A news website in British Columbia opted not to include Stephen Harper's name in its report on the prime minister's visit to wildfire-ravaged West Kelowna Thursday, and referred to him in the headline only as a "man in blue suit."
Infonews.ca reporter Adam Proskiw's story noted that reporters and "exhausted-looking firefighters" waited an hour for what turned out to be a five-minute press conference featuring the prime minister and B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
Proskiw wrote that Clark answered two questions from journalists, while the prime minister answered just one.
"The prime minister would not take questions about why he was there, how much time the photo opportunity took from firefighters or what resources were used in the photo effort," Proskiw wrote.
The photo that the site ended up using put the focus on a firefighter, not the politicos.
In an email to The Huffington Post Canada, Infonews.ca editor Marshall Jones explained the site's decision, saying Proskiw took time away from another story to cover the event because he thought the prime minister might say something substantial. The photo-op, Jones wrote, "wasted a lot of time for everyone involved."
From the email:
(Harper) chose to make a campaign statement about possibly sharing firefighting costs, but no date, no commitment to put him on the record. We thought the focus should be on the firefighters. Adam had a number of photos of them—they looked exhausted. We wrote what we saw as the only story we had from the event.
We thought it was entirely appropriate for what happened and we are a little surprised other media didn't treat it similarly.
We ran a story earlier in the day with the Prime Minister's photo, saying he was making a visit.
We are accused in our comments and elsewhere of being political, but our motivation was quite the opposite. The photo op smelled like electioneering and we didn't want to play any part in that. The Prime Minister tried to co-opt the media into his plan, but if you play that game, you win these prizes. It had nothing to do with party politics—we'd have done the same if it was an NDP or Liberal Prime Minister.
We didn't go to B.C. Premier Christy Clark's media show the day before, even though that seemed appropriate since she is the local MLA and the Premier of the province responsible for firefighting. We thought she could thank them without the photo op.
These are not unusual decisions for us.
The Canadian Press reported Thursday that Harper thanked members of the emergency crews and said that federal officials would review later if more could be done to co-ordinate firefighting resources in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
"We know these are tough and dangerous jobs and these efforts really are appreciated by everybody," Harper reportedly said.
"When the dust settles, so to speak, on all of this we're obviously going to sit down and assess what new or different needs to be done in the future, what we can do in terms of better co-ordination of resources, mitigation, we'll look at all those things."
A Canadian Press photographer snapped shots of Harper talking with the firefighters and walking with Clark in an area where residents from 70 homes were chased out Monday.
On Friday, Harper met with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall to discuss the wildfires.
With files from The Canadian Press
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