Free speech and propaganda - Macleans.ca
 

Free speech and propaganda


 

Buried in a Liberal motion yesterday was a proposal that the House direct “its Board of Internal Economy to take all necessary steps to end immediately the wasteful practice of Members sending mass mailings, known as ‘ten-percenters,’ into ridings other than their own, which could represent another saving to taxpayers of more than $10 million.”

The resulting debate starts here and, later, resumes here. The gist would seem to be that the government side opposes the motion on an assertion of free speech, while the NDP would like the program to continue with some kind of rule against negative content.


 

Free speech and propaganda

  1. Oh how I loathe those things…they're just so…American.

    • I loathe 10%ers too, but I think I loathe anti-Americanism even more.

      • "I loathe 10%ers too, but I think I loathe anti-Americanism even more."

        Actually, I'm pretty sure you loathe everything that doesn't flatter you personally, in some way.

  2. It makes a lot of sense to get rid of the 'ten-percenters', and is such an easy way to save money in these tight times. How discouraging that it most likely not come to pass. Isn't it time our politicians think of the country before their own self-interests?

    • Wonderful. Please get behind me as we lop off the buck-ninety-five-per-year-per-vote for the political parties. It too is an easy way to save money in these tight times. While we're at it, let's abolish the sweetheart tax creits for political contributions, too. Isn't it time our politicians think of the country before their own self-interests?

  3. What Libby Davies actually said is a little more worrying than "some kind of rule against negative content," though:

    some reasonable limits and ensure that ten percenters are used in a way that is responsible and is about proper communication

    "Reasonable limits," "responsible," "proper communication"…surely such well-meaning sentiments could never be abused to limit political speech one party simply doesn't like, while ignoring similar tone and substance elsewhere, right?

    • Whatever the rules made, they would apply equally to all sides. Ten-percenters are intended to be used for MPs to communicate with their constituents about what they're doing (my MP, Keith Martin, actually uses then that way, as information brochures about what he's working on rather than slams on the other parties). If we wanted to limit the use of these things as negative advertising, the House could just have a restriction that ten-percenters can't mention other political parties (although I'm sure parties would find a way to get around that… I suppose they also would if the rule was something along the lines of "no ad hominem").

      What's needed is some way to preserve the ability of MPs to communicate with their constitutuents while trying to prevent that ability from being used by a party to launch attack ads en masse that have nothing to do with the specific MP or their riding. I think saying MPs can't send them to ridings other than their own is a good first step in that direction, at least.

    • I think if MPs only sent ten percenters to their own constituents, this conversation would never have come up.

      The issue that I have with them is that some Saskatchewan Conservative MP sends people in Bob Rae's riding (Toronto Centre) a half-patootied mudslinging sheet of talking points that has nothing to do with the issues anyone in the riding is currently concerned about. The only possible point to such communications is to try to make your opponents look bad. In the end, it only makes the entire system look flawed, and people become more disengaged than they already are.

      Want to turn people back to politics and policy? Make it matter. Force MPs to get out and talk to as many of their constituents as humanly possible. And those Ten Percenters? Regulate 'em so that each one has to demonstrate what the house has achieved (and how the MP has contributed to that achievement), and what it plans to do over the coming months. I am an investor in the stock that is the government of Canada, I'd like to be treated like a shareholder.

      • I'd much prefer citizen…but i take your point.

      • Some might argue that people becoming "disengaged" is the point of negative ten percenters

    • Yes because they're analogous, right. One is often misuse of taxpayer dollars for crass propaganda, and the other misuse of public funds for the purpose of funding parties on a proportionate electoral basis [ at least the party sub] I get the principle right away. Other than they both cost money i see no connection, consistent, principled or otherwise. How bout using ten % for what they're wer originaly intened – is it too much too expect moral behaviour from our honourable men and women of the house? We don't need more rules, just more honourable behaviour.

      • is it too much too expect moral behaviour from our honourable men and women of the house?

        Sometimes I think it must be.
        Maybe Gaunilon is correct: hard liquor is the answer

    • Agree Libby's approach is wrong.

      But what'syour opinion about 10% overall? All you say is "the opposition isn't taking a principled stance" and that they are "not optimal" – but you don't bother to give your perspective or say whether you think the current Government should eliminate them or not.

      FOR ONCE COULD A CONSERVATIVE SUPPORTER ACTUALLY ARGUE THE BLOODY POINT ON PRINCIPLE INSTEAD OF REDIRECTING IT TO THE OPPOSITION.

      Avr — this could be you! You could take a stand!

      I've voted (Progressive) Conservative before (although am certainly not a loyal partisan). I have not seen a shred of fiscal conservatism in this government. (I'm not saying the opposition is better). I continue to be surprised that there isn't more conservative outrage at this "Conservative" government.

      • I'm a conservative. I'm outraged. Happy?

