Is Stephen Harper a control freak?

·Politics Reporter

There were more rumblings this week about the Harper government's apparent controlling nature.

A Liberal senator is accusing the Stephen Harper government of muzzling the RCMP with guidelines that require all meetings between the top cop and parliamentarians be approved by government officials.

Emails obtained by Postmedia News show that when Senator Colin Kenny attempted to schedule a meeting recently with Commissioner Bob Paulson, Paulson replied, "I apologize for any delay, but I've become aware of some guidelines from the Department of Public Safety in terms of engaging with Parliamentarians and Senators and so I may have to respectfully ask you to route your request for a meeting through the Minister's Office or the Department."

Kenny was outraged.

"I think it's inappropriate for Paulson as commissioner to set a pattern at the start of his mandate to say, 'Yes, I'll allow the government to say who I can meet with or who I can't,'" he told PostMedia News.

"Who a police officer can see or not see is none of the government's damn business."

Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said in a statement that allegations the commissioner is being muzzled are "baseless and inaccurate" and that it is "standard practice across government to ensure a co-ordinated approach between departments and agencies."

But this isn't the first time the Conservatives have tagged with the 'control freak' label.

Last fall, the Toronto Star critisized the Conservatives for bringing in a new set of communications guidelines to keep the Mounties on a tighter leash. Everything from "media advisories, news releases, background info, media lines and talking points for spokespersons and senior officials/members" must, the newspaper claimed, now be vetted.

In November, Veteran CTV reporter Craig Oliver Oliver spoke to CBC's The Current about the Harper government's control over the media.

"(They have) highly paid people…hundreds of people. Their only job every day is try to manipulate a message," Oliver said.

"They want to influence what we're saying, the approach we take to a story…They want to have the story cast in a way they want."

In a column for the Hill Times, Sara Ryckewaert suggested Stephen Harper has taken control over media to another level.

"Soon after Mr. Harper won power, the Prime Minister's staff started deciding which reporters could ask questions, skipping those they suspected weren't in the government's favour," she wrote.

"Media access to the Prime Minister and his caucus, in general, has become minimal, with MPs and ministers kept on a short, silent leash."

But is managing a uniform co-ordinated message in an era of digital communication, with a growing number of ideologically charged 'journalists' and bloggers, such a bad thing?

Is Harper a control freak or just a good manager?

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