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Dark ages

As if carefully planned, Conservative Party of Canada staffers lived up to a stinging New York Times rebuke of Stephen Harper’s legacy this month by whisking a former Conservative senator away from reporters’ prying questions.

Marjory LeBreton was led off behind a curtain as reporters tried to approach her. Now retired, LeBreton was Conservative leader in the Senate when the Mike Duffy expense scandal broke.

It was the latest in Harper’s increasingly bizarre determination to limit and even completely quash media access to government members and information. Harper’s rare press conferences are choreographed to within an inch of their lives, often only allowing a handful of pre-vetted questions.

Canadian reporters describe how shocked foreign media are when they see how things work here.

Justin Ling, who writes for, wrote last month that Canadian media seem to have totally acquiesced.

“We’ve all just given up, at this point,” he wrote. “We’ve, metaphorically, put on a housecoat and pulled a half-eaten carton of Chunky Monkey from the freezer.”

Reporters and camera operators are routinely bounced from events involving the prime minister. If a reporter shows up at one of dozens of scheduled “photo ops,” he or she is booted out. Even supporters at current campaign events were briefly gagged, until organizers realized how absurd it looked.

If this inaccessibility weren’t strange enough, Harper has slowly but surely clamped down on other channels of information. Government scientists are often prevented from talking to reporters. Environmental science is the main target, although even more innocuous lines of research have been swept up in Big Brother’s crackdown.

And there’s the elimination of the long-form census, axed for purely ideological reasons. It has resulted in a gaping hole in demographic information in this country. Even Statistics Canada has abandoned some areas of reporting because of unreliable numbers.

This incredible journey towards ignorance and darkness was summarized in a highly visible opinion piece in the New York Times recently by Toronto author and columnist Stephen Marche. On Aug. 17, the electronic version of “The Closing of the Canadian Mind” was listed online as the most emailed Times opinion piece.

In defending this Orwellian doctrine, the Conservative party regularly shoots the messenger. It’s the media’s fault - more specifically, the “mainstream” media. The notion has become so entrenched among Harper adherents that it replaces any reasonable discussion of the facts. The media are biased - end of discussion.

In the long run, however, it will be talked about a lot, and with great awe and reverence.

It will be a dark age, the era of closed mouths and closed minds. A truly unique period in Canadian history.

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