Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On fiery leadership

Stephen Harper hasn't left much doubt that metaphorically speaking, he wouldn't complain if much of the Canadian media went up in flames - its contribution to his electoral success notwithstanding. But even I didn't think he'd start actively taking steps to cause that to happen:
Officials in the prime minister's office have been picking who asks questions at news conferences since he was sworn in Feb. 6. Reporters advised prime ministerial aides before the news conference that they would refuse to play by Harper's rules...

The media tried short-circuiting Harper's strategy Tuesday. They prepared to install their own set of microphones in the foyer outside the House of Commons — which is standard practice when events are held there.

Harper's office responded quickly upon learning of the plan. Officials switched the event location to a tiny, cramped room down the hall.

Their chosen venue had no stand-up microphones. House of Commons officials were investigating Tuesday afternoon whether the move created a fire hazard.
In fairness, the risk wasn't entirely with the media: from the sound of it, Harper may well have been putting his own well-being at risk as well in order to exercise control over the questioning process. But there's no apparent reason why Harper's ability to micromanage the media at all times should be a higher priority than his safety or the reporters'.

At the very least, one would think that if the Cons were determined to fight the media tooth and nail, they'd have thought ahead somewhat, taking into account all the possible upsides and downsides in contingency plans for dealing with reporters. Instead, officials apparently came up with a plan on the spot, then were left scrambling to figure out after the fact whether they'd put anybody in danger. Which can't inspire much confidence in all those Canadians whose lives are in Harper's hands in one way or another.

It's clear that the Cons don't have much of a plan to try to keep a lid on the media, but that they're not afraid to put people at risk in order to improvise. And that combination of obsessive control, warped priorities and poor planning isn't going to do anything to win the media back to Harper's side.

Update: See Far and Wide, Maple Leaf Politics and 1337hax0r for more on the substance of Harper's insistence on choosing his questioners.

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