Okay, this whole event has fallen into absolute and utter confusion, and it hasn’t even officially begun. The premiers are, presumably, in the throes of pre-meeting plotting and scheming over at the Chateau, which means they’re unlikely to be turning up for the red carpet walk at the appointed hour, but the PM – and, in a shocking twist, his intergovernmental affairs minister, Josee Verner – have already arrived. I have no idea what they’re planning 0on doing for the next half hour or so, but I suspect it will involve a lot of awkward throat clearing and pained silence as they stare accusingly at the clock.
And – they’re here! Amazingly, the premiers have, indeed, made it on time — I suspect after a call or two from PMO about the etiquette ramifications of leaving the PM sitting alone at the table. They’re not scrumming, but breezing past the waiting cameras with a collective jaunty wave. Did I mention that I’m really not a fan of this particular venue? I don’t understand why, exactly, I have to walk oiutside three times to get from the media room to the meeting hall.
Okay, that’s just annoying. Apparently, reporters are not welcome at the photo op — even reporters who just want to sit quietly at the back, maybe snap a picture with their berry, and describe the pre-meeting atmosphere. But it’s not worth picking a fight with the organizers, so I’ve retreated to the courtyard between the main lobby and the filing room to figure out my next move. Which will probably be towards a cab, since there’s nothing happening here until the meeting wraps up at 3:20pm, at least as far as the official schedule goes.
Alright, after returning to the filing room to find trays of sandwiches waiting for the working press, I’m feeling slightly less murderous towards the very idea of Confederation, which is probably for the best.
I’m going to stick it out here at City Hall for the full three hours even though there’s nothing officially going on — there’s always the chance you can catch members of a provincial delegation in a candid motion while they’re out for a smoke. This venue is designed to keep all of us distinctly separate – not just the media from the official participants, but the media from each other: the print reporters are confined to the (admittedly well equipped) basement while the electronic reporters get to be upstairs, which is considerably. closer to the action. I wonder if they have better sandwiches too. Remind me to investigate that.
I’ve finally gotten my hands on the all-important first minister cheat sheet – which has thumbnail photos of all fourteen of them, helpfully labelled with name and province.
Guess who’s eating sandwiches with the fourth estate? Dimitri, that’s who! It really is a whole new world of PMO/PPG harmony, isn’t it? That, or they aren’t bothering to feed staffers.
Actually, I thought I just saw another PMO official peeking around the door, but it was a fleeting glimpse, and I could have been mistaken. You’d think they’d want to hang out upstairs with the cool kids from TV.
Somewhat puzzlingly, at the front of the room is a six foot poster advertising the Canada School of Public Service.
I wonder where all the people who normally work here are holed up for the duration of the meeting. This is, after all, a DFAIT outpost. Maybe they got the day off, or are confined to the upper levels.
Alright, I can now report that the electronic filing room is even less of a hub of frantic journalistic activity as the print dungeon, and they don’t even *have* sandwiches. They also aren’t all that much better situated than we are, as far as proximity to the meeting itself.
Oh, y’all are going to love this: Apparently, we’re also going to be confronted with duelling news conferences *after* the meeting — the PM will be holding court upstairs while the premiers share a unimic on the lower level. It’s not clear whether the two events will take place simultaneously, but even if the premiers wait until the PM has left the lectern before giving their respective reaction to the results, it still won’t help the camera crews that will have to traipse downstairs and set up all over again. It’s like this whole meeting was been organized by rival sects, with no communication or coordination between the two. I hope that isn’t indicative of the tone at the meeting itself.
On the plus side, I’m fairly confident that I can now recognize each and every one of the fourteen guys sitting around the table, including Ed Stelmach’s dogsbody, Alberta Education Minister Dave Hancock. (He couldn’t spare his *Finance* Minister, even?)
The vigil continues in the filing room. Every time I glance over at the English TV to see Newsworld break out the Red Banner of Breaking News, it sends a jolt of excitement through me — until I realize that it refers to the event I’m at right now, which is the opposite of breaking news. It is stubbornly motionless unnews at the moment, although that will undoubtedly change once the battle of the media availabilities begins.
It is really quite remarkable how effectively they have quarantined the press even while giving us the illusion that we’re free to wander wherever we want. Not that I blame them, of course – it’s hard enough to negotiate a coordinated federal-provincial approach on the economy without reporters popping up all over to buttonhole harried officials.
The PM, we’ve just been told, will be speaking at 3:20 pm, followed by Charest; the other premiers may or may not scrum at the unimic downstairs, but nobody seems to know whether any of them are planning to do so, or when those theoretical scrums would take place. You’d think they’d want to wait until after the PM was finished in order to maximize possible coverage, but the mind of the premier is hard to read.
Okay, I’m going to move upstairs to wait out the Prime Minister, and just to make it easier to follow and take up still more macleans.ca pixelspace, I’m going to start a new thread to mark the occasion. See you there!