Throne speech day was like the bell ringing to bring two boxers out of their corners and into the ring.
This particular boxing match has been ongoing for nearly eight years.
In the blue corner: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his staff of media stone-wallers.
In the neutral corner: Ottawa’s media elite.
Both sides came out swinging this round. It was like summer hadn’t happened at all.
The last time Harper allowed news media into a caucus meeting, reporters shouted questions at the prime minister. He ignored them.
It was in May, two days after his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, resigned because of the $90,000 he gave to Senator Mike Duffy for his housing expenses.
News reporters vary in their politeness, but the more of them in one place, the tougher it is to avoid mob mentality. Shouting questions was an unattractive move, but reporters’ choices were limited. Those questions needed answers and there’s nothing more important than the story — manners included.
At that time, Harper was ignoring alleged wrongdoings of his personally appointed Conservative senators. That list does not start and stop with Duffy.
Harper has made it clear that he will not bend to the will of the press. He will only answer questions on his own terms.
On Wednesday, Harper’s office said only cameras would be allowed into the caucus meeting to briefly record his remarks. No reporters allowed.
All of the TV networks — with the exception of Sun TV — refused to send in cameras without reporters accompanying them.
As Harper spoke to the caucus, a staffer simultaneously tweeted some of the remarks and foreshadowed the throne speech. For the media who were kept out of the meeting, it was a twist of the blade.
Harper’s morning remarks were not earth shattering. Nothing on Wednesday — not the throne speech, the caucus meeting or opposition remarks — would significantly change public perception of any political party or its leaders. The only possible exception is the confrontation with reporters.
We believe that the Canadian people care about the news, even if they’re disenfranchised by politics. The Canadian public should be nervous, as we are, about keeping an obvious and destructive distance between politicians and the media, regardless of the political party responsible.
We are still two years away from an election, but that doesn’t make the flow of information any less important. If the government wants to start the session by picking a fight with this nation’s media, that relationship is only going to get worse.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.