Escape route -

Escape route


Tim Naumetz reveals the Prime Minister’s way in and out of Question Period each day.

For at least two years, following his battle with the press gallery in 2006, Harper has snubbed the front door of the Commons for Question Period. He established a covert route to get to the Chamber from his third-floor Centre Block office, ducking down through a narrow hallway behind the public gallery atop the west side of the Chamber, down a small staircase, and then scuttling into the government lobby through a back door across from the House Speaker’s Chamber.

Arriving and leaving the Centre Block, his motorcade now pulls up beside a renovated House Speaker’s entrance at the West side of the building. Harper whisks in and out as his sun-glassed Mountie bodyguards give cover.

No Prime Minister has ever avoided the front entrance to the Commons and no one, at least outside of Harper’s inner circle, understands why Harper does.


Escape route

  1. Just a possibility, but perhaps he is sick of loaded questions and half-statements being taken outrageously out of context…ie. "In response to persistant questioning from the PPG the Prime Minister refuses to confirm he has stopped beating his wife." Yes, this is an exageration but not completely without substance.

    If you spent your time and energy dealing with his type of nonsense you might reconsider your activities as well.

    How many commenter's have you blocked because they persist in posing questions or adopting a tone you dislike? That isn't an option for the PM, so he just skirts the mine field.

    Further, it isn't like he's using a secret passage, he just goes down the hall from his office and uses the back stairs behind the H of C that connect to the government lobby.

    If you put aside your sense of outrage for a second and just examined it as human nature and reflected on the tone of the story you link to you might just maybe understand, if not agree.

    • ‘How many commenter’s have you blocked because they persist in posing questions or adopting a tone you dislike? That isn’t an option for the PM, so he just skirts the mine field”

      Ah but he doesn’t dislike all the media does he? When it suits his purpose he’s more then prepared to stage a sham PR deal like the update in Cambridge, the one where comrade Duffy lobbed him nice little airballs. Optics, optics…he’s not just dodging the gotcha questions, he simply wants to control the whole message. Not at all healthy in a democracy such as ours IMHO. Uless you want to simply assume he’s right all of the time.

    • It's a two way street. SH wants to use the power of the press to convey information that bolsters to his carefully crafted message, but does not want to accept that he must be prepared to answer questions in an environment he does not fully control.
      It's ironic that we're quick to tell our kids they can't have everything their way, yet the PM is entitled to that very thing.

      • No, it's a one way street. The press needs Harper more than Harper needs them so he talks to them he wants to talk them and avoids them when he doesn't.

        • In other words, he wants to control all the message all the time. I can’t help wonder what the reaction to this sort of behaviour by a liberal PM would be by cons who presently just shrug their shoulders?

        • That style of leadership may work for you, but I demand better.

          • Nature abhors a vaccum, who do you reasonably propose for "plan B"…I'm thinking if the country were my car and the Liberals were my teenager, I would be disinclined to give them the keys for a four year joyride. Extending the analogy i would have no concerns about my car getting dinged with the current government, but would encourage them to stay on the "right side" of the road more…their "friends" keep telling them to veer left.

          • "That style of leadership may work for you, but I demand better."

            I don't even know what you're demanding to be perfectly honest. I don't really see what door Harper chooses to enter the House from as important. Especially since he goes there to answer the questions you're insinuating he's ducking.

          • Please provide an example of PMSH actually answering a question in Question Period?

            (ditto Martin, Chretien, Campbell, Mulroney…)

          • That's a good point. Why do you think the media will be any more successful in getting the PM to answer questions he or she has no intention of answering?

          • When faced with cameras that are recording, and a response that is more likely to actually reach the news broadcast, I would suggest more interesting things are going to be said. One way or another.

          • Do you mean QP? It is little more than schoolyard taunting by all concerned.

            Unfortunately, the only time SH wants to talk is when he is in total control. He does avoid the media. He likes a script because it eliminates gaffes and minimizes chinks. But in denying us the option of hearing him openly defend his decisions in the face of tough questioning, his credibility is undermined. I think he has a responsibility to face the Press, not just when it is necessary to deliver his message, but on an ongoing basis; especially in a minority government What happens if he gets a majority? Does he just shut the door?
            To be honest, his style has a certain "Dubya" quality to it, and I don't understand it, because SH is a very sharp guy. During last years leaders debates, he faced a very hostile gang assault and held his own quite well. That is the guy I'd like to see more of – am I asking too much?

