Stephen Harper's Northern Tour was supposed to be a political triumph. He delivered red meat speeches about the "vacuous" and "dangerous" opposition. And he announced that he was running in the 2015 election. But, yesterday, the tour ended with a vivid picture of how the prime minister defines power.
Michael den Tandt, who has been following the prime minister on his northern trek, writes:
The final public event on Stephen Harper’s annual summer tour was very nearly derailed Friday after a journalist from China’s state-owned newspaper got into a shoving match with a female staffer from the Prime Minister’s Office and was pulled away by members of Harper’s security detail.
As the prime minister was taking a question from the CBC’s James Cudmore, People’s Daily Canada bureau chief Li Xue Jiang began insisting to PMO staffer Julie Vaux that he was next in line to ask a question.
Harper was visiting Raglan to trumpet a $750,000 federal investment in wind power generation for the remote nickel mining site. Li had wanted to ask Harper to clarify Canada’s foreign investment regulations, he said, in light of China’s state-owned CNOOC’s takeover of Calgary-based Nexen last winter. Earlier, it had been agreed among the pool of reporters travelling with Harper — among them journalists from CBC, Radio-Canada, the Toronto Star, CTV, The Canadian Press, Global, Sun Media and Postmedia — that Li would ask one of five questions allowed by the PM in Friday’s media availability.
It is Harper’s practice to limit the number of questions he takes from reporters — typically on this trip, four from the national media, one from any local media present, and one from Radio-Canada. Because of the limit on questions, reporters typically pool their efforts, and also determine by consensus who will pose them, and in what order. Questions are not shown to PMO staff in advance.
The mounties hauled Li away. Shades of the 2011 election. Harper simply didn't want to answer his question. But, as Li himself said, "It's not democratic."
Unfortunately, Harper is not concerned with democracy. Whether it's the Parliament of Canada, the provincial premiers, or the press, power for Stephen Harper means having the ability to make people go away.
He believes he can make them disappear simply by refusing to see them.