UPDATE: Aaron Wherry went so ITQ (and the rest of us) didn’t have to – and here’s his report.
After clocking in more than fourteen hours on the campaign trail yesterday, ITQ decided – after much agonizing – to take a pass on the premiere of Jason Kenney Explains It All, which was scheduled for this morning at 6am. Our colleague Aaron Wherry was already planning to go, and anyway, what with the Tories planning to make it a regular thing, we figured we could catch up later in the series. Now, though, it looks like we may have to wait until the DVD comes out, because at this rate, it might be unceremoniously cancelled before this season’s plot arc has even been introduced.
As Hot Room colleague and Ottawa Citizen election notebookteer Glen McGregor points out, the whole idea of making regular pre-dawn raids on Stephane Dion’s dignity depends, to a large extent, on capturing the hearts and minds of the journalists covering the campaign. Yet it seems to have been cooked up by the Conservatives without any effort to find out whether it would actually work.
First, there’s the delicate issue of the feed itself – I mean, who would have guessed that the major media outlets generally prefer to use their own cameras to shoot an event, rather than just plug directly into even the most cutting edge, state-of-the-art, look-how-much-cash-we-can-spend-on-new-toys broadcast suite? I mean, other than anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of how the news business works, or, alternately, had bothered to confer with the networks beforehand.
Then there was the blithe collective confidence that the party could lure Ottawa-based reporters and camera crews to Vanier Gloucester before daybreak every morning just to show off its apparently limitless ability to find ways to use the now iconic image of a shrugging Stephane Dion.
According to the Canadian Press report, however, that’s not exactly how it went down:
[T]oday’s unveiling of a new series of campaign ads attacking Liberal Leader Stephane Dion received no live coverage on any of the major national television networks.
Instead, Newsworld cut to the question-and-answer session after the announcement, when Conservative MPs Jason Kenney and Lawrence Cannon faced a series of tough questions.
The pair made no substantive policy announcements, choosing instead to target Dion and the main plank of his campaign platform, The Green Shift.
Reporters all but ignored the now-familiar attacks and instead questioned the two candidates on gas prices, tax policy and purported attempts to muzzle Tory candidates.
Some highlights (from closed captioning – may not be 100% accurate):
Q: To be able to put out the regulations, the final regulations in terms of gas emission from motor vehicles. How much more will that cost to buy gas?
Kenney: It won’t necessarily cost gas because we’re not attacking that part. We’re reducing the fuel consumption. It’s basically through the application of new standards in terms of reductions. So we are working with the manufacturers. We are working as you know with the government that is are involved, both the United States as well as in Mexico to be able to put forward these standards that will basically reduce the consumption of gas in your motor vehicles.
Q: Petroleum retailers told the house of commons standing committee that your regulations would cost more in gas. The upstream — technology — they’re going to have to do a whole series of things. It’s going to cost what? Why can’t you say our gas is going to cost x dollars more as well?
Kenney: It’s not the case in terms of the way we’re approaching it. We’re not approaching this by gas consumption. We’re approaching it because we’re reducing the consumption in motor vehicles.
Q – The campaign manager for Brant is refusing interviews saying that headquarters instructed himself and certain other candidates not to speak to media. Why is that?
Kenney: I don’t know about his particular situation, all I can say is that our candidates are out there speaking to Canadians and I can tell you I was in his riding for an event a few — a couple of months ago and he was speaking with the media as was I. And — about important issues that matter to his constituents and Canadians.
Q – Understood instruction from headquarters then?
K: Again, you have to talk to our communications division about that. All I can tell you is that I’m a candidate and I speak to my local media all the time and I was in his constituency. He was speaking to his local media.
And that was on day one. Imagine what it would be like the morning after a bad news day for the Conservatives – which, incidentally, guys, is going to happen eventually. It just will. It’s a when, not an if.
On the plus side, at least the media would show up. On the minus – let’s just say that Kenney, like his party, is considerably more effective on the attack than defence. ITQ still remembers being summoned to the Little Shop of Tories earlier this year to liveblog a news conference with James Moore on the Cadman Affair, which ended abruptly when it became clear that the assembled media were stubbornly refusing to stick to the script. The resulting coverage was — probably not exactly what the organizers had been hoping for.
Unless the War Room is prepared to risk having their breakout star upstaged by a mutinous audience, it might be wise to send this experiment in performance art back to Patrick Muttart’s closed set for retooling.