He'll answer five questions.
Harper has transferred his famously control-freak style of governance from the PMO to the campaign trail. He will answer questions, but only five, and from a media held behind a yellow fence, 12 metres away.
The strategy described by this Vancouver Sun commentary is well-known to USians: it's exactly how Republican handlers worked GWB.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper held his news conference Thursday and declined to tell journalists — corralled behind a yellow fence over 12 metres away — why he limits the daily encounters to just five questions.In light of this, I thought we should start compiling our own five-question lists for Harper. It's not easy to do, but if we each take five, we could cover a lot of ground.
The episode highlighted the brewing issue of whether Harper, as the apparent front-runner in the race, is running a campaign in a bubble to prevent embarrassing mistakes.
After several days, it is clear his daily schedule is carefully designed to minimize political risk. Harper has not done any "walkabouts" on city streets where average voters can meet him. Moreover, the photo-ops with voters — such as at a seniors' home and a deli — have been pre-arranged. Also, people who attend rallies must be on a list to gain entry to the event.
Harper only provides one news conference per day, and it is specifically designed to ensure that it is not free-wheeling. Journalists who are travelling with his campaign tour are, as a group, only allowed to ask four questions. One more question goes to a local journalist at the news conference.
On Thursday, Harper was asked to explain why — when Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton provide news conferences with no limits on questions — he insists on no more five questions.
Harper chose not to answer that question and moved on to the next questioner. [See comments for more on this.]
I'll kick things off. Please add yours in comments.
Five questions for Stephen Harper:
1. Why do you refuse to answer certain questions during this election campaign?
2. Do you believe Canadians have a right to know the truth about the government they are being asked to elect?
3. Do you believe Canadians have a right to ask the government questions?
4. Many Canadians feel your government and your style of leadership has been un-democratic, even anti-democratic. Without reference to partisanship or the opposition, what is your response to those concerns?
5. Given that, in the past, you have acknowledged the need for and the legitimacy of coalition governments - and given that coalition governments are constitutional and are quite common in other Parliamentary systems - isn't your ongoing campaign against a coalition government deceitful, as your real motive for opposing coalitions is simply to remain in power?