9. Red Flags

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Susan Delacourt had been copying her managing editor Jane Davenport back in Toronto on all correspondence with Stephen Lecce. “This was unusual that the PMO was asking us to do this and I had some reservations about going along with it,” Delacourte says.

She did her best to have a real conversation with Lecce about why the situation made her uncomfortable. “I wasn’t simply going to be a stenographer or an advertising copywriter for them — I wanted to understand why, and I wanted him to understand that he was asking an unusual thing of me. But, I got the impression it was more like, ‘Oh, don’t be an old stick-in-the-mud about it. It’s just part of the game. We do this.'”

On the one hand, Ottawa is a small town and functions on a set of rules. On the other hand, Delacourte says, there were no bridges to burn: “I don’t have any bridges with the PMO.”

Delacourt discussed her reservations with colleagues at the Star’s Ottawa bureau. At first she had been given no specifics about what the Trudeau information would entail — just that it would be damaging. When she received an email with a precise and detailed paper trail of Trudeau’s speaking engagement at Georgian College, members of the Star’s Ottawa bureau had a “serious talk” about whether or not to publish the information or provide anonymity. [1]

At the Advance, likewise, Martin and Watt had a detailed discussion. The PMO had never called them before. Was reporting on what the PMO sent the press serving the public interest? Would the readers of the Advance want to know the details about Trudeau’s speaking event at their local college seven years ago, before he was a MP?

After writing up a draft, Watt called Erica Meekes at the PMO to confirm the information in her article was accurate.

“We have a daily newspaper in town, so when I was talking to Ms. Meekes from the PMO, she did mention that she had sent the information to the Examiner as well,” says Watt. “That had an impact on how quickly we would react.” [2]

During the phone call with Meekes, Watt attempted to identify why the PMO was reaching out with this information.

The reporters at both the Star and the Advance were all uncomfortable with the situation the PMO had put them in. They had to decide if, in publishing this newly provided information on Trudeau’s speaking engagements, they would let the PMO remain anonymous.

Next: Epilogue – Red flags: the PMO, the Star, the Advance and the “whole-off-the-record-thing”


1. Delacourt, Susan. Personal Interview. 4 December 2014. Unpublished.
2. Martin, Lori, and Laurie Watt. Personal interview. 8 December 2014. Unpublished.

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