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Heavy security makes Conservative Harper hard to reach

Details of Conservative leader Stephen Harper's visit today to Victoria were so secret that even people working on local campaigns had no indication what he would be doing in the city until yesterday.

One campaign worker said they were told two weeks ago to keep the day free, but didn't get details until the day before Harper's visit. Reporters and news rooms received messages about it the evening before about the 9 a.m. appearance at a local hotel.

After Harper read a speech about consumer protection measures such as banning charges for unsolicited text messages and increasing penalties for “cartel behaviour like price-fixing”, a reporter asked if the level of security was making it difficult to connect with grassroots Canadians.

“This is not a campaign phenomenon,” said Harper. “It sometimes creates situations that are awkward. Just to pop into a drugstore to pick something up or walk down the street creates quite a hullabaloo.”

He doesn't hear about all the threats, he said, but there are security risks. “We're dealing with an era of global terrorism,” he said. “There are a disturbing number of threats, to the country and to whoever occupies the office of Prime Minister. This is unfortunate, but it's reality.”

On the subject of whether local candidates were being restricted in their campaigning, Harper said, “We encourage local candidates to campaign locally.” They are welcome to talk to local press, he said.

Oddly enough, his local candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands, Gary Lunn, was whisked away from a scrum after just a few minutes of being questioned on whether he considers oil and gas companies to be a cartel of the sort Harper was talking about, leaving local reporters with questions unanswered.

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