By: Dana Wagner on
The Huffington Post Canada in an article published October 21, 2015
Stephen Harper used the National Press Theatre seven times between 2006 and 2009, not three, as reported by the Huffington Post.FactsCan Score: False
The act of facing reporters became news last week, as Justin Trudeau broke with recent custom of keeping clear of the National Press Theatre. He gave his first post-election press conference on October 20 at the symbolic venue.
Relations between the media and the outgoing government of Stephen Harper were never very warm. Members of the media have accused the former Prime Minister of being inaccessible. Others say the government simply used different and non-mainstream channels to communicate with the public.
In one expression of his different relationship with the media, Harper sparingly used the National Press Theatre, a room on the ground floor of Ottawa’s National Press Building that sits directly across from Parliament Hill. It has historically been used by prime ministers and others to talk with parliamentary reporters.
Covering a press conference there by incoming Prime Minister Trudeau, Ryan Maloney, politics editor with the Huffington Post Canada, wrote, “Harper reportedly held just three press conferences in the theatre in his near-decade tenure as prime minister.”
Harper didn’t hold many, but the actual number is slightly more than three.
According to Collin Lafrance, a Press Gallery manager of broadcasting services, Harper met press in the theatre seven times. On these dates:
February 1, 2006
October 3, 2007
November 9, 2007
January 28, 2008
November 8, 2008
April 22, 2009
June 15, 2009
Jennifer Ditchburn, senior parliamentary correspondent with the Canadian Press, arrived at the same number. In her 2014 master’s thesis on the subject, she wrote that Harper “does not hold regular news conferences on Parliament Hill, having used the National Press Theatre only seven times between 2006 and 2009, and none in the years since then.” By email, Ditchburn said she is not aware of any use since 2009.
Who gave the Huffington Post the number three? The story links to a tweet from David Akin, parliamentary bureau chief with Sun Media. He tweeted, “so we think Harper has done 3 conferences at the National press Theatre in 9 years.”
The Huffington Post also incorrectly wrote the space hadn’t been used since 2008. Source? Another tweet. Leslie Whyte, a producer with Global News in the parliamentary bureau, said, “I’ve been told this is the first time a PM has used the national press theatre since ‘08.”
The resulting article, at the time of writing, was ‘liked’ on Facebook 12,000 times and shared over 1,800 times.
Another news outlet printed the error too. The Canadian Press reported that “Trudeau held a formal news conference in the national press theatre — something Harper did only a handful of times and not at all since late 2008.”
The difference is small, but the number three is wrong. According to Press Gallery staff and another reporter who dug into it, Harper used the space seven times.