When Premier Kathleen Wynne says “I’ll take your questions” to the journalists of the Queen’s Park press gallery, it’s a little like the moment the gate drops and the bulls are let loose in Pamplona.
The shouting. The madness. People being trampled underfoot.
For the uninitiated it can be jarring and shocking.
Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for the Toronto Star, Robert Benzie, agrees all the shouting is not for the faint of heart, but “it’s what we have to do to do our jobs.”
It’s both a blessing and a curse for political reporters at Queen’s Park. You may have to bellow and shout down your colleagues to have your question heard, but compared to Ottawa, journalists have greater access to politicians in Toronto.
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper comes to town and holds a press availability, journalists must pre register to ask a question and then are called up to a microphone one at a time.
In Ontario, reporters are allowed to build upon the answers politicians give. Don’t like the way the Premier answered your competitors question? Say so loudly and get her to answer it again.
It’s a system that tends to favour booming voices, although Richard “Badger” Brennan from the Star admits his “piercing” voice gets the job done just as well. But it’s not always bombast that wins the day.
Maria Babbage of the Canadian Press has a soft quiet style of asking questions, but her colleagues know that her queries often prompt the best responses, so they will back off. There is more than one way to get an answer.
If you happen to wander past a politician being shouted at by a pack of reporters, there is more at work than simple mob rule. What appears to be contrary to Canadian politeness, actually ensures greater accountability of elected officials.
So let the bulls run wild. The sound of the chaos is the sound of democracy and rule of law.
© Shaw Media, 2013