, in my mailbox.
Ten Percenters are not to be confused with Householders, the quarterly booklets mailed out by members of Parliament reporting their activities on behalf of their constituents.
Ten Percenters are taxpayer-funded one-page flyers. They are photocopied on both sides and frequently ask you to return them to the sender “postage free.” The House of Commons Board of Internal Economy is responsible for the Ten Percenters. The purpose of Ten Percenters is to allow members to keep affected constituents informed about local issues.
Originally, members were allowed to send Ten Percenters into other ridings. It may have been because postal codes don’t line up with riding boundaries and this would allow for cheaper bulk mailing. But it quickly became a partisan tool used by all political parties.
In 2008, the Conservative Party ramped up the use of Ten Percenters to an unprecedented level and used them to send out hate ads, something not done before. Here in the Yukon we received, on average, two Ten Percenters a month from Conservatives MPs.
I considered this practice to be legalized theft of public money and an abuse of public trust.
At that time, I called the Ten Percenters “Tory Trash” and asked Yukoners to donate them to me for use in an art project. You might be interested in knowing that I collected more than 800 flyers. I had a successful show, by the way. I built a wall with Tory Trash called “Stephen’s Firewall: Do Not Play with Matches.” The Burnt Tory, a life-sized figure, still sits on my front porch scaring children and slowly decaying from the corruption within.
In March of 2010, Michael Ignatieff’s motion to ban this practice passed. Shortly after, the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy ruled that parliamentarians may not send partisan propaganda into their opponents’ ridings at public expense. But Ten Percenters are still allowed within a member’s riding.
Once again, Canadians are being bombarded with Ten Percenters from their own members of Parliament. Sometimes they are merely partisan propaganda such as the ones you are now sending Yukoners. Sometimes they are hate ads like the anti-Trudeau flyers some Conservatives are blanketing their constituencies with.
Again, I’ve invited Yukoners to donate their Tory Trash to me. I have placed a clearly marked garbage can in the foyer of Well Read Books. I have an art show scheduled for Gallery 22 next year.
You pointed out to me that Yukon’s previous MP, Larry Bagnell, spent $6,071.31 on Ten Percenters in 2010. I was already aware of this having asked him about it at the time and letting him know how much I disapproved of this practice. (I often asked Larry hard questions. You are not special.)
In 2010, parliamentarians spent over $10.2 million on Ten Percenters. Of this, the Liberals, Bloc and NDP spent $1,428,018.94, $980,005.20 and $1,305,622.72 respectively. Conservatives spent a whopping $6,492,210.80 and averaged $43,571.88 per MP. The NDP averaged $36,267.30 and the Liberals averaged $19,297.55. Five Conservatives managed to spend over $110,000 each. The MP from Fort McMurray-Athabaska, Brian Jean, won the prize at $116,423.43. Perhaps he was expecting to be rewarded with a Senate appointment.
Ten Percenters are called such because each flyer cannot exceed a number equal to 10 per cent of the number of households in their riding. There is also a 50 per cent rule which states that the same flyer counts as a separate flyer if half of the text is different. I still have copies of Tory Trash from the 2008 to 2010 with versions of the same flyer containing a dense block of tiny print which had been switched out. This ploy enabled Chuck Strahl to blanket the entire Yukon with what were essentially the same flyers.
The Ten Percent Rule is actually the We-can-send-as-much-propaganda-as-we-want-at-your-expense-so-suck-it-up-you-losers Rule.
And that is why you should not do it.
While Liberals have shown the most restraint, some parliamentarians, from all parties, have dragged their feet or even refused to take part in this race to the bottom.
Here is a suggestion. In the fall, make a motion to have Ten Percenters banned in their entirety. The Prime Minister’s Office would be displeased. But there are principled MPs from all parties who hate this rule and would be happy to see its demise. You would gain respect in the eyes of honourable colleagues and your constituents.
May you walk on the high road.
Linda Leon is a Whitehorse freelancer writer.