Above is the video from yesterday's Conservative event in Mississauga where Harper's supporters drowned out CBC reporter Terry Milewski who asked Harper a multi-part question on the Ripudaman Singh Malik endorsement of his Vancouver South candidate Wai Young. Milewski attempted to ask a follow-up. As you can see, it's a fine example of the media strategy Harper has had in effect for the election: "Unlike the other party leaders, Harper holds all his media availabilities in rooms filled with partisan supporters — a built-in cheering section for his press conferences." That's the first problem, stacking the deck in this way, disrespecting media who are there on Canadians' behalf to question him. Limiting them and disrespecting us in the process.
More importantly, it's a fine moment where Harper's instincts as a political leader were on display. He failed. What Harper should have done at that moment, where his supporters were egged on by his handlers to drown out the reporter, was put a stop to it. Stop his handlers, hush the crowd. That's the democratic thing to do. That's what a good leader who knows he sets an example does. That's what a politician who accepts the hurly burly of the political process does.
It was a serious question that was pressing Harper on whether it was possible to believe his candidate couldn't have known who Malik was. The follow-up question would help get beyond the spun answer, the tough on crime/law and order/terrorism shtick. It deserved an answer. But just watch him let the crowd roar and do nothing.
Have you ever been to a rally or political event when someone asks a hard question and the politician tells the crowd to hush and proceeds to deal with it? It happens all the time. Not in a Harper led Conservative crowd though.
The story's not over. Note that "...the complaint by Dosanjh alleges that Young attended the meeting and that both she and Malik "urged attendees to support her candidacy." Laconic Steve's response and Young's statement portraying her as naive and well-intended just don't wash.
So the questions will continue. Harper is going to B.C. on Sunday where he has probably ensured the issue will get more attention. There is substance here in terms of Harper's hypocrisy. And there are democratic process questions too which have clearly grabbed people's imaginations given the video and reporting. Over two thousand comments on the Globe piece on a lazy Easter weekend, my.
Here's a report from Richmond talk radio yesterday (insightful audio at link). Candidate Young has learned well from Harper and his cone of silence routine:
Leaving an all-candidates debate in Richmond Saturday afternoon Young dodged reporters questions by referring them to her website.Great question in so many ways.
"I issued a statement that is very clear" she says, "The statement says that I have no knowledge of this information and had I had knowledge of it I wouldn't have attended."
Young was then whisked away in a waiting car.
Meanwhile Dosanjh stuck around to bask in his handi-work.
"She has people from the Indo-Canadian community working on her campaign. Nobody is that dumb."
He says it calls into question Young's character.
"What would you do for a few votes?"