    • TO be fair to Aaron, commenters are never blocked on this site.

  2. He hates being photographed.

    • Hah! You are one funny puppy, PT -LOL!

  3. And yet when he has some hokey stage-managed statement to make before QP he is sure to come down those famous stairs and feed the gainsburgers to the slavering PPG who (up until now) do not pose any hard questions to him.

  4. I agree with Peter's comment, which was similar to what I was going to post. The media acts so high and mighty (Don Martin is the worst), as though they have all wisdom, understanding and insight. It makes me think of what Job said sarcastically to his 'comforters': "No doubt YOU are the people, and wisdom shall die with you." (My capitalization).

    I believe the media's role is to inform, not to oppose.

    • I believe the media's role is to inform

      They should begin by informing you of the difference between the Parliamentary Press Gallery that Harper is ducking and newspaper columnists.

      • I think you have inadvertantly exposed a huge part of the problem here. In my youth as a working journalist there was some attention paid by editors and deskers to try and excise opinion from news copy.

        That quaint notion seems to have fallen from grace in the 24/7 new cycle. Combined with a need for ratings/readers "news sources" have finaly just become vehicles for advertising and the more eyes you get the more dollars there are.

        Sadly those dollars are going to bankers and hedge funds to pay interest on acquisition costs instead of going to into "quality content". Look at how many bureaus have been closed, at how many beat reporters have been "down-sized" and how poorly this vehicle of finance has served the public.

        We have some difficult decisions to make as a nation. We have been infiltrated by a gotcha mentality and a notion that what an individual does is somehow someone else's business and most ominously, that what once made us great (our system of commonlaw rights and our notion of property rights) is now just a quaint notion.

        • The investigative/adversarial nature of reporting has changed completely, particularly since Watergate. No longer will the public tolerate the clubby, chummy associations between pols and journos that used to exist. No longer will we just trust the politicians. It’s a sad fact. We can’t get our innocense back – if we ever were? Perhaps the pendulum has swung to far toward the gotcha moment but pols have more than compensated with armies of spin doctors and unelected advisors. It looks like a war and it probably is. But let’s not fool ourselves that the media has all the nukes. In any case i highly doubt there ever was a golden age when reporters simply did their jobs and politicians followed the rules and all was well and peaceful in the kingdom.

          • Peter what a load of horse hockey. It may be a chicken-and-egg thing, but lets consider the theory that both the media and politicians have figured out exactly what the current generations want to consume and will consume. The generations that experienced the depression, whether personally or through the lessons of their parents, have grown older and forgetful. You seem to be perfectly fine with those members of the media who don't ask any questions, don't interview real people and don't have the same financial challenges that the majority of Canadians have, making the decision to write editorials supporting Harper and his side-door agenda… In the past decade the media may have lost a lot of its interest in doing indepth reporting for quick, loaded journalism, true. Despite that trend, the majority take their responsibility seriously and part of that is holding the powers that be accountable (although I wouldn't disagree that the 'media' as a whole doesn't have any interest in its own accountability). Without them digging and looking into 'someone's else's business' the sponsorship scandal would have just been a poorly operated project based on good intentions.

          • News, at one, time wasn't a financial commodity based on cash-flow projections from national advertisers with economy of scale debt servicing generating a small profit on large revenue after interest carrying charges. It was an obligation of citizens to know what was going on and a trust that news vendors were accurate within their biases.

            How many city hall, board of education, county or regional district or health district committees are covered in your local paper? (free rag or paid circulation). Does your local community or region have its own bureau in your provincial capital? Did it used to? Do any of the big dailies in your province have their own national bureaus in Ottawa?

            Do you think the interests of freedom are better served by fewer voices of more? It ws never perfect like "Pravda" but a far wider range of opinion used to be expressed than is today

        • …"We have been infiltrated by a gotcha mentality "…in the PPG

          So true. One seasoned reporter who has been infected with the gotcha disease is Craig Oliver. It is a shame because he used to be a quality reporter.

