Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Harper muzzle grows: No more media questions?!

At Stephen Harper rallies, everything is tightly controlled. You need to register in advance. You need to bring a driver's license. The RCMP do security checks.

And his candidates are firmly muzzled, dodging media requests and skipping all-candidates meetings across Canada. To date, 110 muzzling from across the country have been recorded at

And now, according to a Canwest News report, Stephen Harper is about to descend even further into the bubble:

A Conservative official said the party is considering not having Harper take any questions from reporters on Sunday, or possibly a reduced number from his usual 10 questions.

And if it goes well Sunday, maybe they'll just extend it to the rest of the campaign, why not?

The official said the move is being considered because of the prime minister's tight schedule, not because Harper wants to avoid any embarrassing statements in the closing days of the campaign.

Of course, of course. Steve is super busy. That, like, 15 minutes to take a few more questions would throw the schedule all out of wack. It has nothing to do with avoiding late election vote-draining comments like this:

A Conservative government would have to work with the checks and balances of a Canadian court system that bears the mark of more than a decade of Liberal reign, Stephen Harper said Wednesday.

The Tory leader drove home comments he made Tuesday that the Conservatives would be unable to wield absolute power even as a majority, as they would face a series of checks and balances from Liberal-appointed judges and senators.

"We have no alternative but to accept the checks; they're part of our system," Harper told a news conference in Toronto, facing some of the sharpest questioning he has faced recently.

"Judges are named, (and) judges can't be removed by governments except under extraordinary circumstances."
Remember when they campaigned on accountability and openness? That was neato.

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Jason Hickman said...

You need to bring a driver's license.

That isn't true. I was at the PM's rally in Toronto last evening and I wasn't asked for a driver's license. I did register in advance, as was done for previous events involving the PM. I don't know if the Mounties did a security check or not.

Jeff said...

Maybe it's the media that need a driver's license (or photo id), I did read that somewhere, in a story about the Vancouver rally here earlier in the week.

Jason Hickman said...

It wouldn't surprise me if the press had to present some form of confirmation that they were, in fact, journalists.

I haven't worked on media set-up for these sorts of things, but it would make sense that if a Party is advised that Jane Smith will be attending on behalf of a given local newspaper, Ms Smith would have to present ID in order to pick up her press package, ID tag, etc. Or maybe they did require drivers' licenses for people at one rally but not another, who knows.

Jeff said...

Here's the piece I was thinking of, interesting read:

As for media credentialing, in 04 I was communications chair for a rural Liberal riding association, and we had a visit from them PM Paul Martin. I was responsible for coordinating local media. This was before the election campaign. I did have to send a list of attendees to Ottawa ahead of time, I presume for a security check, and I had to make name tags, but no driver's licenses or anything were required.

In the following campaign, doing media relations in another riding, we had a visit from the Martin tour. I again wrangled the local media, but no list, no badges, no identification needed.

So I think it's fair to say security has been heightened under Harper, media wise. While there may be multiple motivations, I'd argue a large one is avoiding media scrutiny. I think that's supported by both the link I posted above, and the original news of this post, Harper's likely decision stop answering media questions at all.

As for security at rallies, I'm sure I had read somewhere ID was required, I think for the one in Courtenay. Can't find the reference though, so I can't say for sure.

Here, though, is what the CPC sent out for the recent Vancouver Harper rally:

For RCMP security reasons, you must pre-register by phoning 1-778-***-****. You will need to include your name, address and phone number.

I'd question if this is really for RCMP security reasons. It has never been a requirement on past PM tours. Both Dion and Layton also have RCMP security details during the campaign, and this isn't something they require for Liberal or NDP events.

Given that this campaign we have already had multiple occassions where Conservative staffers have used the RCMP to block or detain media (remember them keeping the media away from Dona Cadman?) I'm highly suspicious.

This isn't security. It's using security as a smokescreen to run a bubble campaign.

Matt said...

You know what I love about the Harpocracy site? It slags Brian McGarry for taking time of to care for his critically ill wife.