MP’s flyer generated quick complaint

A flyer sent to constituents by MP Michael Chong early this week has generated a quick complaint about attack ads.
The one-page flyer shows Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition leader Stephane Dion with differing views of the Conservatives $1,200 a year child care benefit.
In one photo, Harper is smiling and stating, “With Con­­ser­vatives, you will keep your $1,200 per year child care benefit. Guaranteed.”
Opposite that photo and cap­tion is a shrugging Dion, and the statement, “Dion voted against the $1,200 child care benefit and will take it away.”
Below those photos is a statement from Chong. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government promised parents real support to help them with the cost of raising their child. We have kept that promise and now all parents are receiving $1,200 per year, per child under the age of six. The Liberal party made 13 years worth of empty promises on child care. They now want to take the direct sup­port away. Who should you trust on child care?”
The flyer arrived in local mailboxes on Monday, the day before the federal budget was scheduled to be delivered. ­There was much speculation that the budget could trigger an elec­tion.
“It is not a ques­tionnaire but a blatant attack ad by the Conservatives and Mr. Chong,” Calvin Harrington, of Fergus, wrote in a letter to the editor.
Chong’s assistant Jim Smith said in an interview on Monday afternoon that he was not sure if all conservative-held ridings received the flyer, but, “I think a lot of them did.”
He said, “The Lib­erals are on record as saying they don’t agree with the $1,200 per year and they would have the money go to other things for child care.”
Smith said flyers are gen­erated for all party mem­bers, and MPs can have them mailed to constituents. There is no cost for MPs to send mail to their constituents, and no postage required for people to send mail to MPs.
Smith said he was not sure if it was the party or the gov­ernment that was paying for the flyer costs, and he was not sure why the flyer was also sent to businesses instead of just resi­dences. “I would have expected that it would go to all houses,” he said.
Chong defends flyer
Shortly after the federal budget was announced, Chong said in an interview send­ing such flyers is commonplace, and the service has been available since Confederation.
He said MPs send three types mail: addressed directly to individuals, mail covering households, and pamphlets that go to all addresses. The service is available to all parties, and he finds it useful in keeping in touch with his constituents.
He said this particular pam­phlet was part of a Con­servative mailing, and the information it contains would be as useful to busi­nesses as it is to house­holders, since everyone should be aware of the program and the opposition stance against it.
Harrington argued, “He has every right to run political attack ads, but not with my tax dollars.”
Chong said some people consider pamphlets junk mail, but advertisers find ad mail useful. He said that while one person complained, his office got a call from someone unaware of the pro­gram. His staff helped that constituent make use of the child care money. “Now, they’re receiving the $1,200 per year.”