Regular readers will recall that last fall Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda was embroiled in a fundraising controversy when it was revealed that a lobbyist for Canwest Global was planning a broadcast fundraiser on her behalf just weeks before a regulatory review. Oda proceeded to cancel the fundraiser. Days later, NDP Heritage critic Charlie Angus asked then-Treasury Board President (and current Environment Minister) John Baird whether the cheques for the fundraiser were actually cashed. In response, Baird assured the House of Commons that they were returned.
Elections Canada has just posted the 2006 Annual Report for the Durham Conservative Riding Association (Oda's riding). Leaving aside the additional contributions during the January 2006 election campaign from EMI Music Canada and two Sony BMG Music Canada executives (which is apparently par for the course) and $2500 from Canwest's Leonard Asper just two days after the election, the return reveals several contributions made just weeks before the planned fundraiser. The contributors include Astral Chair Andre Bureau, Standard Radio President & CEO Gary Slaight, CHUM President & CEO Jay Switzer, Rogers Radio CEO Gary Miles, TV Ontario CEO Lisa deWilde, Canadian Independent Film & Video Fund Executive Director Robin Jackson, and the Radio Marketing Bureau.
Were these contributions associated with the cancelled fundraiser and actually not returned as Minister Baird told the House of Commons? Part of a separate radio-oriented fundraiser? Separate contributions from senior broadcast executives coincidentally made weeks before the CRTC announced the results of its commercial radio policy review? While the distinction matters with regard to accuracy of the Baird response, in the bigger picture it looks bad under any explanation. There was presumably nothing unlawful about accepting several thousand dollars from broadcast executives, yet surely the Minister of Canadian Heritage or her riding association, elected on a platform of political accountability, should not be cashing cheques from the very industry that she regulates.