At least we now know which member of the PM’s entourage was responsible for siccing the Mounties on the media in Surrey earlier this week:
“Keep them out,” Harper aide Ray Novak shouted at the RCMP security detail as journalists approached Dona Cadman.
CTV’s Rosemary Thompson was literally yanked aside by one Mountie as she approached the retreating group – which did not include the prime minister.
Ray Novak is, of course, the PM’s executive assistant Principal Secretary – although it’s not clear whether he is currently working on the campaign – like, as a political staffer – or in his official capacity. All ministers – including the PM – are allowed to have one exempt staffer travel with them during an election, at taxpayer expense, whose job is to stay in touch with the minister’s office — even during an election, a minister is still a minister, with all the accompanying ministerial responsibilities. So is Novak on the plane to liase with Langevin on the PM’s behalf? We’ll let you know when we hear back from the campaign. If he is, presumably he was only acting out of concern for the Prime Minister’s personal safety — although since Harper had already left the building, it’s difficult to see how he would have been in danger, given that the marauding media were armed only with pointed questions for Dona Cadman.
Meanwhile, campaign communication(s) director Kory Teneycke was once again conspicuously absent during the post-rally skirmish, although he showed up not long afterwards to talk to the reporters held at bay by the RCMP. Unlike last week’s standoff in the vinyard, however, he didn’t apologize for sending in the security detail to protect his party’s selectively mute candidate from the national media, claiming that, as he hadn’t seen it happen, he wasn’t willing to comment.
The CBC’s Paul Hunter posted a partial transcript of the ensuing scrum, in which Teneycke offered a new definition of what “local campaigning” means — hint: it doesn’t involve talking to the media – national or local.
(Note: I’ve corrected the spelling of “Teneycke”):
Reporter: Why was the RCMP used to keep us from asking a question of a candidate today instead of just letting her answer the question?
Teneycke: Well I didn’t see that happen so I’m not going to comment on that. In terms of local candidates, local candidates’ priority is campaigning in their local ridings and not talking to the national media. Their priority is obviously getting elected in their riding.
Reporter: But the local media’s here.
Teneycke: I didn’t say talking to local media, I said their priority’s getting elected in their local riding. That’s what their priority is. We have a national campaign tour with national media with us and we have media availabilities every morning in which journalists can ask questions of the prime minister and we have events every day in our war room, generally with members of cabinet. So I think there are many opportunities to talk with the party and the campaign at the most senior levels throughout the campaign.
Reporter: But shouldn’t the local candidates be free to decide what their priorities are?
Teneycke: Their priority is to campaign in their local riding and just because a candidate doesn’t want to speak with you doesn’t mean they have to.
Reporter: Is she allowed to speak with us?
Teneycke: Candidates, as I say, their priority is campaigning in their local riding. If the candidate had wanted to do a media availability they would have — did not — so they didn’t.
Reporter: Did you actually ask them, did you say there were members of the national media here and they’d like to speak with you?
Teneycke: We did not ask them to do a scrum. As I say, national media can ask every morning of the prime minister questions, we have events every day in the war room.
Reporter: So does that mean when we’re on the national tour we’re not allowed to seek interviews with your local candidates because we get access to your prime minister?
Teneycke: Well, you can seek interviews with any number of people. I’m sure you can call any candidate’s office and request an interview and it’ll be up to those candidates as to whether or not they choose to take interviews. I think with campaigns from all parties, the priority is to communicate with national media from the national tour and we arrange many availabilities for you to do that.
(On a side note, it appears that Kory needs to catch up on his ITQ reading, since nobody back at the Lancaster Road barracks seems to have told him that the daily briefings bit the dust shortly after the campaign got underway. Last week, there were only two live-action events – only one of which took place in the War Room – and a hastily arranged afternoon conference call with Michael Fortier, and this week, there was exactly one media event – the late afternoon joint appearance by John Baird and Lawrence Cannon to respond to the Liberal platform launch. )