That the Barrie Advance did the right thing in publishing a story about the PMO peddling dirt on Justin Trudeau: Check.
That the PMO once again revealed itself as unethical, contemptuous of the public and, just to add to the bouillabaisse, incompetent: Check.
That various publications and journalists will now explain why they don’t have the same ethical compass and story sense as the Barrie Advance: Oh yes.
The story in question is that of the PMO’s communications officer, Erica Meekes, phoning the Advance to offer information about a Justin Trudeau speaking gig in 2007 at Georgian College that left the sponsors, after they paid the kid’s $10,000 speaking fee, $4,118 in the hole. Not that Trudeau was even an MP at that point, but still, um, y’know. Meekes stipulated that she would send the information if the Advance agreed to say that it came from an anonymous “source.”
According to Barrie Advance editor-in-chief Lori Martin, “I told the communications officer to send the information to me, saying I would have a look at it. That was the only promise I made.” The material was duly sent by e-mail (by e-mail!), with “an explanation outlining the reason why it was sent and five attachments,” including a receipt for Trudeau’s stay at the Toronto Four Seasons (begging the question: “What? Barrie doesn’t have hotels?”).
Writes Martin: “If this was real, it wasn’t right. Why would the PMO, not the Conservative Party, be sending us unsolicited background information on Trudeau?”
As it has turned out, the info was sent to larger media organizations too. Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star was first off the mark in explaining why they didn’t out the PMO. “Why didn’t we say where the documents came from? Well, because the PMO official asked first. This seems to be the big difference between how the PMO approached national and local media yesterday.”
Er, no. See above. Lori Martin had the same conversation with Meekes. She just had the good sense to tell her to send the info without agreeing to the stipulations. Martin got the story — the real story — and got to keep her honour.
In The Tyee, Media columnist Shannon Rupp reveals that she has been aware of the PMO’s “edicts” since sometime in May. Of herself and “the hacks in my small circle” she writes: “We’ve been using them to play Spot the Lickspittle — we Google the key phrases to see who among the ink-stained wretches is merely a mouthpiece for Harper.”
What fun. Meanwhile, the PMO has turned itself into a war room already fighting the next election and expects journalists to prevaricate on its behalf, something that you’d think journalists might want to write about, if there were any to be found outside of Barrie.
The dirtification of Justin Trudeau didn’t start with the Georgian College leak. It started with the story of a charity in New Brunswick that belatedly asked for the return of a $20,000 speaking fee to Trudeau, in what may have been another politically-motivated machination. According to Canadian Press, that information was also sent to journalists by the PMO on Friday. It first appeared in a story that day by John Ivison of the National Post. I’ve e-mailed Ivison and Post editor Stephen Meurice to ask if the story was based on information from the PMO and, if so, if the Post agreed not to reveal the source.
I haven’t heard back from either yet.