Power, Money, & Privilege

A dangerous cocktail.

The Tories used their MP’s free-mail privileges to send flyers to households in communities with large Jewish populations in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg. These flyers (see one here) were an attempt to convince voters (is there an election brewing?) that the Conservative Party is more committed to Israel – and thus, by extension, the Jewish population of Canada – than the other political parties. This is astonishing. On many levels:

1. This is an abuse of taxpayer funding. These flyers were sent for free, under postal rules allowing MPs to send mail to their constituents in the interest of public information. But this is not information being sent, it is narrow-casting propaganda that in fact misinforms (see my third point) the populous. These are essentially attack-ads being funded by public dollars. Would this be acceptable during an election?

2. This is also a fiscally unsound abuse of taxpayer funding. Could the Tories at least be economically frugal with their propaganda? A report issued this week by the Globe and Mail notes that, while MPs of every party make use of free mail privileges, the Conservatives spent $6.3-million on the mailers last year, while opposition MPs spent $3.8-million. What happened to the Tories’ self-professed “fiscal accountability”?

3. In a strange world, this might all be acceptable were the information included in the flyers in fact true. One might excuse Tory MPs for spending millions of dollars on informing the Canadian public that the Toronto Maple Leafs are having a terrible season and there should be an appropriate public response. But the accusations leveled here are just incredible. Quite literally, they are not credible. The ad argues that:

A) Canada’s presence at the Durban Conference in 2001, under the leadership of the Liberals, was an indicator that the Grits are complicit in foreign anti-semitism. In reality, the Israeli government at the time specifically asked the Canadian delegation to remain to “make its voice felt and bear witness to what was happening,” noted Liberal MP (and former Minister of Justice and current Jewish luminary) Irwin Cotler.

B) The Liberals are soft on fight terrorism, and they “opposed defunding Hamas,” and “asked that Hezbollah be delisted as a terrorist organization.” In reality, it was the Liberal party in 2002 that had Hamas and Hezbollah classified as terrorist organizations. Moreover, it was the personal musing of a Liberal MP who wondered if Hezbollah might be delisted. While reprehensible, that personal musing cannot be taken to be a party stance of the Liberals, as MP Joe Volpe argues.

C) The Liberals do not support Israel, as Michael Ignatieff accused Israel of committing war crimes in 2006. While Iggy did indeed did make this accusation once during the war against Hezbollah, he later publicly apologized. So accuse him of flip-flopping if you want, but don’t make this false corollary. Even if Israel committed war crimes, that doesn’t mean saying so lessens support of the country, it’s just an analysis of military strategy. This is just misleading and playing to people’s emotions.

At the end of the day, I’m floored that this abuse of power, money, and privilege took place. MP Cotler, eloquent in his shock, noted that “this goes beyond the pale of politics, this is an abuse of privilege and … I will call I what it is, it’s a lie … this stuff is scurrilous.”