VOTE: Should Doug Ford have a media bus for Ontario's election campaign?

It’s a controversial move some experts say is aimed at preventing more controversy.

Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford is known for having a sometimes rocky relationship with reporters, but the decision to not bring them with him on the campaign trail has been met with concern.

“This should not be blown off as insignificant,” Queen’s University political science teaching fellow Tim Abray told The Canadian Press. “He is attempting to bypass the accountability function of the free press by limiting access to his campaign.”

The Ford team doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

“Most media outlets have shifted to covering events from their office and relying on live feeds. It is in our interest to have as much media coverage as possible and will do everything we can to ensure our events are streamed online to assist in that,” Ford spokeswoman Melissa Lantsman said Wednesday via email.

Doug Ford is seen here speaking to the media in Toronto in February. The Ontario PC leader’s campaign team says they won’t have a media bus for the upcoming provincial election campaign. Photo from Getty Images.

On Thursday, CBC News reported Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne referred to the move as “unusual” while adding that her Liberal party will continue providing one for journalists.

“I think it’s an important part of the democratic process,” Wynne told reporters, according to CBC News. The premier added that it will be up to Ford to explain why it looks like “there’s some hiding going on,” CBC News reported. 

Traditionally, political parties provide buses for members of the media to cover their candidates during the election campaign. News organizations pay to reserve a seat on the bus and cover the costs of sending a reporter to attend events.

The media bus tradition has become less common in some parts of Canada in recent years. During the last federal election campaign, reporters complained Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were placing restrictions imposed on them, including a self-imposed rule that Harper would only answer five questions from the media per day.

Bus or no bus, the media will be following Ford’s campaign in the coming months. Polls suggest the former Toronto city councillor is a serious contender ahead of the June 7 provincial election. This means he could soon be premier.

But by restricting access to journalists, experts say the candidate is able to better control the message being put out to potential voters.

For example, instead of an off-the-cuff quote, a filtered statement might be preferred by the candidate’s team. Rather than the photo that catches the candidate in an awkward position, perhaps the campaign team can provide one the candidate prefers.

Political science professors told The Canadian Press the move is a warning sign for members of the media, but it’s also a way to protect Ford against potentially self-imploding by saying something that may turn voters away from him. But will voters really care about what kind of access the media gets to Ford during the campaign?

What do you think about the Ford team’s decision to not have a media bus for the upcoming provincial election campaign? Do you think it matters that reporters may have limited access to the Tory leader? Let us know what you think by voting in the poll above and be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

With files from The Canadian Press