Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ask a question, I double dare you

I've mentioned before on this blog about the problems trying to deal with the Prime Minister's press people and policy when he visited Iqaluit. The long and the short is that, in order to ask a question, you have to tell them your question. My question was not one the PM wanted to answer, so I got skipped.

I do not like being skipped, and went on air to complain about it. In reality, being skipped because you want to ask a tough question, that is a bit of a compliment. Plus, I got to talk about it on TV, which shows just the kind of news org we are. We don't take being skipped laying down, or at least I don't and our network supported me in that.

When the ministers of this government roll by, we are asked nicely to identify our organization and try to stay on topic. In reality we do neither, but after question four or so, we generally get around to letting the minister know who we represent.

We all know each other, why shouldn't everybody else.

Point being, we get our questions in, and are even polite enough to wait and see if anyone has anything on the topic they are pushing before ranging farther afield. We have had three cabinet ministers through in the last year, and none of them were as big a hassle as the PM, and none of them tried to screen questions.

I don't even have a problem telling people the general subject so they are prepared, I have a problem with submitting questions for vetting.

Well, I'm not the only one having this problem.... no, I am not the lone voice in the wilderness calling out for accountability, I'm one of a chorus.

The following list of stories comes from J-Source.

-- Even Saint Obama can't get by the restrictions.

Harper's spokespeople threatened to cancel the press conference if, at any point in the day, a Canadian reporter shouts out a question without being invited to do so.

White House reporters habitually bark out queries during photo opportunities with the president.

But nobody had better dare pulling such a stunt in Harper's office.

"If you do (ask a question), the photo op will immediately cease," Teneycke said.

-- What did the Harper Government say to each other about listeriosis (aside from wishing death on the member for Malpeque PEI)? Good luck finding out.

The Harper government has delayed for months the release of notes on conference calls held at the height of last summer's deadly listeriosis outbreak — a lag some experts say breaks Ottawa's own information laws.

-- Go ahead and ask that question, and the RCMP will drag you away.

Mounties protecting Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a campaign event in Surrey, B.C., were used Tuesday evening to stop reporters from approaching a high-profile Tory candidate.

"Keep them out," Harper aide Ray Novak shouted at the RCMP security detail as journalists approached Dona Cadman.

CTV's Rosemary Thompson was literally yanked aside by one Mountie as she approached the retreating group - which did not include the prime minister

-- They even kicked out journalists from the lobby of the Delta in Charlottetown.... while tourists were allowed to rubberneck

No cameras, no mics," one plainclothed RCMP officer told CTV News on Wednesday. "That is what the party asked."

The Canadian Press reported that one officer said he was acting on the orders of the Prime Minister's Office.

First thing that crossed my mind when I was skipped was "I should have just lied to them."

"and your question?"


I didn't at the time, due to default setting honesty.

I'm glad I didn't, because my act of defiance would have been fun and good TV, but given the vindictive and ham-fisted methods of this media department, I would have cut our network across the throat. They would never take a question from us again.

Whether you support the policies of this government or not, everyone should get nervous when an elected minority government takes unprecendented pains to limit media access.

I don't know the answer, but why do I have a sneaking suspicion that sometime this summer, I'm going to have to figure it out. According to the INAC Minister, the PM is "bubbling" after every visit to the North. I'm sure he will be back.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them.

The Ottawa press corp tried that one. They walked out on the PM because of his question list. It didn't last. That's not really an option for me, and would only limit us.

This isn't just a reporters issue, it is one that should be of great importance to all of us, party politics be damned. These guys make the Government of Nunavut Ministers look like Teddy Ruxpin.

I don't have any easy answers, except to say, I can't miss a chance to use a Teddy Ruxpin photo...

Or, to paraphrase The Roots:
"You ain't a killer brother
You're Teddy Ruxpin soft."

EDITED TO ADD: I forgot about the time he refused to answer questions from a national anchor, because.... well, just because I suppose. I woulnd't want to call anyone "chicken", lest I bring out some sort of McFly chicken response. Read it HERE.