        • YES!

      • It's a simple matter of free speach. There is no way we should be putting limits on what MPs can communicate to Canadians, unless of course it breaks the law. In principal, I think all parties would agree on that too. The problem lies with who pays for it. They should be funded by each individual MP, not party coffers, and certainly not taxpayers and then a lot of this problem would go away.

        • I disagree. A politician communicating – to the constituents of another riding – that another party doesn't like/stand by/do anything for the plights of Jewish people, women, immigrants, whomever, and using taxpayer funds to do it, is a politician who is misusing my tax dollars.

          My tax dollars need to go to government programs like health care, education, and defense spending. If the parties want a slush fund to slag other members of other parties, they can get it from their donors, and the $1.70 (or whatever it is) that my vote gives them.

          • Well I did say "They should be funded by each individual MP, not party coffers, and certainly not taxpayers and then a lot of this problem would go away", so I think we're pretty close on this one. The reason why I'd like individual MPs/riding associates to have to pay for these individually, is that that MP then has to be able to back up that message.

            But we agree, this should not be funded by taxpayers.

          • We do indeed agree that these shouldn't be funded by taxpayers. I think I intended to argue a different point but lost my mind in the phrasing. Oops.

            Here's a second attempt: I'm not sure that this is a simple matter of free speech, though. I've never considered free speech to be the ability to say whatever you want, however insulting, demeaning, misleading, or baseless – particularly when you're a public official charged with representing tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, as well as a political party. If we want a higher level of debate in this country, we need to demand better of our representatives; that starts with requiring a level of class that prohibits talking about other parties and MPs like they're boogeymen hiding under your bed.

          • Well obviously we have a difference of opinion on what "free speech" is. I think that there are obvious limits, like libel, fraud, etc. And I would certainly like to think that MOST MPs have more class than their 10%ers indicate. Which is why I'd rather those rags were funded at the riding level, rather than the party level. If the party wants to mail people, they have a donors list and should use that. If you want to blanket a riding, especially if it's not yours, the MP better be putting his/her name on it.

            But it is a pleasure to be able to agree with you on something for a change :)

          • "Which is why I'd rather those rags were funded at the riding level, rather than the party level."

            All of a sudden I have a hankering for an In-n-Out burger . . .

          • I believe free speech is the right to say anything, no matter how offensive it is, unless you're directly advocating violence against another person or group.

            I do not believe free speech entails the right of politicians to be paid by taxpayers to send paper attack ads to people who aren't in their ridings and aren't interested. The point of ten-percenters was so that MPs can communicate with their constituents about what they're doing; they should be restricted to being used for this purpose. When we reach a point where >90% of Canadian households have internet access, all funding for political mailings of any kind should be cut off.

          • There's nothing wrong with the original intent of the ten%. As always it's the the parties who have pushed the boundaries ; whether it be accusing libs of anti-semitism or accusing cons of sending body bags to reserves. Free speech has its limits in a civilized society much like anything else. If pols cared as much for the country as they frequently claim to they'd not just do something just because they can.

          • I agree that there's nothing wrong with the original intent of the mailings, and that absolutely MPs have taken them to new depths. I just think that rather than trying to limit what kind of communications MPs can have with who/when/where etc (which would be impossible in the long-run), it would be easier to force them to pay for it from the riding assoc. That way all of the MPs constituence would hold that MP personally responsible for making their community look like raving lunatics. I think you'd see a lot less of the crap they put out, and maybe even some informative stuff.

      • I don't see a way to realistically restrict the content to be inoffensively non-political; the best case scenario is a lot of hedging and implication of the same arguments now allowed to be explicit. (And really, no one has the moral high ground here. I've worked on NDP ten percenters.) Given that, I'm fine with removing public funding generally.

        At the same time, though, I can't take the opposition whining very seriously, given the per-vote subsidy thing. If they want to cut funding for a thing they think gives the Tories a tactical advantage, surely they could agree to cuts for things they think give them a tactical advantage, right?

  4. Why do voters always say they want to vote for nice politicians then end up giving narrow pluralities to the jerk ones? :)

    • Gah! this is in the wrong topic!

      • If you had signed up for an Intense Debate account, you could have deleted that comment and saved me from reading it. Sign up today! ;-)

        • Actually, that was my plan along! You have fallen into my cunning trap, witless frog!! BWAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAA!!!!

          • Gah! Foiled again!

  5. Per capita, the NDP are among the worst abuses of parliamentary mail. They use first class mail with Jack Laytons name appearing on the enevelope. everyone else does these postal code drops, which are still expensive, but not nearly as much as the direct mailings.

    • This is fact? Because direct-mail as opposed to flyer-drops would be AT LEAST 7 times more expensive, and thats just mailing costs, not including printing costs (which I assume are covered for them as well). Or do you happen to live in Laytons riding, and he's got your info on a list?

