The Liberals want the federal government to restrict how many partisan flyers MPs can send to constituents at taxpayers' expense.
In a letter to House Speaker Peter Milliken, the Liberals propose that all parties should agree to restrict the use of partisan mailings, called "10-percenters." These are mailings that MPs are entitled to send to voters outside their own ridings as long as they are not sent to more than 10 per cent of households in the riding.
The Liberals want the Board of Internal Economy, the House's governing body, to agree to restrict the mailings to an MP's riding. A recent analysis by Montreal daily Le Devoir found Tory MPs spent $6.3 million last year to paper ridings with brochures.
"The Harper Conservatives have deliberately abused this privilege for some time," Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said in a news release issued Sunday. "But last week, they went too far with their 10-percenters by falsely accusing political opponents of anti-Semitism. This practice has to stop."
Last week, the Liberals demanded an apology from the Conservative government for distributing pamphlets that suggest the Grits are anti-Semitic.
However, the Tories refused to apologize, maintaining the pamphlets are a strictly factual account of Liberal waffling on Israel, terrorism and the fight against anti-Semitism.
The pamphlets were mailed recently to households in at least five Liberal-held ridings with large Jewish populations — three in Quebec, one in Toronto and one in Winnipeg — under the names of several different Tory MPs, including junior cabinet minister Steven Fletcher.
The pamphlets asked voters to choose which federal political leader "is on the right track to represent and defend the values of Canada's Jewish community."
The pamphlets compare Prime Minister Stephen Harper's strong support for Israel to alleged waffling on the part of the Liberals. They point out, for instance, that Harper's Conservatives "led the world" in boycotting the second UN-sponsored conference on racism in Geneva, Switzerland, which the pamphlet dubbed a "hate fest against Israel."
By contrast, the previous Liberal government "willingly participated in [the] overtly anti-Semitic" first such conference, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who represents the Montreal riding of Mount Royal, said the flyer campaign "crosses the line."
Cotler called the statement a "serious misrepresentation" that implies anti-Semitism: "I did participate in Durban 1, but I spoke up against what turned out to be an anti-Semitic conference."
He said the previous Liberal government participated in the first Durban conference because Israel asked Canada to stay and "bear witness" to the anti-Semitic tirades by some delegations.
"This doesn't mean people there overtly participated in anti-Semitism," Cotler insisted. "That's utterly false. In fact, it's the other way around."
The letter from Ignatieff also proposes abolishing the practice of MPs "regrouping" their allotment of 10-percenters so that they can blanket an area with party propaganda.
Ignatieff also wants the name of the party leader to be included in any such mailings, with an explicit endorsement of the mail's content.
It will be up to the board to decide whether the Liberals proposals will be adopted. The all-party board operates on a consensus basis, and agreement from the other parties is far from certain.