28 March 2006

Control freaking

Canadian Press is reporting on the growing controversy in Ottawa over prime Minister Stephen Harper's ongoing efforts to restrict media access to cabinet ministers.

Yesterday's broohaha focused on Harper's office having security guards to keep reporters from horning in on a photo op. The bigger issue is Harper's plan to move reporters away from the cabinet room and likely hold secret cabinet meetings.

Harper's communications director, Sandra Buckler, gave the official response to media comments on the issue: "I don't think the average Canadian cares [about media access] as long as they know their government is being well run."


That may well be true.

Unfortunately, Canadians will have a harder time finding out how well run the government is if the reporters who would carry that message are cheesed off by the prime minister's efforts to piss off all but the most blatantly Conservative reporter on the Hill.

Look at the number of stories today that highlight the unimpressive nature of the upcoming Throne Speech. The damn thing hasn't even been delivered yet, but Sandra's sterling efforts at pissing people off are reaping a predictable reward.

If you stop and think about it though, this administration, less than 100 days in office, has not implemented any great policy initiatives. It hasn't really been demonstrating how well things are run.


And that might be the clue as to why the biggest thing on Sandra Buckler's agenda - aside from vetting thousands of e-mails, letters to the editor and other ministerial communications - is to shag around with news media access.

If Harper and company were actually doing something news-worthy, Sandra wouldn't have to worry about message control. Sure the guys have only been in office a few weeks but, come on, they must have something they could be doing rather than frigging with deciding who can and cannot ask Steve a few questions.

Bill Clinton's team of amateurs tried this sort of access control and it failed miserably.

Other world leaders have tried it too.

It some places the Harper/Buckler approach works...

Places like Khazakstan.

Or Zimbabwe.

This is hardly the model we should be emulating.