Sandra Buckler, the communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has asked that staff working for Conservative cabinet ministers secretly provide her with assessments of their bosses' communications skills.
The directive has apparently caused tensions between the staffers and the ministers - and between the ministers and Ms. Buckler, who has often been criticized for her less-than-amicable relationship with the national news media.
Communications directors in the offices of federal cabinet ministers have told The Globe and Mail that Ms. Buckler asked them to compile reports critiquing their ministers' abilities and send the reports to her without informing the ministers.
One of them, speaking on condition he not be named, said the request put him in a difficult position because he was being asked to be critical of the minister who hired him - and who could also fire him in short order.
On the other hand, he said, "It is not wise to cross [Ms.] Buckler," who was in Vietnam with Mr. Harper yesterday and did not return requests for comment.
The media is never less interesting than when it's reporting on its own problems with the government; it's rather like hearing a stranger assail you with his litany of complaints about his neighbours.
But the media has a vested interest in portraying the Harper government as keeping everybody within it muzzled--a variation on the old "hidden agenda" theme.
This is just another skirmish in an increasingly one-sided war.