MISSISSAUGA — Now we know what the P in PM doesn’t stand for.
Washroom access at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Wednesday announcement at an Ontario highway maintenance yard was so restricted, female reporters were at one point ordered out of the john while trying to relieve themselves.
Later, a larger group of women were held back from the bathrooms until Harper had cleared the immediate vicinity.
“I talked to them and they said there’s no problem - anyone can use the washrooms,” Andrew McDougall, deputy press secretary to Harper, said.
But when MacDougall was told reporters had just moments before been turned away by RCMP officers, he said it was up to the Mounties to make security decisions and he couldn’t comment on those decisions.
Sun Media columnist Christina Blizzard and Globe and Mail reporter Karen Howlett tried to access the men’s room - the only washroom available at the Ontario ministry of transport patrol yard on Edwards Ave. in Mississauga, prior to Harper’s arrival.
Blizzard said she guarded the door while Howlett went inside but both were tossed by a member of the RCMP security detail.
Officers told the women they couldn’t use the washrooms while Harper was inthe immediate area.
A short time later, they were told individuals could be escorted to use the facilities but only while the prime minister was at the podium for the news conference.
Not wishing to miss the event, the reporters opted to grit their teeth until Harper had finished taking questions.
Once he left, the women - including an eight-months pregnant Canadian Press reporter, were held back until the PM was clear of the area.
One officer said it’s difficult to control access to some places the prime minister visits and that’s why washroom use is sometimes limited.
Harper’s press conferences are notorious for being tightly controlled, with reporters having to put their names on a list if they wish to ask questions.