Stephen Harper's New Best Friend


Sometimes you see something pass you on Twitter or your Internet news feed that you just go “whaaa?!” This was one of those times.

Earlier today, prime minister Stephen Harper gave an address to reporters and members of the Indo-Canadian community at the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. This was part of a series of “Year of India” events set up by the Indian High Commission to promote trade and relations between India and Canada. This was all pretty standard stuff.

Until it came time for the Prime Minister to leave, and for the Leader of the Opposition, Michael Ignatieff to speak. Ottawa correspondent Kady O’Malley tweeted the following after speaking to an eye-witness:

So apparently, after the PM spoke — which I’m sure was a lovely address — and as Ignatieff was preparing to take the stage, PMO took away the podium — which was their property, so you know, finders keepers, I guess… thus forcing the museum to scrounge one up so the leader of the opposition could share his thoughts on Canada’s Year of India.

…This gives a whole new meaning to “own the podium”

The cameras were hustled out during the podium hunt.

What an image this puts in your mind, right? You can just see the Prime Minister, done talking, heaving up the podium in his bare hands and walking away with it. At the time, I joked, maybe the podium is like his new best friend, a la the woman on Twin Peaks who spoke to her own log. After all, he talks all day into it, and it never talks back, so why not keep it close? Alternately, maybe Michael Ignatieff superglued his hands to it as a practical joke.

Still, I can’t help but feel that bringing your own podium to an event and then taking it away amounts to some serious micromanagement on the part of the Prime Minister’s Office. Surely the events organizers could have supplied their own podium, given that more than one person was going to speak behind it. Isn’t that good enough for our prime minister?

But more disturbing was the fact that reporters were hustled out of the room by members of the Prime Minister’s Office before Michael Ignatieff could get up to speak. Note the location of this event: the Museum of Civilization. And note the organizers of the event: the Indian High Commission. This was not an event on parliament hill, and it was certainly not an event within a Conservative campaign tent. This was pretty close to being a public place — moreover a public place that the prime minister was no longer standing in — and if anybody was to ask the reporters to leave, it should have been the museum’s own security staff, though one could hardly see any reason to since the event was still taking place.

To his credit, PMO staffer Dimitri Soudas quickly issued an apology, citing “staff misunderstanding and overzealousness”, but it is still shocking that the Prime Minister’s staff could have such a sense of entitlement that they feel they could order Canadian citizens about in such a cavalier way. Any government showing that level of arrogance needs to be given a good shake, if not now, then certainly at the ballot box.

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