Prime Minister Stephen Harperhas been working on a secret project to build a $2-million government-controlled media centre, a newspaper reported Monday.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seen during his one news conference at the National Press Theatre on Oct. 3, has had a stormy relationship with the press gallery. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

The Toronto Star obtained documents through the Access to Information Act that show the plan, code-named the Shoe Store Project, has been in the works for a year.

The new briefing centre wouldsupplant the 47-year-old National Press Theatre, a venue where government news conferences are moderated by the executive members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association, a group ofnewspapers, broadcasters and other media outlets who report on Parliament Hill.

The new centre may be located ina former shoe store in the Sparks Street pedestrian mall in Ottawa.

One document obtained by the Star stated that the new centre is part of efforts to "put in place robust physical and information security measures to protect the prime minister and cabinet."

According to documents, the new centre could give the government control over which journalists attend news conferences. The government would also have the ability to do its own filmingat the events, and could provide the footage to journalists, instead of letting them film the events themselves, the Star reported.

Harper has had a stormy relationship with the press gallery since he came into power in January 2006.

Soon after he was elected, hechanged the rules of government press conferences, insisting that his staff decide which journalists pose questions.

He has only made one appearance at theNational Press Theatre, on Oct. 3.