CTV News | Federal Election 2019
Reporter's notebook: What it was like on Liberal campaign when the brownface photo surfaced
WINNIPEG -- Before Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau arrived at the rally, local Liberal candidates were on stage in candidate Lenore Zann’s small riding office in a strip mall next to the train station in downtown Truro, N.S.
She told the crowd of about 100 people packed in the room that one of the reasons she supports Trudeau is that he “wouldn’t embarrass us” on the world stage.
At the rally, Trudeau seemed very upbeat and was enjoying taking selfies with a long line of supporters inside.
The Strumbellas’ song used for his campaign events had to be played multiple times over and over to give him time to work through the room to the stage.
There was nothing to suggest he was concerned about something looming.
Journalists had just left the rally and were on the media bus driving to the airport when we started getting emails and calls about the TIME Magazine picture. Trudeau’s bus had departed about half an hour earlier.
Reporters huddled on the bus and agreed we had to ask for Trudeau to make a statement on camera at the airport. I went and spoke to Cameron Ahmad, his lead media person onthe road, about this. He said it was being discussed among campaign staff.
By the time we arrived at the airport, the Liberal campaign had agreed that Trudeau would make a statement and take questions, and we would be given time to file reports on it.
Later, we learned it would be on the plane, the replacement 737 jet the campaign has been using after the wing incident. At the end of the first day of this campaign, the bus carrying the media covering Trudeau drove under the wing, causing enough damage to ground it.
The pool cameras moved into position, in about the sixth or seventh row from the front of the aircraft, where Trudeau and staff sit during flights. Thierry Guillon, Trudeau’s advance person, used silver gaffer tape in the shape of an “X” to mark a spot in the aisle where the Liberal leader would stand to deliver his remarks.
Reporters co-operated well to ensure TV and photo journalists could get an unobstructed shot and reporters would be close enough to be able to ask questions and hear the responses. The engines of the plane were running and it was a bit loud.
But we all stayed quiet because the mics were hot and the video feed was being transmitted live and we knew CTV News Channel was broadcasting it. We all wanted to discuss what was about to happen but couldn’t.
It was an odd, almost eerie silence, uncharacteristic of the media horde.
Trudeau walked through the curtain at the front of the plane and gave his statement. There was no structure for asking questions. We all had to shout them out.
Trudeau looked directly at whoever asked and held his gaze as he answered the questions. He looked shaken but composed.
After, we all scrambled to write our stories and record on-cameras on the tarmac outside the plane in time to transmit them back to our newsrooms. We were in the air about 45 minutes later.
On the flight back, Trudeau sat in one of the front rows near where he had given his press conference. He was in the seat farthest left, and seemed to be leaning against the fuselage wall. He was listening to music.
During the three-hour flight he chatted with his campaign staff, including Cyrus Reporter and Katie Telford.
These didn’t seem like intense conversations. It looked like they had already talked all this through before his statement.
We didn’t have WiFi on the plane and most of the journalists seemed to be relieved to catch their breath, after reporting on an extraordinary campaign development on an extremely tight filing window.
After the flight, Trudeau and his staff left through the aircraft front door, as always, and left for his hotel. The media stayed at a different hotel.