Prime Minister Harper's secret ethnic press conference
Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn't take questions from English media during his recent visit, but a representative says they were allowed to ask questions recently — during his trip inside the Arctic Circle. (FILE PHOTO)
Last week, while members of the English media were blocked from questioning Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a Lower Mainland visit, he held an event to field queries from a select few members of the ethnic media.
Some of the chosen few who attended the Jan. 6 event told 24 hours that Conservative MPs Wai Young, Nina Grewal and Alice Wong were also in attendance.
One reporter said journalists were allowed to ask Harper one question each and were given a chance to have their photo taken with the prime minister.
None of the MPs or the PMO mentioned the so-called “ethnic roundtable” on their websites and the event was not mentioned on Harper’s itinerary sent to 24 hours detailing the visit.
Among other issues, immigration, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the economy were discussed during the roundtable, according to reporters who spoke to 24 hours.
But other ethnic media, such as the Chinese language Sing Tao newspaper, said they did not receive an invitation to the event, and multi-language TV station Omni was not on hand either.
Rattan Mall of the Asian Journal was not invited, but he said he’s been told that out of the Lower Mainland’s South Asian papers, only the Asian Star and Indo-Canadian Times were at the event and added the selection process seemed “weird.”
“I think they like to reach out to the non-English, ethnic media,” said Mall. “They’re really very different, each one has got its own agenda ... sometimes some journalists want to get ads so they compromise.”
Harper’s media advisory received by 24 hours only mentioned the prime minster was addressing the Vancouver Board of Trade and a photo opportunity at Burnaby Village Museum.
Media were not allowed to ask questions at either event, and some reporters were not allowed in for arriving minutes late.
While security reasons were being cited for not allowing tardy reporters in, two activists snuck past Harper’s security squad by donning black shirts and aprons purchased at Value Village and were able to make it on stage.
Harper’s press secretary Carl Vallee said the prime minister gave interviews to English media prior to Christmas and pointed out he took questions at a recent press conference in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, in the Arctic Circle.
Five reporters attended that event, the Northern News Service said.
“What is the obsession with process?” Vallee asked 24 hours in an emailed response about the roundtable, answering the third email in a week on the subject. “The prime minister and the members of the Conservative caucus find it important to communicate with all Canadians, including those from cultural communities.”
Vallee said media roundtables for the ethnic press are commonplace for Harper.