      Man, I'm asking God questions, and this is what I ask? Brutal!

      • "Man, I'm asking God questions, and this is what I ask? Brutal!"

        Have you noticed that He hasn't answered you yet? Typical.

        • Touche. Though a simple "42" would have sufficed.

  6. Libby Davies – about the enviroment trees there lady. Has she not heard of the internet and emails?

    If I'm not mistaken, didn't the Hill Times report on office expenses last year of MP's and the NDP spent the most – paperclips, etc.?

    NDP have no problem spending OUR money.

  7. Have we mentioned that you can delete comments if you have an Intense Debate account?

    • Now that you've replied to his comment, he can't.

  8. Oh, you think the American political process is just fine then I gather?

  9. The 10-percenters should be eliminated because all taxpayers should not be required to fund party and MP promotion mailings that relate to issues, and because any rule against negative content is essentially unenforceable because of the difficulty of defining "negative" and effectively penalizing violators.

    The parties and MPs already receive massive taxpayer-funded subsidies (including direct funding and high tax deductions for donations to them), high enough amounts overall for parties and MPs to pay for their mailings to voters — all that should be allowed to be mailed at taxpayer cost is an annual calendar with key contact information for the MP and government agencies that provide services to voters (no issue messages should be allowed in the calendar).

    See details in Democracy Watch's news release at:
    http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/RelsMar1510.html

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch

  10. The 10-percenters should be eliminated because all taxpayers should not be required to fund party and MP promotion mailings that relate to issues, and because any rule against negative content is essentially unenforceable because of the difficulty of defining "negative" and effectively penalizing violators.

    The parties and MPs already receive massive taxpayer-funded subsidies (including direct funding and high tax deductions for donations to them), high enough amounts overall for parties and MPs to pay for their mailings to voters — all that should be allowed to be mailed at taxpayer cost is an annual calendar with key contact information for the MP and government agencies that provide services to voters (no issue messages should be allowed in the calendar).

    See details in Democracy Watch's news release at:
    http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/RelsMar1510.html

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch

  11. Let's see: "I loathe anti-Americanism" becomes "I think the American political process is just fine".
    Hmmm. I'm thinking there may be a logical leap there. What do you think?

  12. Well I guess you misconstrued my first statement then didn't you?

  13. Is it really free speech if I paid for it and didn't want to?

    • Brilliant point.

  14. If Harper was smart, he'd capitulate 100% on this, and say "no more government financing for mailings". And then the Libs and NDP would go full circle, because they're good for nothing if not defending their entitlements.

  15. As a resident of Linda Duncan's riding, I get to read CPC talking points from all over the country. Funny how they're all the same. Luckily, Edmonton has an excellent waste management program, including paper recycling.

    • Hey, neighbour! I got two of them, from two separate Conservative MPs in two consecutive days last week. Very wasteful, but for the small do-gooder thrill I get from recycling.

  16. Yes, the Liberals and NDP are really focussed on Problem #1, 2, and 3 — The Economy/Jobs/Deficits! Sounds like they don't realize yet that Parliament is back in session. While ordinary Canadians work and slave away …. Jack and Iffy play games at our expense.

  17. Why don't they just prohibit MPs sending 10-percenters outside their own riding?

  18. Agree on content – that's a non starter. I actually agree with you on subsidies too- I don't think political parties should be subsidized at all.

    As for the Liberals….it's not inconsistent to think the 10%ers should only be used for MPs to communicate to their own constituents (a legitimate activity) and still be in favour of a subsidy for political parties.

  19. Free speech? Try tax payer subsidized speech.

  20. I only know of 10 percenters as an abstract concept – I live in Jack Layton's riding, so I have never received one (other than from Jack himself). But from what I've seen of them (copies have been posted online in various places), there's no point in kidding ourselves: they are selectively targeted propaganda attack bombs, carefully crafted to exploit wedge issues that might swing a decisive few percent of voters.

    As a non-Conservative taxpayer, I find it offensive that my tax dollars are being used for such self-aggrandizing political purposes. And I find it even more offensive that Conservative strategists think that they are being clever by gaming the system in this way. It's like congratulating yourself for running a red light.

    This is especially galling when, at the same time (according to the Canadian Press), the Conservative government is
    "quietly cutting funding to hundreds of community groups and even hospitals that provide free Internet access to Canadians who might not otherwise have a chance to get online." If the Conservatives were really in favour of free speech, surely they would want to give more Canadians the opportunity to speak? Oh, sorry, I forgot: poor Canadians, especially those in urban centres, are not likely to vote Conservative, so to heck with them.

  21. "The gist would seem to be that the government side opposes the motion on an assertion of free speech"

    I think SH et al are now just taking positions designed to see how far they can push Coyne before his head blows clear off his shoulders. this one ought to push us quite a bit closer.

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