Marois, Harper teams at odds over Friday news conference

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet privately with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois Friday afternoon. But their staff couldn't agree on how a proposed joint news conference would work, so that's off.

Prime minister in Quebec City Friday for winter carnival events, second private meeting with premier

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (seen here with New Brunswick Premier David Alward, centre) and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois met privately during the Francophonie Summit in Kinshasa, Congo last October. Friday's talks will be only their second in-person encounter since Marois was elected. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with the premier of Quebec Friday afternoon. But they won't be holding a news conference together.

That's because Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has refused to play along with the prime minister's rules for tightly controlled news conferences.

According to Marois' entourage, the prime minister's communications team proposed they follow the Ottawa practice of taking questions from just four journalists and asked for their names in advance.

Marois' office said no.

The leaders will instead make a joint statement before meeting privately in Quebec City tomorrow, then any public events will be held separately.

The custom of limiting the number of questions to several journalists, whose names have been agreed upon in advance, has been standard practice since Harper took office.

That modus operandi tends to keep questions focused on hot topics of the day, and Harper news conferences only rarely veer off onto unexpected topics and longer-term issues.

The custom in the Quebec legislature is far more spontaneous. Politicians there face a number of follow-up questions and are sometimes repeatedly challenged on an issue during lengthier news conferences.

A spokesman for Harper declined to comment on the issue out of "respect" for private discussions.

This will be the second Harper-Marois meeting since the pro-independence premier was elected last Sept. 4.

The two chatted at a francophone nations' summit in Congo, where Marois called their encounter "very cordial" and "almost warm."