Parliamentary Press Gallery president Guillaume St-Pierre is threatening to “terminate” Blacklock’s ten-year membership on complaints of disrespectful treatment of subsidized competitors. St-Pierre of the Journal de Montréal yesterday would not release a mediator’s report in the case.
“The Gallery will consider taking appropriate measures,” St-Pierre wrote in a formal letter of reprimand. Blacklock’s contravened “the quiet and civil environment that members expect,” he wrote.
“The executive may determine it is appropriate to remove privileges from a member at any time for due cause,” wrote St-Pierre. “Membership in the Gallery could also be suspended or terminated.”
The Gallery has no bylaws on quietness or civility. Its constitution also restricts the Gallery from directing how members cover news or adjudicating grievances between competitors.
Threats of expulsion follow a 2021 motion in which Blacklock’s sought full disclosure of subsidies paid to members including the Journal de Montréal. Records show the Gallery executive from last May 2 began compiling vexatious grievances including a complaint Blacklock’s managing editor Tom Korski listened to English-only audio feeds from the House of Commons.
“It is important to listen to the French,” Catherine Levesque of the National Post, a former Gallery president, told a May 2 executive meeting. The Gallery refused to release the text of the noise complaints or grant Korski a chance to respond.
On June 7 and 8 President St-Pierre and the National Post’s Levesque attended the National Press Building to personally monitor Korski’s work habits. On July 11 the Gallery hurriedly drafted a Code Of Conduct. The code written by the National Post’s Levesque, Althia Raj of the Toronto Star and Dylan Robertson of The Canadian Press stated members must “avoid loud conversations” in the newsroom.
Opposed Disclosure 18 To 1
The Gallery also compiled pages of frivolous complaints from Gallery director Emilie Bergeron of The Canadian Press, freelancer Hélène Buzzetti, a former Gallery president, and Michel Saba, a Canadian Press reporter.
Complaints included allegations Korski created a “toxic environment” in the National Press Building by using a speaker phone, leaving the “House of Commons feed running all day” when the House was in session, referring to freelancer Buzzetti as “that idiot,” speaking to a competitor “in a vaguely threatening tone,” tearing a piece of paper “in a theatrical gesture,” propping open a newsroom door and posting a tweet critical of Canadian Press committee coverage.
The Gallery refused to allow Korski to address the board. It also refused to canvass 19 other newsroom reporters and clerks assigned desks in the National Press Building on the “toxic environment” claim.
Journalists the Gallery refused to question included freelancer Gerhard Braune, Andrea Gunn of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, Adam Huras of Brunswick News, Kathryn May of Policy Options magazine, David McKie of the National Observer, freelancer James Munson, Tim Naumetz of iPolitics, Greg Quinn of Market News International, Cristin Schmitz of The Lawyers Daily, Antoine Trépanier of Le Droit, Pascal Vachon of TFO, Paul Vieira of the Wall Street Journal, Limin Zhou of New Tang Dynasty TV and Alex Binkley, dean of the Press Gallery, a member since 1975.
Threats of censure follow an April 7, 2021 Gallery meeting in which Blacklock’s sponsored a motion asking “that all Gallery members disclose all applications for grants, rebates or subsidies to any branch of the Government of Canada and that disclosures be published on a Press Gallery website.” The motion was defeated by a vote of 18 to 1.
Blacklock’s in 2020 also reported Canadian Press petitioned the Commons finance committee for 100 percent subsidies “to fully offset subscription fees paid by CP media clients,” and on August 25, 2021 reported Canadian Press launched a fact-checker service “that examines the accuracy of statements made by politicians” after pocketing $1.6 million in sole-sourced federal contracts.