Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda and NDP Critic Charlie Angus were back sparring over fundraising yesterday during Question Period in the House of Commons. The exchange – in which Oda tries to make Angus' support the issue – went as follows: Angus: Given the regulatory free ride the broadcasters already […]
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Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda's fundraising activities were back in the spotlight yesterday in the House of Commons as NDP Heritage critic Charlie Angus expressed concern that Oda's fundraising activities may have played a role in the government's decision to delay the renewal of an important television development fund. Angus asked whether, in light of funding from the broadcast industry, is the delay "a case of he who pays the piper is calling her tune?" Oda responded:
Mr. Speaker, the government supports the production industry and our broadcasting industry. We understand the importance of the television fund and the role it plays. The fund is being processed in consideration. We want to ensure that the money will be used and that it provides value for the dollars.
Given that non-answer, Angus then asked Treasury Board President John Baird whether "first, the cheques for last week's cancelled fundraiser collected in cash? Second, would he give us a list of who gave those cheques so we can at least know who is helping to write the broadcast and copyright policy in our country?"
My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) takes stock of the brewing controversy over Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda's fundraising activities. With the Hill Times running a lead story on her 2005 fundraiser and persistent questions in the House of Commons, it is becoming apparent that this issue is quickly becoming a liability for the Conservative government. While last week's discussion focused on the now-cancelled Oda fundraiser sponsored by a CanWest lobbyist and a 2005 Corus-hosted fundraiser, further investigation into Oda's past campaign financing demonstrates that the close ties between Oda and industry lobbyists may run deeper than even Angus realized.
According to Elections Canada data, Oda held a similar fundraiser in May 2004 – before she was even elected to the House of Commons – that attracted enormous corporate support from the broadcast industry including Alliance Atlantis, Astral, CanWest, and CHUM, as well as from more than a dozen senior executives from major broadcast and cable companies.
Once elected, the support continued.
Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda may have cancelled her planned broadcaster fundraiser in light of negative media attention, but the issue contains to attract attention in the House of Commons. NDP Canadian Heritage critic Charlie Angus had the following to say on the matter yesterday:
Mr. Speaker, earlier this week the heritage minister was caught passing the hat with industry insiders and lobbyists. As soon as we shone the light on it, they scrambled to cancel the event so we would not find out who was at the trough.
When I asked the government for accountability, the President of the Treasury Board stood up and asked for the NDP's help in order to get rid of the influence of big money in politics. I think the implication of his plea is clear. We are going to need an all party strategy to keep the heritage minister on the straight and narrow.
I have done what I could to have a three point plan to maintain the ethical sobriety of the heritage minister: first, reveal the list of those she is putting the tap for money on so we know which lobbyists are rewriting government policy on copyright and deregulation; second, institute a remedial plan so she can learn how to listen to the groups and artists that she is supposed to be representing; and third, ask the House of Commons carpentry staff to head over to the heritage minister's office and paint over the big for sale sign on her door.
As I noted earlier, the list of Bev's backers is a who's who of copyright and broadcast lobbyists.