Partisan supporters have been heckling reporters at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s daily press conferences on the campaign hustings. This should be stopped. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have held press conferences with the human props too, but reporters have not been heckled. However, all party leaders should be holding regular, straight-up, daily press conferences without being flanked by the props and the partisan supporters for the sake of democracy. Canadian Press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn tweeted on Sept. 9 at Mr. Harper’s press conference in Welland, Ont.: “Getting heckled as you ask about a refugee crisis. Good times.” Toronto Star reporter Tonda MacCharles, who was at the same event and asked about the Syrian refugee crisis, was interrupted by a man who hollered out, “How many children drowned in pools here last summer. Do you blame the government for that?” Postmedia News columnist Stephen Maher, who’s on a year’s sabbatical at Harvard, tweeted on Sept. 9: “Something about this heckling reminds me of the Liberals’ 2006 campaign, the powerful sense among partisans that it’s unfair to lose power. The Conservatives would be well-advised to try to get their supporters to stop this kind of nonsense.” Toronto Star columnist Tim Harper, who has covered eight federal elections, told The Hill Times: “I don’t know how we let it escalate to this point, where you have to put up with this Greek chorus every time you ask a question and even when you don’t get an answer the cheering section all around you stamps their feet and hollers like the Conservative leader just hit it out of the park,” he said. On Sept. 1, CTV’s Richard Madan asked a question and was jeered at and booed. And as, Tim Harper pointed out, CTV is paying $3,000 a day, or $12,000 a week, or $78,000 for the whole campaign. That’s some costly access. The Conservatives have a five-question limit on press conferences and Prime Minister Harper is usually flanked by supporters or by people from the relevant sector announcement. The NDP and Liberal Party have no limit on the number of questions. According to the CBC, Mr. Mulcair has taken the most questions to date in this campaign at 258, between Aug. 2 and Aug. 31, compared to 204 taken by Mr. Trudeau and 102 taken by Mr. Harper. Former Liberal Fisheries minister Brian Tobin was one of the first to hold a press conference with a backdrop of supporters in St. John’s, Nfld., back during the “Turbot war,” but today it’s morphed into the norm during federal election campaigns and it’s not right. With no chance for follow-up questions, and supporters clapping at the leader’s responses, it’s complete message control. “It wasn’t that long ago where you would do a rally, you would make a speech, and then you would go off into an adjoining room or a different area and take questions from the media, and it’s not rocket science to figure out how,” Tim Harper said. The leaders obviously want to project an image of energy and momentum, but the Conservatives have taken it to a whole new level. It’s a way to dominate the atmosphere, as Robin Sears said, in a way that might discourage reporters from being as aggressive as they might otherwise be, which is wrong. The result is a less depth in the federal campaign coverage.