Friday, 8 April 2011

RCMP helped oust student from rally

RCMP helped oust student from rally
The RCMP conceded Wednesday that some of its officers were involved in a campaign incident in which a university student was thrown out of a Conservative rally in London, Ont. The admission came as Stephen Harper's spokesman moved to make amends to the 19-year-old woman.

"The RCMP assisted the party organizers in restricting access to persons not registered for the private event," said Sgt. Greg Cox. "This was not in accordance with the RCMP's mandate, and RCMP members have been reminded of our responsibilities."

Strangely, a followup statement from the force was more neutral about its involvement.

Media relations officer Sgt. Julie Gagnon said in an e-mail: "The RCMP is responsible for the security of the party leaders. This mandate does not include managing the access of persons attending private events."

Video of Dimitri Soudas, Harper's spokesman, trying to sidestep reporters' questions:
Reporter: Do you have staff who are combing through people's Facebook sites to look for suspicious connections? Are you going into people's Facebook sites?

Dimitri Soudas: Bottom line here is that for every campaign event like I said earlier, we have a tremendous turnout and we always have to make sure that we're planning to have rooms big enough to ensure all the people turning up are able to attend and participate in the rally.

Reporter: But what is your screening mechanism?

Dimitri Soudas: Local campaigns make sure everybody in the region and everybody who are from the surrounding ridings attend our events.

Reporter: The question was what is your screening mechanism? You answer some other question that wasn't asked. How exactly is it that your staff are combing through people's Facebook pages looking for signs of disloyalty?

Dimitri Soudas: I'm not aware of such combing. I'm not aware of such things.

Reporter: But it happened. This woman in London says that she was told as she was removed from the rally the person removing her told her they had seen her Facebook site and seen a picture of Michael Ignatieff there.

Dimitri Soudas: Yes and as I stated, for this young student, I said we apologized.

Reporter: What are you apologizing for?

Dimitri Soudas: For the inconvenience it caused her.

Reporter: So you acknowledge your campaign did this?

Dimitri Soudas: No -- it obviously caused this young student an inconvenience. We have apologized for that.
A similar interview with Conservative spokesman Ryan Sparrow, who suggested in 2008 that the father of a dead soldier was a Liberal.

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