Friday, June 22, 2012

Video: Scrum shopping on Parliament Hill

Every day that the House of Commons is sitting, just before the end of question period members of the press gallery begin to gather in the foyer outside the chamber for the scrums. It's usually the best opportunity to grab an MP and get a few quick questions answered or some comments on the story of the day without having to phone communications staffers who have to fill out message event proposals.

There are three pool cameras and microphones set up in the foyer, one each on the government and opposition sides and one in the centre ostensibly reserved for the Prime Minister, although he rarely scrums and anyone can and does use it. Impromptu scrums will also often break-out throughout the foyer when an MP stops and is surrounded more informally by questioning reporters.

Reporters typically stake-out the government and opposition doors waiting to see if someone comes out they want to speak with. If someone is trying to dodge the media (say, Dean Del Mastro this past week) they can go out a back door out of sight. Government ministers also like to escape up the stairs (like Peter MacKay) as protocol dictates media don't follow up the stairs. Rarely will anyone want to speak with government backbencers, they can just walk through ignored by the media. Ministers are least likely to want to talk, while opposition members will often wonder around in the hopes a reporter will want to interview them.

One fun part of the scrum culture is that you're always looking for someone better. While you have your microphone in one scrum, you're often continuing to scan the foyer, in case someone you'd much rather speak to decided to come out and scrum. It's not uncommon for an opposition member to suddenly be abandoned when a government minister suddenly pops their head into the foyer. Some call it scrum shopping.

I've tried to capture some of the scrum shopping experience in this video, which I shot after question period on Monday. Look for cameos from Charlie Angus, Bob Rae, Tony Clement, Elizabeth May, James Moore and Peggy Nash. Watch for Rae and May at the PM's microphone (he was out of town).


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