Harper’s henchmen harry the unwary

It is always informative to catch Tom Clark’s weekly show, The West Block, on Global Television. It would be even more informative if  Tom could get Harper’s Cabinet colleagues to answer some of the questions he asks. They seem to have all been taking uniform attack training in how to stick to their own agenda. There was a good example of that supplied by Harper’s Government House Leader MP Peter Van Loan today. Tom was asking for more depth on questions about the Conservative government’s agenda for the session of Parliament starting this week.

Not only did the questions not get answered but Van Loan seemed stuck in an audio track based only on history, not the future. Maybe the fault was Tom’s. Maybe he was trying to cram too much into a half hour program. If he had taken more time and shown more patience, it is possible he could have got Van Loan past the statement that he wanted to make and take him into uncharted political waters. It might have been embarrassing for Tom though if Van Loan really had nothing else to say.

It is more likely that all Harper’s Cabinet people are required to take specific training in how to handle interviews and ways to turn the tables on interviewers. This is standard training that savvy public relations firms give to clients that are often in the public eye. One of the ways the firms give authenticity to the training is to hire tough minded television interviewers to do sample interviews. It is most likely that Harper’s people would be sure to use Conservative-leaning news people.

On Sunday, Tom seemed a bit disconcerted that the MP from York Simcoe was stone-walling him. It looked as though Van Loan had said one thing before the show and then reneged once he was on air. Tom should be used to that by now.

It is probably a good thing that Tom left CTV after Lisa LaFlamme was selected to replace Lloyd Robertson as the late night anchor for that network.  Tom had certainly earned the job but the choice would have hardly been based on who was the best reporter. There are serious political considerations in that choice and Tom would never have been given free-rein in handling interviews with Harper. CTV is very tuned in to the Harper Conservatives and balanced reporting at that level could hardly be the plan.

Tom’s problem with CTV was likely his fair-minded approach to the political scene.  He has an excellent understanding of what is behind the news. And he certainly knew why Peter Van Loan would not answer his question on Harper’s agenda.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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