Parachute candidate Michael Ignatieff, a Harvard University professor by day and superhero by night, is running for the Liberals in Etobicoke Lakeshore.
Maclean’s reporter Nicholas Kohler, apparently not sated by the blanket coverage of the race in the Toronto Star, wanted to weigh in on the race.
Here is an illuminating e-mail exchange from last week between Kohler and veteran Liberal spin doctor Jim Maclean, a senior adviser to Dalton McGuinty in the days before he was premier:
I am handling media requests for Michael Ignatieff. Can you kindly fill me in on what you had in mind? I gather from party HQ that you wanted to speak with him.
I actually just wanted to follow him around for a day as hes campaigning. Can you let me have his itinerary for the rest of the week? Thanks, Nick
He is finishing his last classes at Harvard and returning to Toronto on Friday to resume campaigning. He is moving back to Toronto this week as well.
We might entertain the possibility of media accompanying him as he campaigns in the riding sometime in January, but following him for a whole day is not possible. We might consider 15-20 minutes of accompanying the candidate door knocking. There will be a number of public events, including all-candidates meetings in the riding that will of course be open to the news media in January as well.
Does he have any public engagements for tomorrow? I promise I would not be an onerous presence if a shadowed him for a few hours. I followed Ralph Goodale around southwestern Ontario yesterday and I think his team may even have grown to like me (better check with them on this). Give me a call: you can reach me at 416-xxx-xxxx or 416-xxx-xxxx. Nick
For some reason this caused Maclean to snap at Maclean’s.
Dear Nick: You can check his public events by visiting his web site, www.michaelignatieff.ca
There is, for example, an open house at the campaign HQ on Sunday that you may wish to drop in on.
But I must repeat my earlier assertion, which was not a negotiating position, but an attempt at making a clear statement: You would not be welcome to shadow him for a few hours.
In our view, this would be an unacceptable and unreasonable intrusion into the campaign.
We understand the media have a job to do: They must have reasonable access to candidates running for public office. As a former member of the media, one who covered two federal elections and worked on Parliament Hill for a national news service for 4 years, I understand that very well.
You must also understand that Michael has a job to do, and, I believe, a right to do it.
He is trying to meet as many people in the riding as possible, unencumbered.
He is not a member of the government nor cabinet minister, unlike Mr. Goodale, and of course Mr. Goodale is free to make his own decisions in any case.
Feel free to forward this email to your editor if any further clarification is required.
This affront caused our old pal Wells to weigh in as only he can:
As a current member of the media, I'm now covering my fifth national campaign. I've always found it easier to cover unelected candidates than to cover cabinet ministers or the Prime Minister. Following candidates around for a few hours is not normally regarded as a radioactive intrusion on their time by their handlers, at least not by the lucid ones. I've learned a lot by following candidates in Newfoundland, Quebec, Manitoba and elsewhere. Offhand it looks like your candidate's problem is that you think he IS a cabinet minister - or the prime minister. Or that you are.
Maclean’s will be publishing your e-mail to Nick. I find it illustrative. This is not a negotiating position.
And the moral of the story? Party flacks and hacks almost never get the last word during an election.