Inside Politics

Louise Elliott Bio

Louise Elliott

Louise Elliott has been a national reporter on the Hill since 2002. As a regular contributor to CBC Radio's The House, she has tackled stories about policy and politics that range from food labelling to refugee policy to the G20. Elliott has won numerous awards, including two Radio Television News Director Awards and a Canadian Association of Journalists award for her series on the spraying of chemical defoliants at CFB Gagetown. In 2003, she received a National Newspaper Award for political journalism.

Not just another Easter Sunday backyard press conference

An Easter Sunday media availability for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper wasn't quite the tightly-controlled event reporters are used to.

After helping a group of children make Easter baskets in a home art studio, Harper went into the backyard of the home in Saanich B.C. to re-announce his children's arts tax credit.

The owner of the home studio, artist Rose Cowles, said a few words and then suggested the assembled children could now have an Easter-egg hunt.

She must have forgotten about the media assembled in the yard next door. More on that, after the jump....

Layton's hip not to be confused with his funny bone

Jack Layton is getting a lot of mileage out of his hip, in more ways than one.

The media's fascination continued today with questions about the exact nature of surgery the NDP leader underwent for a fracture.

A reporter asked Layton about comments made by his sister, Nancy Layton, in a St. John's bike shop. Nancy told the bike shop owner Layton had a hip replacement--something Layton's campaign quickly denied. (Nancy Layton is travelling with the campaign as Layton's personal assistant, and is helping him with his physiotherapy exercises.)

And Sunday Layton was asked whether he received a "hip transplant."

His response, and video, after the jump...

L'optimisme NPD


(Jacques Boissinot, Canadian Press)

There's real optimism on the NDP bus today en route to Montreal.

The feeling is that Jack Layton scored big in the debates and has kept Michael Ignatieff from eating the NDP lunch.

Today's polls add to the excitement, suggesting they're on an uptick both nationally and in Quebec. Add to that the famous volatility of voters here in La Belle Province, which has NDP strategists musing about a "Dumont" effect, akin to Mario Dumont's ADQ surge here from around 18 per cent to the high-20s in his famous provincial sweep

Alternate universe follow-ups

So, I got a lot of questions last week about the questions being put to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on the campaign trail. Random people would email me or tweet to suggest what they thought were better questions. Sometimes they were. And some people felt that the media's questions weren't sharp enough or they weren't tough enough or they weren't detailed enough. Sure, the odd softball slipped through but, overall, I would argue the questions weren't the problem, it was the format.

I've spent the past week with about 20 other pool journalists on the Conservative bus. We were whisked from farms to fire trucks, from convention centers that resembled funeral parlors to Bollywood premieres. Hey -- Did you see Laureen dance?

Everyone has seen the tightly-controlled conditions under which tour reporters are working. There was that TV shot of reporters held several yards back, behind a metal fence on a Halifax pier (the last of journalism's privateers). Frustrated reporters began shouting out follow-ups, and asking why there was a limit on questions. Part of the problem with this format is that reporters try to ask more than one question when their turn comes up. And we all know the perils of a double-barreled question.

This is not to say the answers don't exist, or that they couldn't be provided. This week, when I haven't been satisfied with the answers received, I have emailed my follow-ups to members of the Conservative campaign team. On most occasions, the reply is the same: "what the Prime Minister said stands." There is no further information offered.

Today, instead of being able to ask questions to Harper directly, the campaign is having a "down day" in Kitchener. There was a pool opportunity to videotape the leader watching his son's volleyball tournament. No questions allowed. So today, the idea of follow-up questions is even more hypothetical than usual.

So I decided to transcribe two questions and answers from this week's tour. Note that in each case the journalists opted to use up two questions on one topic. And, I've included a few of what I call, "alternate universe follow-ups" - questions I would have asked if we'd been given the opportunity. . . . after the jump...

Harper and the politics of ... SQUIRREL!

Download Flash Player to view this content.

Perhaps the Conservative leader and his campaign war-room believe voters are as distractible as the average four-legged canine who sees a squirrel. And, perhaps they are right.

This would go a long way to explaining the strategy - apparently deliberate - of ignoring questions from media on the campaign trail in favour of a completely unrelated answer.

How else to explain the answers from Stephen Harper and his staff to questions about why his party operatives have a) enlisted the RCMP to remove people from his campaign rallies and b) spied on those people by going through their Facebook pages before they arrived at the door? His party operatives have provided no evidence that his rallies are better-attended than those of his rivals combined.

Conservatives try to explain student ejections from rallies

Download Flash Player to view this content.

By now, we've all heard about the stories of students (and veterans' advocates) barred from attending Conservative rallies with Stephen Harper in recent days in Halifax, London and Guelph.

Today, the Conservative leader said it's a matter for his staff and he can't comment on it. He added that his party is attracting more people to its rallies than all his rival parties combined. (The Conservative Party has offered no evidence for this statement.)

So the media turned to Harper's spokesman Dimitri Soudas for more answers. Off-tape, Soudas says he's tried to contact the local campaigns in London and Guelph where students were evicted, but he hasn't yet heard back.

After the jump is a partial transcript of what he had to say on tape in a lengthy scrum in Drummondville, Que., for the record...

Micro-casting towards a majority: a lot of time in a few places


(Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)

This morning on the Harper tour we spent over an hour on a bus to get to a farm in Wainfleet, Ontario, in the rural part of the riding of Welland.


To announce, for the fourth election campaign in a row, a promise to scrap the long-gun registry.

Why? You might well ask again.

Because this is a tight three-way-race, in a riding that yielded an NDP seat last time. Malcolm Allen won by less than one per cent of the popular vote over the Conservative candidate, and the Liberal candidate was close behind.

The bigger 'why' of this campaign, as Stephen Harper rode an ATV through the rain and mud at a photo-op this morning, is even more interesting.

Lessons from the road: Kids in a candy store don't want to wait

Another day, another boutique tax credit announcement on the Conservative campaign trail.

Today's goody came direct from Prime Minister Stephen Harper at an Ottawa gym: a $500 fitness tax credit for adults. But -- and it's a big but -- it's deferred until four years from now to the alleged date the next Conservative government will have balanced the nation's books.

A Conservative government would also boost the child fitness tax credit to $1,000 from $500, when the happy day of a balanced budget arrives.

But there's a big contradiction in this campaign strategy... more on this after the jump.

Reality vs rhetoric: accountability still a rare bird

"We must clean up corruption and lift up the veils of secrecy that have allowed it to flourish. We must replace the culture of entitlement with a culture of accountability."

So declared Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper in November, 2005. Two months later he became prime minister. In December 2006, Parliament passed into law a bill whose title now seems quaint: "Canada's New Government: Federal Accountability Action Plan - Turning a new Leaf."

Fast-forward five years, after the jump...

Attack emails redux

I was reading Hugo De Grandpre's story in La Presse today. For you Anglophones here it is in English in The Toronto Star.

The story describes emails sent by Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney from his ministerial office, attacking Bloc Quebecois policies on immigration. The emails are questioned in light of the recent controversy surrounding Kenney's use of his ministerial office to send fundraising letters on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada. Kenney has since apologized and fired the aide who sent the letter.

The story about Kenney's email reminded me of some other missives that have recently come across our screens here at CBC NEWS, this time from the prime minister's director of communications Dimitri Soudas.

More after the jump....