Friday, May 26, 2006

PMO gag order over Mountie wedding

I haven't been blogging much lately, because the latest spat between Harper and the Parliamentary press gallery has ensured that Harper looks like a jerk every day in the mainstream press. I can't quite believe that he's accusing the media outlets that crowned him King of being biased against him. Unbelievable.

Anyway, this article says it all ...

PMO gag order over Mountie wedding; Tory MPs have been told to zip their lips if asked about constables' same-sex marriage next month

By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press

The Prime Minister's Office has warned Conservative MPs not to comment on the marriage next month of two gay RCMP constables. The gag order went to all MPs but was aimed at "the small minority who might say something stupid," said one caucus member.

It's just the latest in a concerted effort by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to control and limit his new government's public message track. And it follows party strategists' successful suppression during the election campaign of outspoken social conservatives whose opinions might have harmed the party's climb to power.

Now the marriage of RCMP constables Jason Tree and David Connors in Yarmouth, N.S., appears to be causing some unease in the PMO. Sandra Buckler, Harper's director of communications, was not available for comment yesterday. But several Conservative MPs quietly confirmed they had received the PMO gag order about the Mountie wedding.

Conservatives will likely insist this is simply a matter of sticking to the government's core priorities."It's always the role of a government to communicate its own message," said Harper in Vancouver, responding in French to a question about his picayune standoff with the parliamentary press gallery over who gets to decide who asks questions at news conferences.

"It is the government that has the right to communicate with the population." Ian Brodie, Harper's chief of staff, has warned cabinet ministers that if they stray off message they face an escalating scale of sanctions, ranging from public humiliation to removal from cabinet. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier have already felt the sting.

But Harper's preoccupation with message control extends far beyond his frontbench. Maverick MP Garth Turner went public early in February with accounts of being sternly dressed down by Harper for speaking out on David Emerson's Liberal defection. Saskatchewan MP Garry Breitkreuz, a party stalwart and longtime leading advocate of scrapping the federal long-gun registry, was ordered not to talk with reporters about federal gun legislation in advance of last week's amnesty announcement by Public Security Minister Stockwell Day.

General Rick Hillier, the Chief of Defence Staff, went so far as to publicly deny published reports last month that he'd been muzzled, although the blunt-spoken Newfoundlander has avoided public comment ever since.

On Wednesday night in Calgary, Justice Minister Vic Toews insisted all questions be screened in advance during a town hall discussion on the government's get-tough-on-crime bill.

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