A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Your Information is in the Mail

I see a Con MP is proposing to increase the $5 fee for an Access to Information Request which given what Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault says may at first seem like a reasonable idea.

"We need more investigators, and it is not my office that is in a crisis, it is the fact that Canadians' right to access government information is in jeopardy, that is the real issue," Legault said. "Because my office is underfunded to such an extent that we can't investigate their complaint in a timely manner, their rights are being thwarted." 

However as a number of observers have said not only is access to information a citizens right, it is essential in a democracy, and perhaps the problem is more the need for such a system due to the lack of information being freely shared by the current regime. Or more accurately deliberately hidden!  Then there is this.......

The commissioner said a bigger fee would not help with the financial problems she faces. Money from access to information fees currently goes to general revenues, not Legault's office.
Another effort to build that magical 'surplus' to be spent buying votes perhaps?

And talking of access to information here is another little detail I would like to know... Who paid for that fancy double sided, full colour, glossy, unaddressed, bulk mailed Christmas card from my local MP? Was it out of the MPs own pocket (LOL), his office budget (the taxpayer), the 'Queens Printers' (the taxpayer) or the did it come out of the Party coffers (not probable). Was it mailed under the 'free mail' privileges that MPs enjoy or was Canada Post paid separately (or at all) for bulk mail delivery? All I know that it came in a 'House of Commons' envelope and would have cost somewhere around $100,000 or more to print and distribute to all the households in this riding. If all our MPs did this thats around $50 million spent on Christmas greetings.....nice, but what a waste of money no matter who paid for it.

Here's a thought, every piece of mail from an MP, and in particular those printed or issued from the 'Queens printer” should contain the line “Printed by xxx and paid for by xxx” and and indicate if the mailing costs were picked up by the taxpayer with a 'stamp' showing if mailed under the parliamentary mailing privilege.

The House covers the cost of printing newsletters, commonly known as “householders”, sent by the Member to all constituents. Members have free mailing privileges to send out householders and other materials. [335]  These mailing privileges are often referred to as “franking” privileges. “Franking” is the process by which Members of the House of Commons, by affixing their signatures to an addressed piece of mail, may have that mail delivered postage-free anywhere in the country. It is available only for mail that is addressed to places in Canada and may not be used for parcels, special delivery or other special services offered by Canada Post. “

We know that this privilege has been abused in the past but few of us really know who is paying for what and exactly what is being classed as “a householder”, marking such mail with its source would make things 'open and accountable' so I don’t expect it would fly in Ottawa!

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