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Off the record? Never!

May 23, 2015

The unfortunate episode in which Green Party leader Elizabeth May made bizarre, rambling comments at the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner raises some very real issues for politicians who attend events put on by parliamentary journalists.

The Queen’s Park Press Gallery has two parties: the hugely well-attended Christmas party and charity auction and the Spring Fling. Both are strictly off-the-record. The Spring Fling traditionally hosts speeches and videos by the parties and the gallery. They’re supposed to poke fun at their own foibles and mock their opponents. 

They’re usually potty-mouthed and quite explicit in nature. In recent years, though, there has been increasing fear that someone in the crowd won’t understand just what “off the record” means. And that could have devastating effect for a politician – as we saw with Elizabeth May. I understand the Ottawa Gallery’s event was on- the-record.

These days everyone has a camera in their pocket and the ability to reach thousands of people in one Tweet.

My hope is that we can keep these bunfights fun and off-the-record. But I’m not convinced we can. It’s a foolish politician who believes everything they say is off the record. Like, say, Elizabeth May.

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