          • Assuming it’s true [ re: Oliver ] i’m curious to know which came first? Did Mr H start dodging the media before the gotcha stuff or is it a reaction to his relutance to paticipate fully?
            It’s been noted before that Harper may be following a similar strategy to Trudeau, in dodging the MSM and mostly giving local media interviews [ perhaps not so much recently] But i don’t recall Trudeau dodging the media from the get go as Harper has. In other words it was a purposeful strategy on Harper’s part to avoid the PPG in particular, whereas Trudeau’s distaste for the media came after a number of years and previously good relations. Don’t know where i’m going with this – other than to wonder if this was Harper’s intention all along.

  5. "No Prime Minister has ever avoided the front entrance to the Commons "

    Is the Parliamentary Press Gallery that different today than it was five years ago? I don't think so.

  6. What this post conveniently avoids mentioning is that this entire alternate path is surfaced with kittens.

    • Oh my, LOL!

  7. ''No Prime Minister has ever avoided the front entrance to the Commons and no one, at least outside of Harper's inner circle, understands why Harper does.''

    ….Toronto police claimed their goals were:
    blowing up the Houses of Parliament, the CN Tower,
    the headquarters of CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and the CBC,
    and beheading Stephen Harper…

    • lol Gotta dodge all those terrorists disguised as reporters.

    • Nice spin. How about this spin:
      SH has no faith in the ability of the RCMP to protect him…..

      • Unfortuately the world is not the same place as it was before 9/11. Canada has already suffered a major terrorist attack (Air India) and it is wise for the RCMP to recommend appropriate care.

        • So Harper's refusal to engage with the PPG is because of 9/11?


          • You didn't read what I said. I made no comment on the PM's relations with the PPG. My comment was on the choice of doors to enter and exit the Parliament Building.

          • If it was a security issue rather than a non-transparency matter, then some alternative form of routine access would be provided to the PPG. That didn't happen.

            As you are likely aware, security and 9/11 are just red herrings in this discussion. But nice try!

          • I don't think security of the prime minister, whether his name be Harper, Ignatieff, or Layton, is ever a red herring. Aaron tried to pretend that the choice of a route to enter and leave the building was based solely on the desire to avoid the PPG. I do not deny that the PM appears to have cool relations with the PPG because of its gotcha mentality but where is the evidence that the choice of his entrance/exit routes is solely based on a desire to avoid the media. My point was that there may indeed be other legitimate reasons for the decision. Why jump to the conclusion that the Harper haters are always right?

          • I love it when someone repeats a red herring in the hopes that it will attract debate, which would make it a successful red herring. I try not to fall for it, though.

          • It is perhaps worth pointing out that in the article being quoted even Naumtez, the journalist that Wherry takes out of context, raises the possibility that the reason why the PM leaves by the side door may be security .

            The question you should be asking is why Wherry consistently quotes out of context from other sources in order to make the PM look bad.

  8. "No Prime Minister has ever avoided the front entrance to the Commons and no one, at least outside of Harper's inner circle, understands why Harper does."

    Uh, because he's gutless? Or because he's completely dismissive of the public's (through the media) right to ask him questions and hold the PMO accountable? Probably both.

    • Or because he has better stuff to do then walk by a microphone and say something that will only make the news if it's controversial? And it's hardly being dismissive of the public. It's not like the opportunity for the media to shout questions at the PM as he walks down a hallway is key check in our system of government.

      • Sorry but i gotta call BS on that. Yes he gets to ovoid the cheap gotcha questions. But this PM has raised to an art form the avoidance of questions the public does have a right to know eg., Cadman affair. I know Chretien for example pulled it off too, but really this guy seems to answer to no-one in his own mind.

  9. ''perhaps he is sick of loaded questions and half-statements being taken outrageously out of context…'' – peter

    ''The media acts so high and mighty (Don Martin is the worst)…'' – bettie

    ''We have been infiltrated by a gotcha mentality…'' – peter

    I know this Government of ours enjoyed styling themselves as ''Canada's New Government'' but are they that wet behind the ears that they do not understand the nature of media? Has Harper been the first to be (self-perceived as) ''taken outrageously out of context''? No, this has been the norm for virtually all politicians. Harper is simply the only one who's choice is to hide from the press gallery.

