The walls around Parry Sound-Muskoka's Tony Clement - even media people don't talk
Last week, Industry Minister Tony Clement press secretary didn't bother to return my repeated phone calls on a story. I'd been in Sudbury to report on the 11-month-old strike against the Brazilian mining giant, Vale, by some 3,000 Steelworkers (not including strikers in Voisey's Bay and Port Colborne) and was told they had questions for the industry minister about his reported comments about Vale. He'd said he had concerns and would investigate the terms of the company's 2006 purchase of their former employer, Inco. They'd been counting on him to determine if Vale had broken its commitments and were perplexed when Clement suddenly shifted gears.
I've always considered a reporter's job to be the privilege of asking questions on behalf of a larger citizenry who can't all crowd into, say, a politician's office. Their salaries and those of their staffers are, after all, paid by that citizenry.
I first called the industry minister's communications department and explained what I needed to know. Not insignificantly, I wanted to find out for starters if his reported comments were even accurate. Moreover, I sought a brief telephone interview with the minister (highly unlikely!) and, barring that, some time with his press secretary. I was told to call that person, Lynn Meahan, and did so, repeatedly, over three days. Each time, I was told she would get back to me. Nothing.
Reporters don't expect politicians to be easily available (unless they want something). But they do expect courtesy from the people they hire to communicate with the media - and by proxy, voters - on their behalf. Ms. Meahan's actions, or lack of, suggest an attitude of arrogance and non-transparency in the office of the industry minister.
Perhaps Mr. Clement thinks of himself up on Parliament Hill as far removed from the rough-and-tumble of everyday life.
I suppose he's not alone. A recent investigation by the Canadian Press revealed the mechanics of the PMO's information control. This report makes good reading.