When They Push, We Push Back - How journalists are adapting to the age of Trump, Twitter and fake news - 2019-05-09
On a warm afternoon, July 31, 2018, Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, stands in Queen's Park's Ontario Room to announce the government's plan to scrap the basic income pilot project. As per the new normal, she then takes a limited number of questions. Toward the end of the Q&A, when the Toronto Star's Rob Ferguson asks how much money the cancellation will save taxpayers, MacLeod grows defensive. It's not about saving money, she says, prompting several other reporters to ask how much it will save, breaking the five-question, one-at-a-time rules that have been in force since Ontario's 42nd parliament began—earlier than expected—three weeks ago. To quell the uprising, Progressive Conservative staffers at the back of the room burst into applause and drown out reporters.
The clapping tactic started on the campaign trail with supporters applauding and chanting while then-candidate and PC leader Doug Ford slipped out of press conferences and rallies, and has continued through the administration's whirlwind start. In July alone, Ford's government has moved to cancel an under-construction green energy project the former Liberal government approved; cancel the cap and trade program; reduce Toronto's City Council from 47 wards to 25; roll back the province's health and physical education curriculum; and, now, cancel the basic income pilot project—giving journalists plenty of things to ask questions about, if only they could get a word in.
For weeks, frustrated Queen's Park journalists have grumbled about the rookie government's efforts to control them, but this time they clap back. "Don't do that!" shouts Colin D'Mello of CTV News, turning around to face the staffers crowding the back of the room. "Can you please stop clapping? This is a professional environment. Stop it. Take that into the Legislature if you guys want to act that way."