Saturday, August 24, 2013

Refusing to See Them

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.


Lorne said...

When I read the story this morning, Owen,I once more asked myself why journalism continues to debase itself by allowing itself to be mere tools for Harper. When he first instituted restrictions on reporters' questions, there was a moment or two when it looked like they were going to boycott his heavy-handed tactics. That quickly went by the wayside. Now, as you indicated, they collectively are allowed only a handful of questions, with no opportunity for followup. If they simply ignored him and refused to be the medium of his propaganda until those restrictions were lifted, where would he be?

Rene said...

Particularly from the perspective of Harper Reformers who are so keen on trade with China, securing a market for Alberta oil, slave workers for BC mines, pandas for Canada's zoos, this treatment of a Chinese journalist merely seeking to pose a question at a press conference does not bode well for Canada's relationship with China.

Now the Chinese media have their story of how journalists are abused under Harper's rule...

Owen Gray said...

Harper succeeds, Lorne, because all kinds of people don't have the courage to stand up to him.

If only one or two reporters refuse to knuckle under, he'll get his way. But there is virtue in collective action -- a lesson which the opposition parties have yet to learn.

Owen Gray said...

I'm continually struck, Rene, by Harper's total lack of people skills. He struts about on the world stage, convinced that he is a force to be reckoned with.

I'm convinced, however, that the international community knows he is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I had forgotten that Harper was still limiting the number of questions the press can ask. I am surprised that the press continues to be bullied this way. They should refuse to ask him any questions until he stops trying to limit how they do their jobs. They seem to forget that he needs the press. Without the press his views are stifled. It is too bad that one of the Canadian reporters was not fast enough on his feet to yield the mic to the Chinese reporter. If Harper has been smarter he would have insisted on taking a question from him even it it meant there would be five questions and not four. NO MORE QUESTIONS FOR THE PRIME MINISTER!

Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, Harper probably would prefer having it that way, Philip. Despite his boasting about "accountability," he much prefers to be answerable to no one.

His answers are useless. What reporters need to do is to pursue leaks.

Anonymous said...

This is nothing other than, another Harper dirty tactic. Sounds to me like, Harper is bringing over, the Red China army.

Harper mulls massive Chinese resource project.

China trade deal a, 31 year ball and chain on Canada
Oct 19/2012

Chinese buying up Canada's farms

Owen Gray said...

My bet is that, given the public's reaction to Chinese entry into the economy, Harper didn't want to come near the question, Anon.

If he were wise, he would have taken the question and answered it.

But Harper's reaction was par for the course. When faced with opposition, he flees.

Anonymous said...

And the irony of a Bureau Chief of a Communist China journal infers, on record, that Harper and his staff are 'not democratic' is delicious.

Owen Gray said...

He should know what it means to be "undemocratic," Anon.

Kirby Evans said...

What reporters need to do is refuse to cover him at all in any conventional sense. Simply run negative stories and stories about how he won't talk to them or be accountable. It would only take a few weeks of such treatment and Harper would be singing like a canary. Even in a democracy as week as ours, the media can set the terms if they choose to.

Owen Gray said...

True, Kirby. Nixon resigned because the press were on to him. They refused to be kowtowed.

If they chose to take the same tact with Harper, he'd decide not to run in 2015.

the salamander said...

.. ' a few sandwiches short of a picnic' .. nice ..

As Mr Mulcair has noted.. Stephen Harper believes he is the master of Parliament ..

One assumes this unpleasant reality follows hard on being the Northern Alliance Comptroller .. of Canadian Values.. Indian Treaty Eradication .. Kyoto Denial, Pontification of Israelis Affairs .. and Afghani Torture Protocols.. Wild Salmon elimination, Master of Electoral Fraud Initiation & subsequent Denial .. litigation against Canadian Military Service Veterans, Pension Denial ..

mmm ..we need more space to list the Harper Legacy of violations against Canada and Canadians..

The willingness of supposedly educated or intelligent people such as Stephen Lecce, Julie Vaux, Ray Novak.. or Jenni Byrne, Arthur Hamilton, Fred de Lorey et al and the entire PMO and 'Conservative' Party to enthusiastically sell out all principal, ethics, honesty and prop up such a transparently false prime minister is an astonishing fact of life in politics.

He certainly is a weird disturbed bird.. and one wonders what his wife, children & family truly make of him.. or friends, if any.. even if he has a snotty horde of paid minders, aides, maids, spokespersons, deputies, court jesters and bodyguards to dispense his awkward persona, attentions, grammar and dogma in their direction..

Complete failure of 99% of mainstream media and respected influential Canadians to harshly & continously call out this callous manipulator and pathological liar as he builds a twisted, dark political apparatus in his own image.. is astonishing.. cowardly .. and dangerous. We fail as Canadians to either not recognize the danger & damage.. or worse, to be powerless or too weak to force him from power.

There are many many obvious similarities between Stephen Harper and Bashar al-Assad.. and I suppose that being vicious ignorant men without conscience, existing as so called leaders, in a fabricated controlled fantasy land, backed by their faithful distorted royal court is one of them.

Owen Gray said...

It's always astonishing to see the number of people who will support power for the sake of power, salamander.

They seem completely unaware that their fortunes can turn on a dime.

But such has always been the fate of the willfully ignorant.

e.a.f. said...

It was delicious! A reporter from China was the one to stand up to the P.M. and his refusal to answer any more than his specified number of questions. Now if the Canadian reporters would just follow the e.g. of the Chinese reporter we might see something interesting happen. It would more clearly demonstrate what stevie slime is really all about.

The reporter from China needs to understand, stevie slime has been spending so much time with the Chinese government, Canada is no longer a democracy. stevie and his slimers' actions lead me to conlude he likes the Chinese system just fine, no democracy.

Stevie slime and his slimers ought to remember, we the taxpayers, pay their salaries and therefore they are answerable to all of us. The media in many countries represent us in questioning the politicians. It is not nice to be rude to the people who pay your salary. They might fire you the first chance they get, well maybe 2015.

Owen Gray said...

You're right, e.a.f. The irony is delicious. A Chinese reporter reminded Canadian reporters what democracy is all about.

Remember, too, that Harper used to deliver lectures to the Chinese about their authoritarian government.