By Matthew McCully
I can’t say I’m surprised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would prefer to slide through Sherbrooke unnoticed, shake a few hands, kiss a few babies and then leave quietly rather than address the public or meet with local media.
The last time he was here for a town hall to get the pulse of the community, he flatlined on language.
And I’m willing to bet given the opportunity, Townshippers would again tune him for turning a blind eye to Bill 96, now enshrined in the Official Languages Act since the passage of C-13.
But it’s a real slap in the face to find out via Facebook that our Sherbrooke MP Élisabeth Brière hosted the PM last week for a stroll down Wellington Street.
Based on the pictures, it looks like Brome Missisquoi MP St-Onge was there as well.
Now, The Record wouldn’t expect to be invited to the meet and greet inside the Liberal echo chamber, but to not receive any notification of the visit speaks to the federal government’s opinion of media—We’ll call you when we need you.
This may sound like sour grapes, but the real issue here is trying to keep a community newspaper afloat in a changing media landscape while being undermined by rookie politicians and poorly trained staff.
After over a decade in media, I’ve watched web giants snatch up the advertising market, trust in newspapers drop thanks to unverified newsbytes littering the internet, and desperate attempts by politicians and institutions to control their narrative, which has led to a complete disconnect from the people they serve.
As we speak, The Record has an access to information request in with the City of Sherbrooke, already three weeks past deadline for a response.
Just the other day, MP St-Onge reached out to the Brome County News, available for an interview. When reporter Ruby Pratka sent the topics she intended to touch on during the interview, St-Onge’s camp passed, because “Unfortunately for us it’s not really the angle we wanted to take. We really wanted to talk about our government’s achievements for the country and for Brome-Missisquoi.”
Brière’s office needed a gentle reminder last week to send press releases to an English newspaper in English.
In the span of just a few years, I went from being able to catch a local mayor in the town hall parking lot during his smoke break, to having to request an interview in writing and send it to the “communications consultant.”
And that’s fine, we will play by the rules, and send the emails, and wait patiently for the replies.
But I draw the line when access to information gets interrupted and a newspaper’s ability to represent its readership is compromised.
And I write an editorial when a 126-year-old newspaper isn’t given so much as a heads up when the Prime Minister of Canada comes to town.
It is unprecedented.