Saturday, March 5, 2011

PMO apologizes for booting media from Ignatieff speech

PMO apologizes for booting media from Ignatieff speech

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at the launch of the 'Year of India in Canada 2011' at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., on Friday, March 4, 2011. (Patrick Doyle / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Prime Minister's Office has apologized for what it calls an overzealous misunderstanding, after staff hustled journalists away as Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was about to speak.

The incident occurred at an event hosted by the Indian high commission in Gatineau, Que., on Friday, where both Ignatieff and Stephen Harper were in attendance.

Harper addressed a small gathering of journalists after the event, before staff members ushered reporters and camera crews away. The journalists, who were unaware Ignatieff was to speak next, complied.

The incident comes while Immigration Minister Jason Kenny is under fire over a fundraising letter that was sent out on parliamentary letterhead. A staff member was fired on Thursday after the letter was made public.

Leslie Church, Ignatieff's communications director, dismissed a claim that the snafu at Friday's event was a misunderstanding.

"It's an appalling abuse of power on a day when the government is under fire for using public resources to fund an ethnic media campaign to restrict the press from hearing the leader of the Opposition at a non-partisan, multicultural celebration," Church told The Canadian Press.

The event, organized by the High Commission of India in Ottawa, marked the launch of a celebration of the contributions of the Indian diaspora to Canadian society.

A press release sent earlier in the day from Ignatieff's office indicated he would be in attendance, but did not mention that he would be speaking.

The Prime Minister's Office first pointed out that they did not organize the event, but later issued an apology.

With files from The Canadian Press