Sunday, May 06, 2007

Oda, oh dear, oh dear: Canadian copyright minister pockets cash from IP owners

The suggestion that certain members of the American legislature are happily banking cheques from the entertainment industry while proposing laws which will be beneficial to them is so commonplace as to barely warrant mention. It's disappointing to discover the same canker in the soul of Canadian politics, though: Heritage Minister Bev Oda has been arranging fundraising events and banking cheques from Canadian broadcasting executives. As Heritage Minister, Oda has responsibilty for broadcasting - what a strange coincidence - and overseeing copyright law in the nation as well. To make things fair, of course, there are also suggestions that Oda is closer to the CRIA (the RIAA proxy in Canada) than an independent-minded minister should be.

What makes the shabbyness even more shabby is that the money from the broadcasters was originally meant to be for an event which Oda was forced to cancel when she was found to have crossed the line between using her political office to raise funds. The Canadian government had promised all the money had been returned. Now, though, it turns out the cash had mysteriously been resting in Oda's accounts all this time.

[N]ewly released records from Elections Canada reveal that of 20 individuals who donated to Ms. Oda's riding association last year, at least nine have senior roles in Canada's broadcast industry. Eleven of the donations were made within five weeks of the cancelled fundraiser.

Among the names listed as individual contributors are Astral Media board chairman André Bureau, who gave $250 on Oct. 16; TVO CEO Lisa De Wilde, who gave $500 on Oct. 16; CHUM president and CEO Jay Switzer, who donated $500 on Oct. 12; Standard Radio president and CEO Gary Slaight, who gave $500 on Oct. 13; and Rogers Radio CEO Gary Miles, who gave $250 on Oct. 12.

Reached by e-mail, Mr. Miles insisted that his contribution was not connected to Ms. Bell's call to buy $250 tickets that went out a week before he made the donation. "It had nothing to do with the Nov. 15 fundraiser and was on my personal cheque and nothing to do with my title," Mr. Miles wrote in an e-mail yesterday.

Ms. Oda's spokesman, Jean-Luc Benoît, insisted yesterday that none of the donations were related to the fundraiser. He added that the broadcast review was at arm's length from the minister's office.

How odd, though, that none of these donations, in $250 dollar multiples, had no connection at all to an event where tickets cost $250 a time, despite coming around the same time. It's an astonishing piece of syncronicity, isn't it?


1 comment:

Robin Carmody said...

They still have a "heritage minister" whose responsibility includes broadcasting? Is that where Major got the idea in 1993?

I'm no Blairite, but even I can see that "culture, media and sport" is far more *accurate* and far better in every important way. Quite apart from anything else, getting away from the "heritage" image was such an important part of Blair's rhetoric that he *had* to change the name as soon as he came to power, which indeed he did. Maybe Canada could do with a government which invoked such imagery - but, unlike NuLab, actually had substance behind it.

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