OTTAWA – The Conservative party insisted Wednesday that campaign workers who ushered a reporter out of a building following a recent Stephen Harper rally never stopped her from talking to people in the audience.
Tory staffers asked the journalist to leave after a Harper speech Tuesday because workers were starting to dismantle equipment in the room, party spokesman Kory Teneycke said.
Shelby Thom of Vancouver’s CKNW radio station said Conservative staffers asked her to leave several times as she spoke with supporters inside the Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond, B.C.
At first, Thom ignored requests from different Tory handlers to exit through a side door and tried to head toward the lobby, she said in an interview with her radio station.
She eventually obliged and left through the side door.
“He opened the door, I walked out and he shut the door behind me,” Thom said in a recording of the interview she posted on Twitter.
“So, I did feel, essentially, that I was kicked out. I was interviewing supporters after the rally and I was continuously interrupted by Conservative campaign staffers.”
She also said the handlers zeroed in on her even though dozens of other people were still in the room.
Questions have been raised about the Tories’ tight control at Harper rallies during the campaign, particularly after recent media reports said all attendees must be vetted by the party.
Asked about the incident, Teneycke said nothing prevented the reporter from speaking with people outside the venue.
“I think it’s just someone maybe being a little hypersensitive,” Teneycke said.
“When our technical people were taking apart the room and the sound system, (she) was asked if she could move outside the event site so they could finish their work and clearly took offence to that. No offence intended.”
Party handlers have, at times, tried to rush reporters embedded with the Tory campaign away from venues following Harper rallies and policy announcements, before they can speak with more than one or two attendees.
The staffers usually tell the journalists they have to hurry because they have a tight schedule to follow.
In other cases, reporters on the Tory tour have had considerable amounts of time to speak with people inside and outside the venues following campaign events.
Last week, a journalist for the news outlet iPolitics said staffers refused to let her attend a Harper campaign event in Toronto because Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers and their sniffer dog were no longer available to check her bags.
The reporter said a party staffer informed her she was too late for the RCMP security check even though she arrived 20 minutes before scheduled start time.
On the weekend, iPolitics reported that rallygoers’ tickets included a disclaimer that stated they were not to participate in any transmission of photos or accounts of the events.
Teneycke said the disclaimer was just “legal boilerplate” and has since been removed from the tickets. He insisted such a rule was never enforced.
“Obviously, we are not only OK with people taking pictures and using social media at our events, we encourage them to do so,” he said.
“This is one of these examples of an issue that is not issue.”
— with files from Jordan Press in Vancouver
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