Copyright Reform Minister Cancels Broadcasters Fundraiser

Canadian Copyright reform these days is hard to explain beyond the idea that it could happen sometime this Fall. Details and even hints have been hard to come by – especially for those keeping close tabs on the Canadian copyright situation.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

One thing is for certain: all eyes are on a key player in this whole Copyright debate – the Minister of Heritage Bev Oda. Recently, she cancelled a fundraising campaign that some describe as a “cash grab.” One may wonder if this move is a lesson learned from the Sam Bulte incident.

As reported by Michael Geist, it all started with a comment made by the NDP Heritage Critic. Charlie Angus said, “Mr. Speaker, next week, the heritage minister is holding a major fundraiser and, for the price of a ticket, one gets access not just to the heritage minister but to the industry minister. The woman who is flogging the tickets for the minister just happens to be Charlotte Bell who is head of regulatory affairs for CanWest. She just happens to be the go-to gal for industry trying to influence the upcoming regulatory review affecting both heritage and industry.

The broadcast review happens in two weeks. The cash grab happens next week. Why is the minister using her office to trade political access for political contributions?” Bev Oda responded, “Mr. Speaker, I have observed every rule existing right now. I concur with the President of the Treasury Board that we need to get the accountability act enacted, which we could, in fact, do this afternoon, but I would still be adhering to the laws next week.”

During the exchange, it sounded like she was going to go ahead and have a fundraiser with lobbyists interested in new broadcast policies. This was despite the idea of introducing legislation that would stop this from occurring. Would history repeat itself as it did with Sam Bulte? No. Hours after the revelation that a fundraiser was being organised by a someone lobbying Bev Oda’s department, the event was cancelled. According to the article “The minister was not aware Charlotte Bell was registered to lobby Canadian Heritage,” [Ms. Oda’s spokesman, Chisolm Pothier] said, “To avoid any negative perception, she decided to cancel the event.”

She may have avoided political disaster during the time period which new Copyright legislation was due to be tabled. Some may remember the revelation of CRIA among many other lobbyists backing Bev Oda during the election. The idea didn’t sit too well among those who were also going through the firestorm over the Sam Bulte incident, where she lashed out during the election against those who questioned the lobbyist funded fundraiser and called EFF and other critics “pro-user zealots.” It’s that same event that made the interest group known as Online Rights Canada famous.

“It is evident that there is now far greater scrutiny of the lobbying activities on these issues and that accepting lobby money generates considerable political risk,” Michael Geist commented. “Oda may have rightly cancelled the fundraiser (something Bulte should also have done), but her credibility as a Minister has clearly taken a hit.”

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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