Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The PM versus the Press

Paul Wells has a nice exposition of the current "battle" as it were between the PMO and the Parliamentary Press Gallery. It is both informative and balanced, taking a few well deserved shots at the press, not just the PMO.

But I'm not a reporter, so I don't need "balance" in my posts, so here are some of the more disturbing points Wells makes about what the PM and PMO are doing (but really, read the post, it's quite informative):

... during weekly cabinet meetings, reporters, camera crew and Gallery staff wait outside the cabinet room on the third floor of Centre Block, at the only two available exits, to ask ministers questions as they enter and leave. It is unlovely but it is the only sure way to see a given minister and to film or record his answer (or flat refusal to answer) even to questions he didn't want to be asked. This setup allowed us to grill Jane Stewart on the 1999 HRDC audits; Paul Martin on the Clarity Bill at the end of the same year; Alfonso Gagliano on Adscam; Judy Sgro on her pizza parties; Andy Scott on Kashechewan; and so on. The PMO wants to move those scrums downstairs. This would multiply shy ministers' escape routes. The PMO argues that ministers will be sent out frequently and at great length when they have something to say. The problem, of course, is that this guaranteed weekly access to ministers is most useful when they are desperate not to say anything...

...(on) the cabinet-minister thing. Once again: it's very sweet and cute to brag about how eager they'll be to speak to us when they have something to announce, but that argument spectacularly and wilfully misses the point. Ministers have always been eager to speak when they wanted to announce something. They have also, for as long as anyone can remember, been reluctantly, grudgingly, cussedly available, once a week after cabinet meetings, to speak even when it was the last thing in the world they wanted to do because they were, for whatever reason, in a world of trouble. Our worry — so far unproven but very real — is that Stephen Harper has decided he's the first prime minister in decades who gets to spare his ministers that grief...

...This whole mess is developing. Hill reporters have just been informed, for instance, that there will be a "government media availability" at 12:30 in the Commons lobby. This may have something to do with the secret cabinet meeting now taking place — the first unnanounced cabinet meeting anyone in Canada's capital can remember...

Finally, Wells' update, and challenge to readers is classic:

UPDATE:
The most surreal exchange from Harper's scrum today, translated by me from French:

MODERATOR: Patrice Roy, Radio-Canada

QUESTION: Mr. Harper, did you hold a cabinet meeting this morning upstairs?
HARPER: I had meetings of the priorities committee and of cabinet.
QUESTION: We saw several ministers leave. It looked like a regular meeting of cabinet. Will it be the norm from now on that you won't invite the press any more, and therefore that you will no longer be inviting Canadians to know when the executive of the government is meeting here?
STEPHEN HARPER: Meetings of the cabinet are private. It's a constitutional thing.
————
Fun questions:

(1) If the prime minister has a constitutional responsibility to keep cabinet meetings private (humour him here), didn't he just break that responsibility by telling us he'd had a meeting?
(2) Harper was first elected to Parliament in 1993. I have a very large bottle of Polish vodka here for anyone who can find any record of him ever arguing, at any point in the intervening 13 years, that Chr├ętien or Martin were violating cabinet secrecy by permitting reporters to loiter outside cabinet meetings.

See, no need for me to even write anything to keep posting.

Isn't plagiarism grand!?!?

Recommend this Post

2 comments:

Garry Ladouce said...

A rather inflated head, your Mister Harper. As if Canada could ever discuss anything significant without Quebec having something to say and do about it. It will come out. Canada is fatally flawed and even petty tyrants cannot impose their tiny little wills in 10 square meters of Canada without the scheme collapsing. Fortunately Canada has plenty of raw materials stolen from the Indians and good old Yankee technology and capital to extract same. Harper is about as significant in the world as a minor fart in a shithouse. Let your Stephen play with his wittle weenie. The big folks run this world dawg and it sure aint the land of maple sugar.

Cheers.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Uhhhh, Okay then.