From the day he took power, Stephen Harper -- like Rob Ford -- has viewed the parliamentary press corps as maggots. Edward Greenspon writes in the Toronto Star:
When he came into office, Harper threw out long-held rules of government-press engagement. He sowed fear and showed favouritism. Access was severely restricted and doled out based on perceived friendliness of given journalists. Public servants were forbidden from providing background on serious policy matters. A system was introduced by which the PMO, rather than the gallery, decided who could ask questions at press conferences. The List, as it came to be known, was an early flashpoint. The PMO refused any compromise. A Fourth Estate short on self-respect quickly folded. In time, a number of Ottawa reporters were subjected to harassment and vilification and PMO minions exerted pressure on publishers to reign in recalcitrant reporters and editors.
But with the ascension of Justin Trudeau, the tide began to turn:
Ottawa reporters scoffed instead of quaked at the Conservative attack ad and derided the prime minister for stepping out of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral to put his personal stamp on the ad. The Twitterverse derisively jumped on his pronouncement not to “commit sociology.” These reactions are not the work of Liberal lickspittle-ism, as Senate majority leader Marjory LeBreton suggested last week, but the natural by-product of the gallery reclaiming its indispensable adversarial role.
And now it is absolutely essential that the press reclaim that role. As yesterday's Question Period illustrated, the Harper government has retreated into the bunker. They have no intention of providing any answers. They will certainly not call a public inquiry, as Paul Martin did. They know full well that it was public scrutiny which paved their path to power.
Greenspon singles out two reporters -- CTV's Bob Fife and Andrew Coyne -- for their exemplary work. But the entire Ottawa press corps must follow their lead. Greenspon warns:
It is pure folly to dismiss Stephen Harper. For sure, his loathing of the media predisposed him to underestimate the brewing Senate scandal as the frothing of gallery members envious that some in their ranks had been elevated to a higher calling. But as prime minister he has repeatedly proven to be most lethal when seemingly down and out. And he knows how to play out the clock.
Now is the time for all good journalists to come to the aid of the country.