Friday, January 13, 2006

Liberal Sam Bulte doesn't get it

It seems my little question at Wednesday night’s all-candidates meeting for the Parkdale-High Park riding has set the blogosphere on fire. I asked Liberal incumbent Sarmite Bulte to take Michael Geist's copyright pledge, which simply commits candidates to exclude themselves from potential conflicts in deliberations on copyright reform if they accept contributions from entertainment and media industry interests. Bulte responded with outright anger to my question, so much so that she might have throttled me if the microphone had been any closer to the candidates table.

Accordion Guy has a video of her response on his blog.

The sad thing is that Bulte does not get it. She is oblivious to the obvious conflict of her deep involvement in reforming Canadian copyright laws and the direct support she receives from the primary beneficiaries of her proposed leglislation.

Here is my full question with notes. The parts I skipped over, largely due to Liberal-orchestrated jeering, are in faded text.

My name is Steve Stinson.

I moved to this riding five months ago from the Saint-Lambert riding on the Montreal south shore [some polite clapping here].

This question is directed to all the candidates, but first a little background. [Here I was asked to choose a specific candidate to which I replied it was probably most appropriate if Ms. Bulte answered first.]

My old riding gained considerable notoriety as a result of the Liberal candidate Yolande Thibeault receiving more than $19,000 in declared contributions from the principal parties implicated in the Gomery report. [Midway through this part some people, led apparently by Bulte's campaign manager, started shouting “ask the question.” A little rattled, I diligently ploughed on.]

Somehow, I thought things would be different when I moved Toronto. However, I was quite dismayed to read that our current MP Sarmite Bulte has received significant individual and corporate contributions from the very groups that she oversees in her role as Canadian Heritage parliamentary secretary. [At this point, the moderator also piled on demanding I ask the question.] They are also reportedly organizing an upcoming fundraiser.

Consequently, I would ask each of the candidates whether they would take the Copyright Pledge proposed by University of Ottawa law professor and Toronto Star columnist Michael Geist. The pledge is as follows:

No Member of Parliament who has accepted financial contributions or other benefits from

(i) a copyright lobby group,
(ii) its corporate members, or
(iii) senior executives as well as
(iv) a copyright collective

shall serve as Minister of Canadian Heritage or as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, nor sit on any legislative committee conducting hearings or deliberations on copyright matters. [Here my microphone was turned off and I abandoned my concluding comment which follows.]

Sounds reasonable to me. The voters of High Park-Parkdale need reassurance that our MP will be working for us, and not corporate media interests.

With the exception of Bulte, all the candidates accepted the pledge including Conservative candidate Jurij Klufas, who outlined how the CPC would ban all corporate donations to political parties and limit individual contributions to $1000 per year. NDP candidate Peggy Nash also responded articulately to the question, highlighting the need to balance the rights of both creators and users in reforming our copyright laws.

Parkdale-High Park residents deserve better. On January 23rd, Bulte is going to get her butt kicked.

Note: After the meeting, Gregory Hamara, chair of the Bloor West Village Residents Association, apologized to me for interrupting and cutting off my question. Overall, he did an excellent job moderating an unruly meeting.