Politics

Guergis defends Remembrance Day pamphlets

Independent MP Helena Guergis is defending using taxpayer money to mail pamphlets that ask her constituents if they plan to vote for her in the next election.

Independent MP Helena Guergis is defending using taxpayer money to mail out Remembrance Day-themed pamphlets that ask her constituents whether they plan to vote for her in the next federal election.

A Remembrance Day flyer sent out by MP Helena Guergis asks whether constituents will vote for her in the next federal election. ((CBC))
Guergis, who resigned from cabinet and was kicked out of the Conservative caucus in April by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has vowed to run as an Independent in the next election.

The Toronto Star first reported that Guergis included a tear-off survey reply card in her annual Remembrance Day message. The full-page flyer's main portion evokes "men and women who never returned home," but the bottom third is a postage-paid comment card that asks, "Will you vote for Hon. Helena Guergis as Independent Conservative when she runs in the next election?" 

A number of opposition MPs have since criticized Guergis for mailing out what they say is a taxpayer-funded voter intention survey — and then linking it to a day aimed at honouring Canada's veterans and fallen soldiers.

But in a telephone interview with CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon on Wednesday, Guergis said her office follows all guidelines and procedural requirements on the mail-out pamphlets, known as householders. She said the printing service has contacted her office to highlight mistakes or suggested changes in previous flyers.

"We have always complied, and [the printing service had no concerns] in this case in any way," she said.

She insisted there was "nothing deliberate" about the question, which she said was among a number of questions she and her staff "just put in the hopper" and later included at the bottom of the pamphlet.

"I have enormous respect for my veterans and my entire community knows how much I value the contribution they've made and the freedoms we have today because of their sacrifices," she told Solomon.

In an email before the interview, the MP said it is her job to consult with her constituents on "what they want me to do going forward."

"I have asked the same question with respect to, Am I on the right track?" Guergis wrote. She also insisted other MPs are "creative with wording" but are essentially asking the same question.

"The only difference is now I ask as an independent conservative."

Leaders 'dread' more Independents

Helena Guergis, responding to a question in the Commons last March, says her taxpayer-funded pamphlets are essentially just asking, 'Am I on the right track?'
She also said the survey question has prompted well-thought-out responses from people expressing their "gross disappointment" with how Guergis has been treated.

In July, the RCMP cleared Guergis, a former minister of state for the status of women, of unspecified allegations forwarded to the force by the prime minister in April. The RCMP informed Guergis and her husband, former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer, that it had concluded its investigation and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by either of them.

In her email, Guergis also pointed out that as an Independent, she has no legal right or ability to collect donations until an election campaign.

"Perhaps if Independents were recognized for their value and contribution to the political process, we would have better representation of local issues and less focus on partisan attacks such as this," she wrote.

"But we all know political leaders dread the thought of more independents."

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