Tipping Point

2 Jan ’06

Michael Geist today follows up his recent posts on what seems to be the quite inappropriate role of CRIA and related interests in fundraising for Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte only days before the election. He notes that the story has been picked up elsewhere, including by Jack Kapica of the Globe. The gist of Michael’s post:

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.

All good points, but it seems to me that there is also another concern here. As Kapica notes, “Last year, Ms. Bulte composed a lop-sided report recommending a copyright reform bill that clearly favoured positions taken by the recording, publishing and movie industries. The bill died on the order paper when the government fell, but that’s not stopping the U.S. and other interests from supporting her bid for re-election.” Bulte took her riding in the 2004 election by a narrow margin over the NDP candidate Peggy Nash – 19,727 to 16,201 out of approximately 47,000. Bulte has certainly known for months now that (i) an election was always imminent and (ii) this race would be a tight one, particularly given the Liberals’ current troubles (and despite the prominence the Liberals gave her in the last Government, presumably to help her in the next fight with Nash). Surely Bulte should now answer questions concerning what role, if any, anticipation of support from media companies in this election has played in her deliberations during the past year on the Copyright file.

Update: Michael posts on Bulte’s sources of campaign finance.

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