Conservative leader Stephen Harper is not concerned with the ‘staffing’ issue that resulted in multiple cases of rally attendee’s being forcibly ejected from his campaign rallies. When questions about the startling stories emerging from various campaign rallies, Harper replied that “the staff runs our campaigns and I can’t comment on individual matters like that.”
The most notorious case involved a University of Western Ontario student being escorted out of the rally, having their name badge confiscated and torn up in front of them, and told they were no longer welcome because of photo taken of the student and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, posted previously on Facebook.
As reported by – well, almost everyone at this point, but I’ll take the Toronto Star’s analysis of the matter, the “incidents highlight the different campaign styles, particularly of the Tory and Grit leaders.” In order to attend a Conservative campaign rally, often held in secure locations festooned with loyal party patrons,
people must pre-register with the local candidate’s campaign headquarters. As [the UWO student’s] experience proves, those names are investigated to ensure opposition trickery does not obscure Harper’s message of stability and security for the nation.
So what I am hearing is that I could never get in. Just as well.
But in a move that Ignatieff has called “un-Canadian,” the Liberal and NDP leaders have both made political hay of this latest display of democratic contempt by emphasizing just how open and inclusive their rallies and events are by comparison. It is amazing to see not only how little Stephen Harper cares for the opinions of others, but that something with the potential to be as open and inclusive as a rally has been effectively locked down and turned into just more political theatre. But I suppose that the ‘Little Blue Box’ is not as catchy a Conservative catch-phrase as the ‘Big Red Tent’ is for the Liberals.
I wonder how many more examples of Harper finding democracy a petty annoyance to his political machinations Canadians need to see before this becomes the campaign issue it should?
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve sure seen enough.
(UPDATE 11:47 Apr 6): Great post on the Inside Politics Blog on CBC.ca from Louise Elliott as she peppers Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas for more answers on why rally attendee’s are being rejected and ejected from Conservative rallies.
You can almost feel Soudas squirm through the text. Here is a brief sample:
Reporter: Do you have staff who are combing through people’s Facebook sites to look for suspicious connections? Are you going into people’s Facebook sites?
Dimitri Soudas: Bottom line here is that for every campaign event like I said earlier, we have a tremendous turnout and we always have to make sure that we’re planning to have rooms big enough to ensure all the people turning up are able to attend and participate in the rally.
Reporter: But what is your screening mechanism?
Dimitri Soudas: Local campaigns make sure everybody in the region and everybody who are from the surrounding ridings attend our events.
Reporter: The question was what is your screening mechanism? You answer some other question that wasn’t asked. How exactly is it that your staff are combing through people’s Facebook pages looking for signs of disloyalty?
Dimitri Soudas: I’m not aware of such combing. I’m not aware of such things.