God, this guy is such a petulant infant. Fuck i hate him.


May 23, 2006. 07:11 PM

OTTAWA About two dozen journalists walked out on Stephen Harper on Tuesday after he refused to take their questions, the latest chapter in an increasingly unseemly spat between the prime minister and members of the national media.

The scene of reporters boycotting a prime ministerial news conference was described by Parliament Hill veterans as a first.

It resulted in Harper being forced to make his announcement on aid to Darfur to a small handful of reporters, photographers and cameramen outside the House of Commons.

The impromptu boycott was the latest move by journalists in their ongoing tug-of-war with the prime minister over who controls news conferences.

The Prime Minister's Office insists on choosing who gets to ask questions based on a list it compiles.

Officials say they're merely trying to install some order to the often chaotic ritual of parliamentary news scrums.

"It is unfortunate that a select group within the press gallery displays such hostility and exhibits disrespect toward the prime minister," said a Harper spokesman.

But the parliamentary press gallery is concerned that Harper wants to freeze out any journalists or news organizations that he dislikes.

"We can't accept that the prime minister's office would decide who gets to ask questions," said Yves Malo, a TVA reporter and president of the press gallery. "Does that mean that when there's a crisis they'll only call upon journalists they expect softball questions from?"

Tuesday's journalistic exodus came just moments after the Commons foyer had been chiming with the sound of good-natured repartee. There was the usual personal banter and gossiping among colleagues as reporters milled about while they awaited Harper.

Journalists also chatted about Darfur, about a coalition bombing that killed at least 16 Afghan civilians, and about the aboriginal protest in Caledonia, Ont. Those were among the issues they hoped to raise with the prime minister.

Harper spokesman Dimitris Soudas walked downstairs from the Prime Minister's Office to see which reporters wanted to ask questions, and prepared a list of names. Any reporter included on the list could get called upon to ask Harper a question.

But the Ottawa-based media have refused for almost two months to submit their names to any list prepared by the PMO.

After journalists refused to be placed the list again on Tuesday, Soudas announced that Harper would be on his way shortly and he would not be taking questions.

The press gallery president then turned to his colleagues and suggested they leave.

Most agreed, including a reporter for The Canadian Press, although a CP photographer stayed. Several said there was no point sticking around if the event could be covered off a television set from any newsroom in the country.

Harper's interactions with the parliamentary press gallery are now limited to brief exchanges on a staircase, and a question or two in the company of a visiting dignitary.

Those are the unofficial rules in Ottawa, where the prime minister spends most of his time.

But he has been loquacious away from Ottawa, where reporters have accepted playing by Harper's rules.

He took questions from 11 journalists during a visit this month to Toronto, from 14 in Calgary, 11 in St. John's and 17 in Vancouver.

Harper was holding similarly expansive news conferences in Ottawa until the press gallery began setting up its own microphones at Harper events and lined up to ask questions.

Harper aides note that during election campaigns, former prime minister Paul Martin's staff also selected questioners from a list they controlled.

Some reporters covering the Liberals groused repeatedly when they felt they were being systematically ignored during the recent election campaign.