PM Harper hides behind security at Vancouver event
Prime Minister Stephen Harper (centre) interacts with employees of the Canadian Fishing Company, Goldseal, in Richmond, B.C. on Wednesday March 12, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Stephen Harper’s Vancouver appearance Wednesday morning was heavy on security and light on accessibility with mainstream media again being unable to ask questions of the Canadian leader.
Two months after his last local public appearance that was disrupted by protesters, the prime minister undertook a question-and-answer session with BC Chamber of Commerce president John Winter, primarily to sell his new trade deal signed with South Korea.
Unlike Harper’s January roundtable with Vancouver’s ethnic media, Winter said his questions weren’t vetted in advance.
Appearing at the Pan Pacific Hotel, Harper spoke of his recent trade deal signings and talks, albeit without mentioning the controversial Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed in secret with China and now awaiting final approval.
“In fact our actual recovery in terms of the economic recovery and the growth we’ve seen that’s helping us balance the budget, it hasn’t at this point been driven by trade as much as we’d like to see,” he said.
As he spoke, more than a dozen security watched the crowd of 160 from the business community.
One kept a close eye on media who were corralled in a cordoned-off “pen” and told to stay there.
Reporters were asked to arrive an hour before the event with photo identification. Police dogs sniffed their bags for bombs.
No opportunity was given to media to ask questions of Harper who was never closer than 40 metres to reporters.
Winter later told 24 hours being part of an event where media was not given a chance to question the prime minister didn’t concern him.
“No it doesn’t, it’s not my call,” he said. “We’re hosting an event for the Prime Minister’s Office to talk about something that’s very important to us and we’re more than available to the media. If he chooses not to be I can’t really do much about that.”
In the afternoon Harper visited a Richmond factory for a photo-only event of him touring the facility.
During his Seoul trip earlier this week to sign the trade agreement, 11 members of seven media organizations accompanied Harper at a cost of $3,500 each.
He took only one question from media during the junket.
Last week, parliamentary press corps members passed a motion reserving the right to ask the prime minister questions at all government events.