Sir, I’m Baffled By Your Propaganda

We started receiving these a couple of years ago. When we lived in Yaletown, I think they came from the NDP. Over the past week, we’ve received two from Conservative MPs Jay Hill and Ed Fast (do Tory MPs only get issued two syllables for their names?).

Electoral Propaganda

If you haven’t gotten these, they’re cheap-and-cheerful fliers (the graphic design work is sophmoric) focusing on a particular issue. They feature ridiculously heightened language (“many thugs, hoodlums and organized crime rings view these same cars as easy cash”) and a ballot, asking you to pick a party leader based on the issue. As you can see if you look at the larger version, these fliers ask “who do you think is on the right track on crime?” You fill in your details and send them back to ‘CRG-Government Caucus Services’.

I confess to being rather baffled by this particular direct marketing practice. I have a bunch of questions:

  • Do politicos have a particular name for this kind of direct mail piece?
  • Why does it originate from seemingly random Members of Parliament? I live in neither Peace River or Abbotsford–the two constituencies Mr. Hill and Mr. Fast represent.
  • This isn’t, in any scientific way, an actual poll or survey. These fliers feature specific criticism of the Liberals and prominent photos of Prime Minister Harper. Are they just trying to collect my name, contact details and an issue about which I care, so that they can follow up with more targeted mail? That seems to be the case.
  • Why is the execution so crappy? Because the parties are distributing millions of these around the country, in a kind of giant fishing expedition for more detailed information?

To me, these fliers have always seemed silly and wasteful. The rate of return must be abysmally low, and skews to the kind of people who have the time and inclination to complete and return the form. I’m guessing that that’s older supporters of the featured party.

Can some clueful, politically-minded sort explain the rationale and results associated with this old-school marketing?

UPDATE: This is why I ask questions around here–I tend to get fast and accurate answers from you, my dear readers. Wandering Coyote pointed me to his own partisan writings on the topic, as well as a Times Colonist article about these so-called ‘ten percenters’.

UPDATE #2: The Hill Times explains precisely what these fliers are:

The House spends about $7.8-million a year on printing services for MPs. MPs send out Householders four times a year into their constituencies. But they can also send an unlimited amount of “Ten Percenters,” or flyers to households across the country up to 10 per cent of their voters.

They are single page photocopied black and white flyers that the House Board of Internal Economy allows MPs to send to constituents in their own riding or in any other riding. Each Ten Percenter must be 50 per cent different from each other and, according to the Member’s Manual of Allowances and Services the MP’s name “must appear prominently on all Ten Percenters.” Once a month, however, MPs can participate in a “regrouping” where any number of MPs from the same party can send the same Ten Percenter to households anywhere in the country. The total number of Ten Percenters are not allowed to exceed 10 per cent of voters in each of the members participating in the regrouping and are coordinated through the parties whips’ offices.


  1. Oh, you’re way out of the loop, man! This is has been news in the liberal blogosphere for ages now. It’s been going on for months now, and has various names like Conservaspam, and Con Spam-a-Lot. I have a series on it , and there are links in the posts to other who have blogged about it two.

    These are tax-payer paid flyers, officially called “ten percenters.” An MP can allot the party 10% of his mailing allowance – that’s 10% of his/her constituency’s population – so the party can send out all kinds of propaganda to people all over the country.

  2. Good god — imagine if these cretinous thugs actually gain a majority. Prepare for an onslaught of religious-right anti-democratic policies — prepare to become Jesusland.

  3. I’ve been getting these too, thinking much the same thoughts. But I didn’t realize I was paying for this crap. Ridiculous.

  4. Sadly, regardless of party affiliation (which is muddled on these pieces,) because they are cheap, amateur in production values and a bit tabloidish, they further reinforce Canadian politics and politicians as provincial. No wonder apathy dominates Canadian politics.

  5. I got and almost identical shitty flyer six months ago — with the “lazy criminal” picture on it and all… and was annoyed enough at the leading language to write a snotty response about conservative politicians and send it back.

  6. I’ve gotten some of these and find myself pretty offended by the blunt stereotype plays and overly-simplified depiction of the issue, but don’t expect much better from the Conservative party. I’ve been filling them out and checking in anyone but Harper (or Layton for that matter) and sending them back in.

  7. I’ve been getting one every few weeks. I return with comment either stop sending these crappy flyers, or any party checked but theirs. It seems a total waste of postage, trees and time to send them.

  8. I don’t pay much attention to the mailers; but I listen to the radio on my commute to and from work, and have been listening to the Conservative commercials for a couple of months now. These are just as bad; full of “facts” that they offer no basis to support them, with one or two stating that “everyone knows _______ is wrong”, where the blanks is something that has actual facts and surveys to support it! I have a scientific mind (go figure from a geek), and if you insult my intelligence with fallacious arguments then you’re not impressing me with how you’ll run a government. It sounds like George Bush logic (everyone “knows” there are weapons of mass destruction, everyone “knows” that global warming isn’t happening).

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