I love the Northern Voice conference. I've been part of it every year since it started in 2005. But while my wife Air and I were among the first to register for the conference itself this year, and while she put together one of the panels, neither of us will be attending the February 19 opening-night dinner (tickets for that go on sale tomorrow) because it's sponsored by the BC Liberal Party.
The sponsorship makes us uncomfortable. I'd like to think that we'd feel this way if it were any political party, but it's hard to know. That it is the BC Liberals, for whom neither of us has never voted, and that there is an election coming right up this spring, both add to our discomfort. When my wife mentioned the sponsorship to me, my immediate verbal reaction was a simple, "Ew."
I know almost everyone on the Northern Voice organizing committee, and I think they do a great job, but I also think that accepting this sponsorship was a poor choice, regardless of whether (or maybe especially because of) the current economic circumstances, which make sponsorships hard to find right now. And had it been a provincial or federal government ministry, or the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Committee, or some other government organization rather than a political party, I think I would have been fine with it.
Sponsors are supposed to promote themselves, but a political party sponsorship in advance of an election feels like an attempt to buy my vote, and seems cynical, especially from a party that hasn't been at the vanguard of blogging and podcasting up to now. So Air and I will be at UBC for the main conference, but we'll skip the dinner. If there are others who feel similarly, as I expect there are, maybe some of us will go out for beer elsewhere that night.