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Government whip and spokesman for the Board of Internal Economy John Duncan makes a brief statement following a meeting of the committee in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Government whip and spokesman for the Board of Internal Economy John Duncan makes a brief statement following a meeting of the committee in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe editorial

Free MP mail? Just say no Add to ...

Lisa Raitt, the Minister of Transport, said on Thursday that she will make sure that the NDP repays “every single penny” for the cost of free mailings, which are said to amount to $1.17-million.

Ms. Raitt spoke out because the transport minister is responsible for Canada Post Corp., and her department pays $22-million a year to the post office to help offset the burden of the politicians’ free mailings, a long-standing practice known as franking.

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The Minister’s concern for “hard-working Canadian taxpayers” is well placed. But the NDP isn’t the only party bending the rules. The fix is a no-brainer: The House of Commons and its Board of Internal Economy – all parties that have members in the Commons – should renounce the mailing privileges they have granted themselves over the years. The free mailings should simply end.

The board is supposed to decide whether a use of “any funds, goods, services or premises” is a proper “discharge of the parliamentary functions” of MPs, especially in the light of the bylaws passed by the board itself. But the board’s own member’s bylaw almost invites abuse. “Parliamentary functions” are defined as “the duties and activities that relate to the position” of an MP, “wherever performed and whether or not performed in a partisan manner.”

In other words, a MP can arguably go anywhere and engage in this or that “activity,” and rant and rave against other political parties in the most partisan terms, and that could fit the definition of “parliamentary functions.” Another section of the bylaw says much the same thing but the other way around. An MP can use Commons funds, etc., “for partisan activities only if those activities fall within the parliamentary functions” of the MP.

The circular reasoning of the BOIE is further proof that the rules need to be changed. The NDP is by no means the whole problem. Do away with free mailings for all MPs.

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