Press shuts down blogger

A couple of weeks ago, I headed down the street to Parliament Hill to cover the budget for my blog and for Blogging Tories. You can see the product of that effort here, here, here, and here. I have a Hill pass that indicates that I have been pre-screened by security and allows me access to a variety of places in the Parliamentary district. While hovering on the periphery of a budget-day scrum with Jack Layton, I was spotted by Elizabeth Thompson of the Montreal Gazette. She scolded me and expressed to this lowly blogger that he wasn’t allowed to scrum with Layton. Largely ignoring her, I continued to mind my own business and started to needlessly check my camera settings. Thompson alerted Parliamentary Press Gallery President Richard Brennan to my presence and minutes later, security asked me to leave the foyer area.

I left the hallway outside of the foyer and walked over to the railway room to interview some ‘stakeholders’ of the budget. This went off without incident and during that time, I cheerfully chatted with some reporters that were in the same room.

Having completed my interviews with the stakeholders, I left and headed on over to the Rotunda where I had a friendly chat with Jack Layton. Elizabeth May and her assistant were also hanging around chatting when I saw Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc walk by. Having heard that his party was the lone opposition party supporting the budget, I asked him for an interview. He agreed. After the interview something ugly happened.

An official from the Press Gallery walked over and informed me that he had received “complaints” about me. “Thompson?” I inquired. “Complaints”, he seemed to acknowledge. I pointed out that we were currently in the Rotunda of Parliament and that my pass allowed me to be there. “But you have a camera” he informed me. He called over a security guard to escort me from Parliament.

Unbelievable!

Yes, the Parliamentary Press Gallery, with no powers granted to it by constitution or statute, used security to remove somebody who had the right to be present on the Hill granted to him by the Speaker of the House.

A similar incident happened recently when two female staffers from the Conservative Resource Group were similarly removed from the Hill by security when the Liberals complained to the Gallery.

After the incident, the Prime Ministers office called the sergeant-at-arms (who works on behalf of the Speaker on Hill security) and was told that the Gallery and Liberals were wrong to ask for the ouster of the CRG staff from Dion scrums (and scrums in general).

Of course, this brings up a few questions. If security on the Hill is the responsibility of the Speaker, and if I have been granted access to most non-privileged areas of the Hill by the Speaker, what authority does an official of the PPG have in calling in the guard to have me removed from perhaps the most public area of the Hill? Elizabeth May was also present in the Rotunda, yet she is not an elected member, nor is she associated with an elected party in Parliament. She has also been granted security clearance to the Hill by the Speaker. So, is it the camera? What is so offensive about my camera? Since I am cleared to be present on the Hill, is it because I haven’t been cleared to use one of the Press Guild’s many tools? Would May be ejected by the Gallery if she was in possession of a camera? What if I am invited by a politician to use my camera on the Hill? Is this forbidden? Was this interview with Jack Layton in the NDP leader’s office violating some unwritten rule of the media powers that be? Does the CRG/Dion Hill incident (and the aftermath) set a precedent for my presence (with camera) on the Hill? Again, why does the power reside in a largely unelected, unaccountable body of Parliament that is not defined by statute? I’ve made a sport out of taking on institutions with artificial and inflated senses of entitlement, maybe the Press Gallery is next.

Or, you may ask, why don’t I just suck it up and join this all-powerful guild as some of the friendlier gallery-folk have suggested? I’ve always been unsure about this move as I am a declared partisan, yet I am not employed by the Conservative Party. Still, should partisan media exist? Should it be allowed? Since this blog is de facto media and it already operates in a partisan manner, should the CRTC or Elizabeth Thompson shut it down? Frankly, I can understand reasons against ‘official’ recognition of my media status in the Parliamentary precinct. After all, couldn’t I flood Conservatives with long and friendly press conference questions to waste time? (yes). Would I? (no). Would I sell out my media brethren and sign up for ‘the list’? (yes).

But then again, the game is changing and bloggers are becoming a new category in a variety of forums they intersect. Will the next evolutionary phase be a smooth one or will it require direct action?

As the concept of “press” is being redefined to include bloggers, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that some of the “officials” that are trampling on our rights include members of the “dead tree” division of the guild we wish to complement.

UPDATE: I’ve been told that I am ineligible for membership in the Parliamentary Press Gallery because I am not employed as a journalist by any organization. Do you think that the evolution of media and reporting should change some of the traditions and practices on parliament hill?

From the Dept. of Irony

Jack LaytonI believe that my political views are enriched by discussions with other Conservatives. I find that when we talk policy, we can argue the best approach that we should take concerning the issues of the day. However, I also engage in discussions with others who identify themselves as Liberal or as a supporters of the NDP. One of my best friends is, in fact, a staunch supporter of Mr. Jack Layton and the Orange Squad. I find that through discussion with him, I can at least understand, while rarely support, his point of view and that of other lefty Canadians.

My friend recently shared a letter that he had received from Mr. Layton and wanted to point out something he found quite ironic and baffling at the same time. I’ve scanned in the letter and you can access it below.

jackletter.jpg
Click to enlarge

Jack Layton, in his letter, greases the wheels for his wide-eyed supporters:

“There are new political financing rules as of January 1. There’s a 75% rebate of your first $400! That’s right. You can now give $400 to our exciting and energetic New Democratic Party and get $300 back in a tax credit. So your donation of $400 only costs you $100. The other $300 is a loan! I’m hoping you’ll stretch to that limit right now, if you can. Because we need your help as never before to tackle the corporate drift of Paul Martin’s Liberals.”

You may be wondering… “Did I just read that right? Did Jack Layton actually bribe his members with a tax cut”. Don’t worry… Jack says it’s just “a loan!”

Let’s follow some Layton logic shall we?
1) Jack Layton is promising his members a tax cut
2) so he can take out ‘a loan’ from his members and then, ultimately, from the rest of us.
3) so that he can form the next government
4) to raise all of our taxes!

It’s difficult to understand Jack Layton’s logic, yet it’s entertaining to read his letter. From his fatherly pride over his passionate spunky team of die-hard workers “Tommy would be proud of our little team here”, to his Xeroxed ‘handwritten’ underlining of all the important parts of his letter, to the leftist rhetoric peppered throughout his piece of creative writing.

Sheila and Paul – betrayal in Hamilton

What is happening in federal politics?!?

With the game of musical chairs (or seats) going on in Ottawa these days, it’s just another day as rumours swirl about party defections and betrayal. The latest particular rumour seems to have a little more substance as we learn that Sheila Copps, a former deputy prime minister and a former leadership contender for the Liberal Party of Canada, is being forced to walk the plank of the Liberal ship and, further, she may even be saved by Mr. Jack Layton in the rubber dinghy of the NDP.

A political veteran of the Liberal party and a Liberal member of the house for 20 years, Ms. Copps may have to contend for the nomination for her own riding against a Martin supporter who doesn’t even live in the riding! By stifling any Liberal who differs from Paul Martin in opinion, the coronated Prime Minister seeks to widen the democratic deficit within his own party rather than to narrow it as he had promised.

If Ms. Copps is forced to leave her party, I predict that the left flank of Paul Martin’s personal party will leave with her giving another breath of life into the NDP. By attempting to co-opt the policies of the centre-right, Mr. Martin is losing his support on the left and burning Ms. Copps may only be the spark that starts the fire.

Regardless of the policies for which Sheila Copps stands, Canadians of all political affiliations will wince when they see a woman, who has given her heart to public life, become trampled by the Paul Martin machine.