Man of letters: Angus holds Oda's feet to fire over fund

Alleges preferential treatment for party

Bev Oda, Canada's federal heritage minister responsible for film and TV policy, came under fire Wednesday for allegedly offering members of her own party first dibs on a new fund for summer cultural festivals.

Charlie Angus, an opposition member of the New Democratic Party, held a press conference to show an April 18 letter sent by Oda to fellow Conservative Party members of parliament in which she asked them to recommend festivals in their regions that deserved grants.

"Bev Oda has sent a personal invitation to Conservative backbenchers to get the inside track on a $30 million fund," Angus charged. "It's pork-barrelling. Arts and heritage groups should be able to apply for relevant projects."

The revelation forced Oda to rise in the House of Parliament Wednesday afternoon to insist that opposition MPs will soon receive the same letter sent last week to Conservative members, and that the eventual funding process for summer festivals will be fair and transparent.

"All MPs are invited to provide input. The Conservative caucus received a questionnaire, and all members of the opposition parties will receive it in the coming days," Oda said.

The NDP's Angus charged that Oda's "boondoggle" recalled the 1990s federal sponsorship scandal that saw about $200 million secretly funneled by the former Liberal government to a variety of PR agencies and cultural and sports events in the form of fees and commissions.