Relationship forces Oda to cancel event

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TORONTO -- Canadian heritage minister Bev Oda has been forced to cancel a fundraising dinner next week after it was revealed a key industry lobbyist was helping organize the event.

Chisolm Pothier, a spokesman for Oda, on Thursday confirmed that Charlotte Bell, the vp of regulatory affairs, TV and radio for domestic broadcaster CanWest MediaWorks, had been among five organizers of the Nov. 15 dinner.

He added that the federal minister canceled the dinner to avoid any hint of impropriety despite the fact that she and Bell were old friends.

"The minister was not aware that Charlotte Bell was a lobbyist on behalf of CanWest Global. When she became aware that Bell was registered to lobby the department, she immediately canceled the event," Pothier said.

The Nov. 15 fundraiser led opposition members of parliament to question why it was being held so close to key regulatory hearings on federal broadcast policy that are set to kick off Nov. 27.

NDP member of parliament Charlie Angus rose in the House of Commons to ask why Oda and Maxime Bernier, the federal minister of industry, were to address the Nov. 15 fundraiser when broadcasters at the event would have so much riding on the results of the federal policy review.

Betsy Chaly, a spokeswoman for CanWest MediaWorks, which operates two parallel TV networks in Canada, insisted Bell helped organize the fundraiser as a personal friend of Oda and was not working on behalf of the broadcaster.

The Oda fundraiser recalls U.S. studios and music labels in January drawing fire when their Canadian representatives helped organize a fundraiser for then-Liberal member of parliament Sarmite Bulte, a parliamentary secretary for Canadian Heritage, who favored U.S.-style copyright laws for this country.

The Liberals were subsequently replaced after a national election with Oda's Conservative Party, which currently holds power with a minority government.
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