Senate Canada: Partisan Newsletters Funded By Taxpayers Given Go Ahead By Upper House
OTTAWA — Using taxpayers’ dollars to send partisan mailings is A-OK, Canada's senators have finally decided.
“There are only 105 of us, George (Liberal Senator George Furey) and I have basically talked to our caucuses and said, you know, when you do your newsletter be careful, don’t be excessively partisan,” Conservative Senator David Tkachuk told The Huffington Post Thursday.
“You can still be partisan, I mean we are a debating society, we fight and we argue, but when you put them down, put them down in a way that promotes discussion rather than an attack,” he added.
Tkachuk, the chair of the Senate's committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, said the newsletters are now going through a new vetting process by communication staff and if any alarm bells go off, a group of senators will determine whether or not a certain partisan newsletter can be printed and mailed.
"We do check them now, we just make sure before they are printed that they are not a propaganda piece," he said.
Senators got caught up with the newsletter issue last year after Conservative Senators Bob Runciman and Don Plett sent newsletters out to ridings held by Liberals MPs attacking the opposition party for being soft on crime.
The Liberals complained about the mailings in the fall of 2010, but in a closed-door session the administrative body of the Senate decided that partisan mailings were all right as long as senators refrained from insulting one another.
Liberal senators Jane Cordy and Jim Munson, however, later raised concerns that senators were giving themselves the right to use public funds do something that MPs in the House of Commons had banned. MPs cannot send newsletters to ridings other than their own while senators can send addressed mail anywhere in Canada.
Cordy said she felt some senators’ newsletters — those printed in party colours and occasionally featuring photos with party candidates — were “blatant political advertisement” rather than a description of a senators’ work.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation latched on to the issue, organizing a fundraising drive calling on Canadians to complain if they believed their “tax dollars should not be used for politics.”
“If politicians want to run TV ads and send junk mail attacking each other, they should do it with their own money,” the Federation wrote in their newsletter.
Faced with complaints, Tkachuk’s committee decided to bench the issue by forming a small committee to study the newsletters.
“When some of the senators who complained saw their own, or all of the newsletters, everybody was doing it — well, I shouldn’t say that but there were a number of partisan parts of a number of different newsletters that senators had and they were from different political parties,” Tkachuk said Thursday.
“I think when people realized that I think it was moot.”
Top 10 Most Expensive MP Pensions
Welcome to the $3 million club. The following 10 MPs will each receive an estimated total lifetime pension of more than $3 million if they retire in 2019. All the <a href="http://taxpayer.com/sites/default/files/CTFMP-PensionReport-WEB.pdf" target="_hplink">estimates come from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation</a> and are based on an MP retiring in 2019 and ceasing to receive their pension at age 80. The numbers if the MPs retire in 2015 are also included in the caption to each slide.
10. Michael Chong - $3,124,903
Conservative MP Michael Chong would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,684,816 if he were to retire in 2015.
9. Peter Van Loan - $3,194,114
Conservative MP Peter Van Loan would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,462,029 if he were to retire in 2015. (CP)
8. Rona Ambrose - $3,330,876
Conservative MP Rona Ambrose would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,429,149 if she were to retire in 2015. (CP)
7. Rob Anders - $3,643,873
Conservative MP Rob Anders would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,034,089 if he were to retire in 2015. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
6. Denis Coderre - $3,701,989
Liberal MP Denis Coderre would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,288,821 if he were to retire in 2015. (Graham Hughes/CP)
5. Scott Brison - $3,723,666
Liberal MP Scott Brison would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,113,881 if he were to retire in 2015.
4. James Moore - $3,795,386
Conservative MP James Moore would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,893,658 if he were to retire in 2015. (Althia Raj)
3. Gerry Byrne - $3,996,498
Liberal MP Gerry Byrne would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,450,711 if he were to retire in 2015.
2. Jason Kenney - $4,318,507
Conservative MP Jason Kenney would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,416,779 if he were to retire in 2015. (CP)
1. Stephen Harper - $5,596,474
Prime Minister Stephen Harper would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $5,456,109 if he were to retire in 2015. Harper's numbers are based on the PM not buying back into the program for his service as a Reform Party MP between 1993-1997. In order to make a political statement, Harper did not contribute to the pension program during his time as a Reform MP. After returning to Parliament Hill in 2002, Harper could have retroactively contributed to the program for his service from 1993 to 1997. According to the PMO, Harper has not and will not make those contributions. MPs are not obligated to disclose this information. If Harper were to choose to buy back in for those years, his numbers would change. If he were to buy back in and retire in 2019 he would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $6,216,858 and $6,233,568 if he were to retire in 2015. His numbers also include the special allowance he will receive as Prime Minister. An earlier version of this story used the numbers based on Harper buying back in for the 1993 to 1997 period. After being contacted by the PMO with the prime minister's pledge not to do so, the numbers were updated. (CP)