Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Old Friend...

Source: CBC NEWS: N.L. Man Perplexed by Mailing from Sask. MP

I grew up in the Yorkton-Melville and during my time there, currently I am residing in the Saskatoon-Humboldt riding, I developed a rather terrible relationship with my local Member of Parliament, Garry Breitkreuz. A relationship which developed around 2004, at the Yorkton-Melville candidate debates.

I had a chance to speak with Mr. Breitkreuz about his feelings in regard to community involvement and co-operation between Federal, Provincial and Municipal elected officials. Mr. Breitkreuz used the opportunity to stress how important that relationship was, as well as how important it was to be seen supporting community events.

With a bit of insider information, when I proceeded to ask Mr. Breitkreuz why he'd only been to one event within the City of Yorkton (the largest area in his riding) in eight years, he seemed rather perplexed and presented a non-answer about that fact not being true, even though he did not tell me which events he had attended.

I furthered my contact with Mr. Breitkreuz during my years in high school, when as part of a 'social justice' class, I wrote him asking for some positions on same-sex marriage, a hot button issue at the time. It was in his response that I saw the true caliber of a man that he was. I had asked, if you polled your constituents and found that a majority over 50% supported same-sex marriage, would you reverse your opinion on the matter?

Mr. Breitkreuz proceeded to dismiss the notion and simply said, 'If they didn't agree with my positions, they wouldn't have voted for me.'

Well, for me, that was when the gloves essentially came off. Over the next few elections, I wrote in to my local newspaper and made it very clear the kind of man Mr. Breitkreuz was; how he was a model career politician who cared more about towing the party line than acting within the best interest of his constituents. Both of my letters were printed, and one even received a rebuttal from a fellow Yorkton-Melville citizen.

It's around this time, that I am convinced Mr. Breitkreuz learned who I was. I say so, because at the next candidate debate, he made it a very clear issue to avoid me for as long as he could. I had requested to speak with him, the moment the debates were over, and he proceeded to brush me off to talk to 'supporters' and other people.

After 30 minutes of making me wait, perhaps expecting me to go home, Mr. Breitkreuz finally talked with me. The conversation was a little heated, and both of us had a fair amount to gain given the small group of people who had gathered to watch a Member of Parliament and a teenager in a suit debate policy.

In the end, neither of us really won. We each had our talking points, we each got a few murmurs from the gathered crowd, and then we both eventually walked away from one another.

Now, I know many of you are asking, what does this have to do with the source story I've posted above? Is it just me stroking my ego by telling you about the small political feud I've had with an elected Member of Parliament? No, it is above all else a character study in Mr. Breitkreuz.

When I saw the news story today on the CBC, I expected someone in one of the larger city centres to be responsible, but to my surprise, it was my old friend Garry.

Effectively, a man in Newfoundland has reported receiving mail from Breitkreuz, despite not living anywhere near the man's home riding. He's not the only one, as other Newfoundland residents have stated they too have received mail from Breitkreuz's office.

So, how did this happen?

In Canada, Members of Parliament are entitled to mail out what is know as 10 percenters. Effectively, a MP can mail any riding in Canada provided that mail does not go to more than 10% of houses within a riding.

Usually, these 10 percenters are used outside of an election by a MP to get the word out about what his/her party has been doing in Parliament, and more importantly, what they have been doing for their elected riding.

For example, every once in awhile I will receive a black and white mailing from Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Brad Trost. Within the mailing is the usual horn blowing "Conservatives cut ____ by ___%" or "Conservatives help _______" And of course, the odd "Liberals wrong on _____ issue." But inside is also usually a small record of what Mr. Trost has been up to since he was elected as our MP.

So, imagine the surprise of the people in Newfoundland, when they receive one of these mailing from a Saskatchewan Member of Parliament, and the only issue is a list of attacking points on Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. Now, I know some of you are thinking, is this really a problem?

Yes. These 10 percenters are paid out of tax dollars, not money that is raised by the party, but rather money that comes from good, honest, hardworking Canadians. As such, these mailings should not be used as a means to attack a Liberal Leader, or any other Member of Parliament, as they are paid for by the taxpayer.

To compound the problem, the taxes should really stay within the riding of the Member of Parliament who is sending out the flier.

And now, for my speculation.

As I stated, in my dealings with Mr. Breitkreuz, I found him to be a man of political opportunity; say what he needs to say to get elected, then listen to the party and follow only what they tell him to do. (To some extent, he did break this when he introduced his own private member's bill on abolishing the long-gun registry, a major talking point for him, outside of the government sponsored bill to do the same thing.)

As such, I would like to state my opinion of what I believed happened. We all know that the Harper Government is not opposed to using dirty tactics to flaunt the law, and good taste, in order to further their own political careers. So, what is a good way of doing that? Redirecting money from 'safe' Members of Parliament to ridings where they need to stomp the word out.

I am man enough to admit that Mr. Breitkreuz will likely serve as Yorkton-Melville's MP until he retires or the day he dies; mostly because Yorkton-Melville has been a political stronghold for any party who gets in once. Before Breitkreuz, Yorkton-Melville elected Lorne Nystrom of the NDP for 25 years. As such, it seems that they will likely continue their pattern of voting in the incumbent.

Effectively, this means Mr. Breitkreuz has an advantage when it comes to funds. It is easy to imagine that a party desperate to bash Ignatieff would do whatever they could to get the message across AND save money for when the election comes. (After all, independent attack ads can be costly.)

As such, since Garry seems to be in a safe riding, why not use his 10 percenters (paid for by tax dollars) to send out attack ads in a province kilometres away? After all, Garry doesn't need the money to gain support, so might as well do something with it, right?

Now, this is all of course speculation on my part. I have no proof that this was the conversation that took place; nor proof that Mr. Breitkreuz, good Conservative Party Member that he is, agreed whole heartedly to the plan to move money around in the name of saving it in the long run.

What I can say, is that if the Conservative Party did indeed manufacture this plan to take money from a secure riding and use a Parliamentary Rule to allow it to be spent outside of the home riding, then the system is obviously broken and needs to be fixed and fast.

An aide for Mr. Breitkreuz was quoted as saying they were looking into how this happened, and whether or not that is true, I think some of us already know the truth. After all, when Stephen Harper beckons, Garry Breitkreuz listens.

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