POLITICS

Catherine McKenna, Liberal Candidate, Proposes Limits On Taxpayer-Funded Mailouts

08/10/2015 05:04 EDT | Updated 08/10/2016 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA — The Liberal candidate for the Ottawa riding that includes Parliament Hill says Canadians are getting too much mail from that coveted address.

If elected to represent Ottawa Centre, Catherine McKenna says she'll work to cut back the number of mailouts — paid for by taxpayers — that members of Parliament are allowed to send their constituents each year.

McKenna says the newsletters and pamphlets cost millions in public funds, an enormous waste of money in the age of nearly-free digital communication tools.

She wants the cost of the mailings cut in half for MPs who represent urban ridings, whether by slashing the amount that can be spent or by reducing the number of mailings they are allowed to send.

MPs can use their office budgets to send four newsletters each calendar year — known as householders — and also separate one-page flyers called 10 percenters, so named because they can be sent to 10 per cent of a riding at a time.

Last year, $4.6 million was spent on householders and $2.3 million on ten percenters.

McKenna says she wouldn't ask the same of rural MPs, because Internet access in those areas isn't as readily available and MPs often have a harder time meeting with their constituents face-to-face.

The rules surrounding the mailouts are set by the House of Common's board of internal economy, a secretive all-party committee of MPs that oversees parliamentary spending.

Neither the New Democrats nor the Conservatives immediately responded to a question about whether they would back the idea.

In 2009, the Conservatives came under fire for using ten percenters to directly target opposition MPs; at the time, an MP could send the mailouts anywhere in the country, but only to a population equivalent to 10 per cent of their riding.

The next year, the Liberals introduced a motion in the House of Commons — originally opposed by the NDP — to restrict those ten percenters to an MP's own constituents in a bid to curb partisan use.

The NDP eventually voted in favour, allowing the motion to pass over the objections of the Conservatives, but because of its wording, they were forced to go along with the changes.

Several NDP MPs are accused of using public money from their office budgets to pay for partisan outreach offices across the country, but have gone to Federal Court to challenge the order that they pay it back.

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