    To single out Don Martin, as if Mike Duffy was any less ''high and mighty''… It is no different than the comedy of singling out some mainstream media for their bias, as if the other side didn't have their own outlets. All one has to do is compare a same subject story in the Toronto Star and the National Post… All have their cheerleaders, the playing field is level.

    Oh, the gotcha mentality! I'll flip that and call it the victim mentality, a card well played by the CPC (played best while already having ''won'' their point).

    As far as I'm concerned, the gotcha mentality has existed since scribes began recording their perspectives. In the United States, Sarah Palin often complains about the unjust gotcha mentality… As if Obama is not ever preyed upon for gotcha moments by the other side (Rev. Wright, Obama song in elementary school, various alleged proof of foreign birth, etc…). In Canada, Chrétien had his fair share of gotcha moments. It could be said electoral gains where made by Harper on account of Stéphane Dion gotcha moments (one in particular officially deemed malicious). But, as I said, for the CPC, playing the victim/hero card works with the base.

    However, in my book, the victim/hero will never hide.

    • I suggest a quick re-read of "The Charge of the Light Brigade". Politics is war by other means and if I were PM I too would avoid situations which experience has shown yield bitter fruit if any gains at all. Pragmatism is a necessary quality in a leader and in a nation.

      While Daniel's experience in the lion's den may have worked out for him it isn't something many would recommend others emmulate. If you had control of the high ground and continued to make gains and what you considered to be your enemies had all the valleys, how much time would you spend in the valley?

  10. "No Prime Minister has ever avoided the front entrance to the Commons and no one, at least outside of Harper's inner circle, understands why Harper does."

    Actually, it's simple: because he can.

    Running around the country, speaking to the press only when you want, staging photo ops, controlling who asks questions and who has access is, simply put, every PM's fantasy.

    The difference between this PM and the ones who came before him is that he actually acted on it. And he dared the press to cry foul. In this game of chicken, the press blinked. Harper won. The press is, sadly, whipped.

    It will remain that way until someone, in the press or in politics, finds a way to make the case for better responsiveness on the part of the Prime Minister in a manner that resonates with Canadians.

  11. This PM doesn't watch Canadian news. Maybe he down't wish to be in contact with the Parliamentary Press Gallery because he doesn't see the point ? He much prefers to use Canadian taxpayers' money to get bookings on US TV and he hopes to catch a glimpse of himself on Fox.

    Or maybe he just doesn't want us to see his belly move like a bowl of jelly when he comes down the stairs. Chrétien and Martin were in great shape, as was Mulroney. Who knows, maybe Harper can't do it without talking stopping three times to catch his breath.

    Seriously, and I know Harper's fans will get very upset here, I think it's because Harper doesn't speak English very well. Chrétien had a thick accent but he had a quick wit. Harper is not at all eloquent or quick on his feet. He'll read a scripted text all right, but unscripted he is a boring speaker. Also, he lies a lot, and that always makes it difficult to keep your story straight.

  12. Here is the full quote from Naumetz (sorry for the mispelling above)

    "No Prime Minister has ever avoided
    the front entrance to the Commons and
    no one, at least outside of Harper's inner
    circle, understands why Harper does. Is
    it part of his strategy for media management,
    avoiding unwanted camera shots or
    shouted questions, or is it for security; the
    war in Afghanistan?"

    • You neglected to include the sentence that follows the ones you cite above, the one with the response from a PMO official saying:"We don't comment on strategy."

      I guess he just meant to say: "We don't comment on security"

      Give it up TwoYen, unless of course you're paid by the word to do this red herring stuff, in which case, feel free to continue.

      • For the record, I'm not paid by anybody, unless you call my Canada Pension Plan and pension being paid.

  13. He's done it from day 1 and I am not sure why this is news, he is a coward and doesn't like to be questioned lest he have to answer… the media just figuring out he is not playing ball with you? Wow only took four years to figure out you are being played.