Backing Bev

A couple of weeks I blogged about Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda's fundraising during the last federal election.  Days before the vote, as the Conservative momentum made her a likely Cabinet minister, Oda accepted contributions  from many in the copyright lobby including Universal Music (tied for her third largest external contributor), the Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association, the Entertainment Software Alliance, the Canadian Music Publishers Association, and CRIA's own Graham Henderson. 

Oda's riding association has now released data for the full 2005 calendar year and her support from the copyright lobby is even more extensive than this initial list.  While there is a similar list of individual donors, the corporate list is even more telling, particularly since those donations will no longer be permitted once the Federal Accountability Act becomes law.  Financial supporters of Oda's Durham riding association last year included:

  • copyright lobby groups – CRIA, CFTA, CMPDA, CMMRA, Director's Guild, Entertainment Software Association, SOCAN, Writer's Guild
  • record labels – BMG Canada, EMI Canada, Sony Music Canada, Warner Music Canada, Universal Music Canada
  • broadcasters – Corus, Vision TV
  • cable companies – CCTA, Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw
  • lobby firms -  Temple Scott Associates, Capitol Hill Group

Presumably much of this support came from a May 2005 Oda fundraiser when corporate donations were lawful and Oda was the Heritage critic rather than the Heritage Minister.  Even so, the significant financial support does little to instill confidence in the fairness of the copyright reform process.  Given that many of the donors did not provide financial support to any other riding association in Canada (with the possible exception of Sam Bulte, whose riding association has yet to file its report), there is little doubt about the motivations behind the decision to back Bev at a time when it looked like the Liberals' fall was imminent.


  1. Buying Politicians
    The problem with such donations is that even if they do not effect the Member’s voting record, or the legislation they introduce, there is an implication of bias. I have never meet Bev Oda, and have no personal experience to guide me as to her character, or whether or not the donations have or will make any difference to her policies – but the donations that were made strongly imply that she may be biased on this issue.

    The only way to clear herself is to resign as minister. This may not be fair. It may not be realistic (if she was bought and paid for this is the last thing she will willingly do). But it’s the only way to avoid the perception of bias.


  2. I suppose you could say there is an implication of bias, but you forget that neither MPs nor Ministers have a duty to remain impartial. They are politicians and members; they are members of a party which holds specific beliefs and policies (as all parties do); they are members of an Executive which, again, has specific beliefs and policies. Oda _is_ biased, just as every MP is. Calling for her resignation on that ground is fruitless.

    It’s more germane to recognize where her bias lies, and then act against it, first through voting, but more importantly through grassroots lobbying, through journalism (thank you, Michael!), and shooting the ol’ breeze by the water cooler.

  3. Joseph Thornley says:
    I respect your right to crusade for what you believe in. But I believe you have lost sight of a larger issue. How can the political parties finance themselves? Many people choose to contribute. And the simple reality is that they can – and should expect nothing in return.
    You start with the assumption that politicians will feel obligated to reward contributors with favourable decisions.
    In my experience, that is not the case. I have worked for politicians who believed that they were elected to govern in the interests of all Canadians, not just those who contributed to their electoral win.
    In my experience, this principled position is dominant among the people we elect to Parliament.
    I ask you: Have you supported the democratic process by contributing to a political party or candidate? If so, to whom have you contributed? If not, why not?
    The way to fight undue influence, if you truly believe it is being exercised, is to engage in the process by supporting the persons or people you believe are pure of spirit and intent.

  4. Michael Geist says:

    Response to Joseph Thornley
    Thanks for the thoughtful post. For the record, I have not contributed to any politician or political party. I do not agree that the way to fight undue influence is to provide financial support for candidates that have purer motives.

    You ask how political parties can finance themselves. I would respond that there are mechanisms – public funding (which we already have), blind trusts, or perhaps a decreased emphasis on media buys as part of political campaigns. There is simply no need to create a perception of bias that comes with corporate political donations (indeed the Accountability Act would do away with those donations).

    You also indicate that most politicians govern for all Canadians, not just those that have contributed to their electoral win. I have no doubt that that is the case. I think being a politician is an incredibly difficult job and that we owe a lot to those who agree to serve. However, most politicians are also not in the position to directly determine the outcome of crucial policy matters. All have a say on behalf of their constituents, but it is cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries that wield far more power. Given that power, I believe it is important that those individuals – a small percentage of MPs – forego any financial contributions from parties with a direct interest in the outcome of policies that fall within their portfolio. It was for that reason that I was critical of Sam Bulte during the election and more recently critical of Bev Oda’s acceptance of contributions from the copyright lobby during the campaign. As for the contributions to the riding association, I think it says more about the lengths to which the copyright lobby will seek to curry favour than it does about Ms. Oda.

    As for the expectation that contributors expect nothing in return, I again disagree. While I don’t think anyone seriously believes that they can buy a policy decision through a campaign contribution, I do think it is reasonable to expect that the contributions may provide greater access, which can play a key role in the policy process. Indeed, some of my recent postings seem to confirm that some stakeholders enjoy far greater access than others.

  5. Policy Watch says:

    Please look south young men…
    Special interest lobbying and precisely the money that comes along with it has become the ONLY factor influencing policy in the United States. Heck they’re not even ashamed of it and the populace seems to tolerate it, but there’s no need for Canada to go down that road. Indeed, that the bloodsuckers would lavish Minister Oda on the eve of the election is telling. That she accepted it is, well we’ll have to keep our eyee open now won’t we ;-)

  6. Second round of comments
    To Rumor: Why is calling for her resignation on that ground fruitless? I’ll admist to being biased towards better environmental protection – which would only be a problem IF I ACCEPTED DONATIONS FROM ENGELHARD, JOHNSON MATTHEY, etc. Bev Oda accepted donations from companies who have a direct interest in what she is doing, therefore the implication that she has been bought and paid for.

    To Jospeh: One option would be to allow NO corporate contributions, only private ones, and to cap those at $2000.00 dollars. This would limit the amount of influence of an individual contributor. It would also be necessary to disallow any personal spending – in simple terms you campaign with what you can raise, not your bank book. And yes, I do contribute to political parties – which one depends on the issues of the election, and the party stances. I also have done volunteer work for candidates.

    For Policy Watch: I am well aware of what goes on in the USA, and think that we need to develop our system so that abuses like what happen there cannot happen here. I’m aware that it could be difficult. However if it was easy, everyone would do it.

  7. Left of centre says:

    You might be surprised
    To find out that Charlie Angus took money from some of the same sources. Oh, but you wouldn’t want to bother your left leaning friends…