1) 30 second to 1 minute pitch on why you should be Speaker
2) Why replace the incumbent?
3) It’s a minority Parliament and the election was framed to reinvigorate a “dysfunctional” Parliament (Prime Minister’s framing of the situation). How would you work to improve the behaviour in Parliament?
4) The Speaker delegates authority of press-related matter to the Parliamentary Press Gallery which is slow to change to recognize the evolution of new media be it blogs, youtube, facebook, twitter. Will you direct Parliament to recognize new actors in the press space?
[attending other business in the riding today]
[not doing press]
[his helpful staff are trying to set up a phone call for later today. UPDATE: It appears that this won’t be possible.]
It would seem that the answer is no. The House justice committee chair Art Hanger (Conservative MP, Calgary North-East) has just denied a motion forwarded by Dominic LeBlanc (Liberal MP, Beauséjour) to study the alleged Chuck Cadman inducement.
Those that would wish to drag this on through the ethics committee were also shut down by the chair of that committee, Paul Szabo (Liberal MP, Mississauga South). Szabo ruled that motions forwarded by all three opposition parties to investigate Conservatives in the Chuck Cadman affair, call witnesses under oath and bludgeon said witnesses with suggestive questions that make good press rather than good answers, out of order.
The questions of alleged inducement of an independent MP by a (then) opposition party, whether true or not, do not seem to fall within the purview of the House of Commons. This is, at least, according to the Liberal ethics committee chair and the Conservative justice committee chair.
Frankly, I’m surprised that the Speaker of the House hasn’t ruled a number of Dion’s questions surrounding allegations of a Cadman inducement out of order.
Does this story still have legs? And are those in denial declaring that this setback is but a flesh wound?
UPDATE: The story may still have arms if the Liberals and the Bloc vote to overturn Hanger’s ruling since they have a majority on the Justice committee. The NDP is siding with the Conservatives.
The “Cadscam” House party may yet get a second wind whether it is the business of Parliament or not.
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.
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?