Election day on Parliament Hill — for journalists

If you want to work as a journalist on Parliament Hill — attend press conferences in parliamentary facilities, sit in the House of Commons press gallery or even get in on the scrums in the foyer — you have to be a member of Parliamentary Press Gallery. The House of Commons security staff, in fact, won't even let you in the building unless you've got your press gallery pass dangling about your neck. This edict comes down from the Speaker of House of Commons, incidentally, who is responsible for the general operations of the Hill. But while Parliament, through the Speaker, has insisted that only accredited journalists be allowed on the Hill, the Speaker has left it up to journalists themselves to administer that accreditation system, decide who gets a pass and who doesn't, and generally be responsible for administering their own affairs in the Parliamentary Precinct.

Journalists formed a corporation — The Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery — and hired a full-time staff of about a dozen to administer the accreditation process and generally organize the affairs of journalists working on the Hill.

Because it's a corporation, the Press Gallery must hold an annual meeting for its members and, at that meeting, elect its officers and directors. Today was that day.

This year, as in other years, there was no election for the executive positions. Each individual who put their name forward (with nomination papers signed by five others) was acclaimed to the job. Richard Brennan of The Toronto Star had been our president for the last two years but decided not to seek re-election. He has been replaced by Hélène Buzzetti, a reporter for Le Devoir. Chris Rands, a senior producer with CBC Radio is the vice-president; Karine Fortin, a reporter at La Presse Canadienne is the Treasurer; and Elizabeth Thompson, a reporter with Sun Media is the Secretary.

The Press Gallery's constitution requires that five directors also be elected to sit on the board. I was elected as a director last year and was seeking re-electon this year. In the four annual press gallery meetings I've ever seen, there has always been an election for directors. You never know who is running as nominations come from the floor of the meeting. So, just in case, I've been politicking all week seeking votes should I need them (and I did.) Here, in fact, is the campaign platform I distributed by e-mail to the voters yesterday:

Colleagues —

I seek your support for re-election as a director of our Parliamentary Press Gallery. Last year, I asked for your support and committed to working on issues, such as providing wireless Internet service on the Hill that would improve our working environment and protect our independence. I'm pleased to report that we've made progress towards getting wi-fi on the Hill and I hope to continue to work on that issue. This year, the board will be working to protect and, if we're lucky, extend parking privileges on the Hill. I also seek to protect access our Members have to other services on the Hill such as the gym at 131 Queen. As a broadcast, print, and online journalist, I believe I can be an effective and sympathetic advocate for a broad cross-section of our members. I hope I can count on your support.

Chers collègues —

Je me présente comme candidat au poste de directeur de la tribune de la presse. Il y a un an, vous m'avez élu à ce poste pour faire avancer plusieurs dossiers et je croix qu'on a fait un grand pas en avant. Par exemple, on a fait du progrès dans nos efforts pour obtenir un réseau sans fil pour améliorer notre milieu de travail et afin de protéger notre indépendance.

Cette année, la Tribune va travailler pour protéger vos privilèges de stationnement sur la colline et j'envisage aussi la possibilité de les bonifier. Je travaille aussi pour proteger l'accès de nos membres à d'autres services sur la colline, tel que la salle de gym à 131 Queen. J'aimerais aussi souligner que je comprend les besoins et défis de tous nos membres, en écrit, télévision, radio ou Internet parce que je fais des reportages dans toutes ces catégories à chaque semaine. J'espère avoir votre appui pour la prochaine année.

I am pleased to say that my campaign platform seems to have been a winner for I — ahem — ended up with the most votes in the election we had for five director slots. (Six individuals put their name forward). 0

So here are the 2009-2010 directors:

  • David Akin (Canwest News Service) – Re-elected
  • Alex Panetta (The Canadian Press) – Re-elected
  • Manon Cornellier (Le Devoir)
  • Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail)
  • Luc St.-Jean (Freelance ENG technician)

4 thoughts on “Election day on Parliament Hill — for journalists”

  1. Congratulations, David. But seriously, it takes a full-time staff of 12 to take care of the PPG, which I believe numbers around 400 ? That's about 1 staffer to every 33 journalists. What on earth do they do all day, and who pays for them ?

  2. Jeebus, you guys don't even have WiFi yet?! What the hell kind of operation are you running up there, Akin?

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