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Tories go negative with iPod-tax coalition fear campaign

A new Tory radio ad warns Canadians the "opposition coalition" wants to bring in a new "iPod tax" that would force Canadians to pay $75 for "just about anything with a hard drive."

The Conservative ad says this is just part of the dreaded coalition's master plan to bring in a "high-tax agenda." The opposition, meanwhile, is accusing the Conservatives of lying.

Liberal industry critic Marc Garneau said the ad comes right out of the "Karl Rove school of politics." And the NDP's point man on copyright issues, Charlie Angus, called the ads "dumb."

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"[Heritage Minister]James Moore might as well have red clown's nose on and juggle balls in the air for all the credibility he has on this file," Mr. Angus said.

In the ad, an ominous sounding male voice comes over the radio saying Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe "all backed the coalition." Now, the narrator intones, they all back an "iPod tax."

"That's right an iPod tax. A brand new tax that you will have paying up to $75 more for iPods, smart phones, personal video records, MP3 players and just about anything with a hard drive."

The ads will start to be broadcast very soon, according to a spokesman in the Conservative Party office. He would not say which ridings are being targeted.

Mr. Angus dismissed the ads as fantasy. Rather, he has been pushing to get copyright legislation modernized for the past five years but the Tories continue to stall. And he fears updating the Copyright Act will blow up because of the Tory's short-term penchant for slogans and electioneering.

This week, Mr. Moore and Industry Minister Tony Clement held a press conference in front of a music store at a downtown Ottawa mall to accuse the opposition of wanting this tax. They emphasized a Conservative government would never bring in an iPod levy as part of its legislation.

Canadian songwriters have been lobbying ministers and MPs for months to impose a fee on modern music consumers, arguing that surcharges applied to blank CDs and cassettes be extended to digital media. But the government is siding with the recording industry, which says the solution is tougher piracy laws.

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Mr. Angus, meanwhile, says that despite the opposition's efforts to work with the Conservatives to reform the Copyright Act, the Tories only want to "poke us in the eye."

"You've got the ministers doing publicity stunts in malls and writing ads about evil coalitions... I think the ads should be 'We're not interested in getting any legislation through'."

Mr. Angus supports a levy on MP3 players but nothing as high as $75. He says the minister has the power to set the fee.

"It's very clear. ... It's simply on iPods and MP3 players. It's not on BlackBerrys," Mr. Angus said. "It would simply be on these music player devices. The idea of a $5 fee on a $250 iPod - nobody's going to notice that."

On this point, the Liberals differ from their New Democrat colleagues. "There was never any intention from our point of view of having an iPod levy," Mr. Garneau said.

The Liberal industry critic said his party would distribute $35-million a year - through general revenues - to compensate artists. That sum would be reviewed every five years as listening habits change, he added.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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