Saturday, October 27, 2007

Press Gallery Dinner

What a blast! A full house in the elegant setting of the Great Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The food was great, the clothes were elegant, the entertainment superb. Marion and I were in exquisite company, with an excellent table near the center of the action.
The GG skipped because she couldn't take criticism from the Quebecois press about a (quite funny) joke she made about the then-leader of the Parti Quebecois. Steven Harper didn't show because (a) he gets very bad media advice and (b) he takes it. Harper always shone at gallery dinners. It was a great way to show he was an upright guy. Now he looks like an ass and a suck.
Those politicians who did show -- Dion, Layton, May, Belinda Stronach, Lawrence Cannon, Bob Rae, Michal Ignatief -- seemed to be having a good time. A very clean-shaven Justin Trudeau was also there, as was Rick Mercer. Peter Newman showed up in a cape, a la Trudeau 1973 Version. Gen. Rick Hillier, the American ambassador, the British High Commissioner, several other ambassadors, some senior cultural poo-bahs, and every non-Tory political mover and shaker who counts in Ottawa was there, along with senior media executives, a few lobbyists, and some party heavyweights. The only people who stayed away were those who are afraid of the Prime Minister -- the members of the Tory caucus and their staff. The rest of Ottawa and a good chunk of the rest of the Canadian elite showed up.
Anyone who thought the century-old gallery dinner was a goner because of the Tory boycott should remember that politicians are the most transient people in Ottawa. They come, they go, but this city has a culture of its own.
The press has many sins, and I've listed a few of them here. Still, it's one of the bulwarks of democracy, and Harper is a fool to try to undermine it.
And anyone who bawls that Harper is snubbed or somehow frozen out should keep in mind that he was invited, and has always been treated well at these events. Those of you ex-Reformers who believed in empowerment for MPs -- things like recall, referendum, free votes -- should remember how hard the Tory caucus was whipped to stay away from this event. Even the lowliest staffers who, two years ago, would have killed to get a ticket, were too afraid to show their faces. Welcome to Harper's vision of populism.


Anonymous said...

Know what Mark? Canadians couldn't give a flying fart about this dinner. Seriously, it's only the ivory towered people and media who care about this... and why, I don't know, fart catching? Anyways, I'm more than happy seeing my PM and MP's getting extra shut eye or working for our country, rather than spending time attending and rehearsing his lines for a comedy fethtival...

Ottawa Watch said...

So you say. But an evening of good sport with media people, senior bureaucrats, and important ambassadoes might have been a good use of the PM's time, especially if you want to see the Tories keep power. Every job has a PR element.
Stephan Dion walked up and very quietly shook the hands of the waiters and waitresses, the guys handling the lighting and sound, and the security people. I had always thought Dion was a cold person. Changed my mind, and people read my stuff, whether you like it or not.
Same thing happened when i saw Harper at a gallery dinner a few years back. I thought he was funny and bright and, from that moment, I cut him some slack.
This country is a democracy where ruling coalitions are cobbled together and public opinion counts.
Harper sent a message. The Press Gallery sent a message, and, in this fight, the Press Gallery just scored.

The Bloganism said...

Maybe he was afraid Steve Colbert would show up :)

Ottawa Watch said...

Colbert was amazing at the White House Correspondents Dinner. I really think they still don't know what hit them. I'll try to find the Youtube link.

Anonymous said...

Does the Press Gallery really equal "the press"?

Anyway, Harper is calculating, and like PET, he's calculated that he doesn't have to cultivate the media/NPG/press/whatever. He stands to gain nothing from doing so. So he ignores them. They can't stand that, and it reinforces their open, deeply unprofessional hatred of him.

But who outside the Big Zero really gives a shit if Susan Delacourt whines on Newman's Politics show that Harper is a big meanie because he doesn't dance to the NPG tune?

No one.

Ottawa Watch said...

OK, call me old fashioned, but if I had been stuck at less than 40 per cent in the polls through a period of incredible economic performance, I had pretty much shot my bolt in terms of policy initiatives, had a reputation for being a prick and I knew we were heading into both a recession and an election in the next year, I would not deliberately alienate the press. But that's just me.

Anonymous said...


Frankly, there's more and better insight into these dynamics in Will Ferguson's Bastards and Boneheads.

As the initiated will deduce, Dion and Layton are Boneheads. Harper is a True Blue Tory Bastard, FUCK YEAH!

Ottawa Watch said...

Go Colorado Rockies, right?