In the mail yesterday morning, I received another mailing from my local MP. I’m not going to name any names, but suffice to say, he’s in the top ten Highest MP Printing Costs list printed in this week’s Hill Times. That also explains the sheer volume of printed material that comes through my mailbox on a regular basis.
I don’t object to MP mailings in principle. Rather, what I do object to are the kinds of mailings that only serve a partisan purpose. Usually it’s those torqued Conservative mailings that give an inflammatory statement and invite the recipient to check a box that says either they agree with the Conservative talking point, or they’re favour of higher taxes under the Liberals. In this case of my MP’s mailing today, it was a single check box that said, “I want Parliament to work.” As opposed to what? Saying that I want paralysis, delay, and obfuscation? What kind of survey is that?
Not that the check boxes really matter in the end, or even whether you scrawl abuse on the mailing before you send it back (free postage) to the MP who sent it. Because they’re really not surveys to canvas your opinion. Often, they’re just used for data mining purposes, sent to the party’s research bureau where your address and any information you put on there is input into a giant database so that they can figure out your demographics.
But it didn’t always used to be like this. I remember back when I lived in Calgary, Joe Clark was my MP. And every so often, I’d get an MP mailing from him, but here’s the thing—it was full of stuff that he was actually doing. About positions he’d taken on issues in the House, or with photos of him attending events in the community, or what have you. But there was something of substance in it, and in retrospect, where the mailings and “ten-percenters” have devolved to this level, I miss those kinds of mailings.
Granted, in this age of the internet, most of those kinds of things are on an MP’s website, where they have transcript and videos of speeches and the photos of them attending community events. Which is great. But not everyone who votes is on the internet, and these partisan mailings are still being used for data mining purposes.
The issue of “ten percenters” sent to other ridings has come up repeatedly in Parliament in the past couple of sessions, especially as Conservatives have driven up the costs with mass printings and bulk mail-outs (amidst other complaints that it’s impossible to get other important printing jobs completed on time on the Hill any more because they’re too busy spitting out more ten percenters). But perhaps, in this internet age, we need to see that our Parliamentarians revisit the concept of free mailings to prevent partisan abuses and a free means of mining data.
It looks like Mike Duffy’s senate appointment just might be illegal. He’s been appointed as a Senator from PEI, as that’s where he’s from. But because he doesn’t own property there, and doesn’t currently reside there, it might actually make the choice invalid according to at least one Constitutional expert. I’m going to be very curious to see how they get around this one.