If the amount of blog discussion and private email that I am receiving is any indication, the story about the Sarmite Bulte fundraiser hosted by the leaders of CRIA et al is at a tipping point with the potential to crack into the mainstream political press. There is coverage today from Jack Kapica at the Globeandmail.com, Pierre Bourque has placed the story on his front page, and I reference it again in my Toronto Star column. I suspect the catalyst was a boingboing posting over the weekend that has generated blog comments here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Kapica emphasizes the U.S. focus of the hosts of the event and the absence of many from the Canadian cultural community. While I think that point is a good one, I think it misses the larger issue. The problem with the fundraiser is not that the President of CRIA is a host and that his partner is providing the entertainment. The problem is that the Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage, the former chair of the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee, the chair of the Ontario Liberal caucus, and the key player in the Bulte Report should not be having any fundraisers with any copyright stakeholders four days before a national election. The perception is that this is pure influence peddling, a perspective that is only fuelled by Bulte's appearance at the head table at CRIA's National Press Club event in the fall, of Bulte and Graham Henderson together in Washington, DC in September, etc.
As one private emailer noted, if the CEO's of the major banks held a fundraiser for Finance Minister Ralph Goodale days before the election it would be a national scandal. So too if the CEO's of the major telecommunications companies held a fundraiser for Industry Minister David Emerson or the CEO's of the oil companies held one for Environment Minister Stephane Dion. Quite simply, no elected government official should be seen to be favouring one group of stakeholders by accepting large campaign contributions or hosted fundraisers. Copyright is a critical issue to millions of Canadians and the Bulte fundraiser sends an awful message about how the government views the concerns of those people. The Conservatives have made accountability their number one issue and it seems to me that the Bulte fundraiser plays right into their hands.