I'm sure there are no illusions about the tough fight Ruby Dhalla is going to have on her hands in the next election in the wake of the close race in October and the fact that her Conservative opponent Parm Gill is campaigning on an ongoing basis. A CTV report Saturday night was a little reminder (video here). In addition to the now month old news that Dhalla is seeking to block distribution of a film in which she starred in 2003 due to alleged distortions of her image, Heritage Canada documents pertaining to a $13,000 grant to the film producer for promotion purposes have become available to CTV.
According to documents obtained by CTV News, Heritage Canada wrote at the time of the application that the film did "not meet any of the terms and conditions of existing departmental programs."A Canadian Taxpayer's Federation spokesman is quoted in the Richardson report, eagerly portraying the grant as a case of Copps having abused her budget. Note that Copps was unavailable to comment, as reported by Richardson, not unable. Different things. Absent that information, it all seems a little too neatly packaged up for anyone in the skeptical camp about information distribution from government departments under present management. And this information about the Heritage grant comes relatively quickly given that this movie controversy came to light just about a month ago. After all, information typically comes from this government at a snail's pace.
Despite this, a $13,000 grant was approved by then-Heritage Minister Sheila Copps - also a prominent Hamilton Liberal.
Dhalla, who is currently travelling in India, contacted CTV News on Saturday and said that she had no prior knowledge of the movie's funding from Ottawa. She added that any federal funding for the movie was in no way connected to her.
Copps was unable to comment on the issue.
A cynic would say that this information is designed to embarrass Dhalla and released for that purpose with a view to providing additional help to a certain opponent's electoral fortunes. After all, they do spend quite a bit of time playing with information and doling it out for political advantage. It's natural to wonder, then, when you hear reports like this one.