Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bubble Boy

Harper a man who 'lives in a bubble'
Tory campaign goes to extraordinary lengths keeping him from public

OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper is shielded from the public as he criss-crosses the country, campaigning in a political bubble.

No handshakes on street corners or rallies in the parks. Only highly staged backdrops for his daily political message, and assemblies where Tory staffers and security officers closely monitor the crowds.

It's a classic "front-runner" technique – a safe, tightly scripted and controlled campaign – taken to a whole new level.

Rallies are off-limits for any member of the public who just shows up. Nobody gets in unless they have been pre-registered by the local riding association. Even local media are asked to sign up in advance.

...The Harper campaign keeps a short leash on national and local media, limiting questions and access to local candidates, sometimes calling on RCMP security to block reporters from doing their jobs.

Harper "hides from Canadians. He lives in a bubble," Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said last night in Winnipeg.

Just ask Stuart.

Stuart Service is a local reporter from the Halton Compass who attended the Harper/Raitt rally in Oakville last week. Stuart did his usual excellent job reporting on the event itself (although, oddly, he left out any mention of the protesters outside), but also wrote a fascinating companion piece about the experience of reporting on a Harper rally.

He talks about the reporters being 'cordoned off' within a perimeter of yellow tape at the very back of the room. He talks about getting to hang out with ohmygodohmygod it's David Akin. And he talks about how different all this was from what his bosses experienced when they covered the Dion event at the very same hall. Then, they got to ask questions, chat with the leader, and get some great close-up shots.

This time, it was behind the yellow tape, no questions please, and so far from the man himself that a telephoto lens was required to get a usable shot.

Stuart is very coy about how he really felt about all this, but it's a point that has been made before. It goes something like this:


  1. oh runesmith...doh! I have a post going up in the next hour with that video and a bunch of ranting on the topic! link to your post will be there...:)

  2. Harper "hides from Canadians. He lives in a bubble," Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said last night in Winnipeg.

    That's a great line. It strikes me that Dion has had some fantastic sound bites that are practically ignored by the corporate press.

  3. Yeah, well, the media pretty much wrote him off the day after the Cons ran their first "Not a Leader" ad.

    If the man turns out to be unelectable in this country, it will say more about us than about him.

  4. Jennifer--

    re: the omg,omg,omg factor.....

    You may, if you haven't seen it already, be interested in what Mr. Akin himself has to say on this very topic (well, almost):

    "We are not, for example, kept informed about all that Harper is doing while travelling with us. He generally has a morning photo opp that is kept a close secret even from the pool photographers who are the only journalists allowed to accompany him.

    We are not getting to put questions to him with the same frequency that we did in the 2006 campaign. On that campaign, every reporter travelling with him got to ask at least one question a day. This time around, his staff is restricting us to 10 questions a day -- eight from the press travelling with him and two for reporters from the region we are travelling in. Because there are more than eight national reporters, we must rotate and, as a result, we get just one question -- no followup -- every other day.

    Some, like a commenter here, urge us to ask followups on certain issues. We would love to but, again, with just one question every two days, it can often be difficult."