The RCMP hustled journalists from a Charlottetown, P.E.I. hotel lobby to prevent them from approaching Conservative MPs attending their party's summer caucus meeting.

"No cameras, no mics," one plainclothed RCMP officer told CTV News on Wednesday. "That is what the party asked."

The Canadian Press reported that one officer said he was acting on the orders of the Prime Minister's Office.

The reporters weren't near the actual caucus meetings, which are closed-door affairs.

The eviction came shortly after Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor spoke for about 10 minutes with reporters over the recent controversy involving apparent contradictions between his public remarks and those of Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff. O'Connor blamed the news media for the controversy.

The Conservatives have set up a media room in a nearby federal building. MPs will be made available "where appropriate."

Sandra Buckler, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications, told CP by e-mail that the Tories were following practices similar to last summer's caucus meeting in Cornwall, Ont.

"Obviously much of what we're doing is confidential," national caucus chair Rahim Jaffer told reporters.

"Unlike in Ottawa when we do have caucus meetings and you have access to almost all of us coming in and out of the room, here it's a little different."

Jaffer also noted that some MPs have their wives and children with them.

"We hope there will be some respect for families and others because it is a little bit different and having the cameras there, having the journalists there sometimes (is) intimidating for some of these people who don't get a chance ..." he said.

However, later in the evening, Jaffer said the RCMP made the decision based on security concerns.

Re-energizing government

An election doesn't appear to be on the horizon in the near to mid-term, but the Tories are expected to discuss strategies for boosting the minority government's popularity.

In a Strategic Counsel poll released July 18, the Conservatives were in a dead heat with the Liberals, with each party recording 31 per cent support. While Liberal support was flat, the Tories had declined three percentage points from the previous poll.

In his public Wednesday night speech to what the party estimated was more than 1,000 people, Harper defended the government's record since taking office on Feb. 6, 2006.

Harper said the country is more united now than at any time since the centennial year of 1967.

He said the Tories "were not ashamed of Canada's proud military heritage" and referred scornfully to the opposition parties' repeated questions about the "allegations of Taliban prisoners."

Those alleged Taliban members claimed to have been tortured by Afghan authorities after being turned over by Canadian troops -- an act which could have put Canada in violation of international law.

On the broader issue of criminal justice, Harper said, "We as a party have long believed that the central purpose of a criminal justice system isn't the welfare of the criminal, it's the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property."

Harper didn't offer hints of the government's agenda might when Parliament returns, either in late September or October.

Some speculate Parliament might be prorogued to allow the government to table a throne speech and set out a new legislative agenda.

Industry Minister Maxime Bernier seemed cool to that idea, noting, "We still have things to achieve. We have 13 bills that are not in force right now."

With a report from CTV's Genevieve Beauchemin and files from The Canadian Press