The Conservatives called on the RCMP Tuesday night to block reporters from speaking with B.C. candidate Dona Cadman, in a scene reminiscent of the last election when they stashed a local candidate in a restaurant kitchen.
Cadman, a candidate in Surrey-North, has fallen silent since alleging months ago that her dying husband was offered a lucrative life-insurance policy to side with the Tories in a 2005 confidence vote.
A dispute over exactly what kind of deal the Tories tried to strike with the late Chuck Cadman now lies at the heart of a legal battle between Stephen Harper and the Liberal party.
Reporters following the prime minister's national tour asked to interview Dona Cadman after a campaign rally in Surrey — a request that Harper aides initially laughed off in apparent disbelief that the media would even bother asking.
They later told reporters to go ahead and try speaking with her at the end of the rally, but when the media pack got too close, the prime minister's staff ordered the RCMP to block journalists from the exit door.
"Keep them out," one aide shouted at the guards.
Cadman and other local candidates, meanwhile, were whisked out the door.
Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke later said he didn't see the exchange involving the RCMP. But he insisted there was no need for local candidates to be interviewed.
"Local candidates' priority is campaigning in their local ridings, and not talking to the national media," said Teneycke.
He said the Conservatives hold daily news conferences with the party's most prominent members — and that should be enough.
"We have media availabilities every morning in which journalists can ask questions of the prime minister," Teneycke said. "We have events every day in our war room, generally with members of cabinet."
Local access has been an issue for the party since the 2004 campaign when candidates musing about official bilingualism, abortion and the Charter of Rights helped torpedo the national effort.
Tight message discipline was ramped up in the 2006 election and has remained a party mantra ever since. In particular, attempts to speak with socially conservative candidates have been aggressively thwarted.
One of those candidates, Harold Albrecht, was whisked away by a Harper aide and hidden in the kitchen when journalists tried approaching him before the 2006 vote.
As for the so-called Cadman affair, an audio tape the Liberals were hoping to use as a weapon against Harper in the current campaign has effectively been silenced by courtroom delays.
Harper recently won an adjournment putting off a hearing that had been scheduled on the affair, and he's still seeking an injunction to keep the tape out of Liberal hands in the longer term.
Harper also launched a $3.5-million defamation suit last March against the Liberal party, which had used media reports about the tape to accuse the prime minister of "immoral," "illegal" and "unethical" behaviour.
The prime minister says the 2005 tape, in which he discussed the party's overtures to Chuck Cadman, was doctored by the journalist who conducted the interview.