Sunday was supposed to be a big night for Stephen Harper, who was the guest of honour at the Jewish National Fund's Negev Dinner at the Toronto Convention Centre.
The evening included a video tribute with a message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Harper, sans shirt and tie, announced a 2014 trip to the Middle East and he even entertained the large crowd with his musical stylings.
As with most things in Ottawa, the event had some PR value.
After weeks of being dogged by issues with regard to the ongoing Senate expense scandal, Harper was shown in a better light. People were praising the prime minister and he got to show off some of that Harper charisma.
But then came a reminder that the Senate expense scandal isn't going anywhere.
While the Negev dinner was coming to a close, the Privy Council Office announced that emails belonging to former PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin — a central figure in the scandal — had been discovered and were handed over to the RCMP.
As explained by the Globe and Mail, the emails, previously thought to be deleted, are expected to shed more light on the PMO's involvement in the Nigel Wright/Mike Duffy affair.
Mr. Perrin was involved in the discussions with Mr. Wright and other senior PMO officials over Mr. Duffy’s expense claims that were the subject of an audit earlier this year.
Some of the communications involving Mr. Perrin were already in the hands of the Mounties, as the RCMP already obtained e-mails from other officials involved in discussions with him. For example, Mr. Wright wrote to Mr. Perrin and other government officials on Feb. 22 to state that he would talk to Prime Minister Stephen Harper about a five-point deal to settle the matter involving Mr. Duffy.
Instead of Monday morning headlines about Stephen Harper 'rocking out' in Toronto, the media is reporting on the scandal — again.
Marcel Wieder, a political communications consultant, says that the prime minister can sing and perform all he wants but it's probably a case of too little, too late.
"The sheer volume of negative news coming out of Ottawa these days dwarfs the one ray of sunshine that the Prime Minister experienced on Sunday night. While he was in front of a very sympathetic audience, this performance will only have a limited shelf life and given the latest revelations will quickly become a passing thought in the weeks to come," Wieder, president of the Aurora Strategy Group, told Yahoo Canada News.
"The challenge for Harper is to string several of these humanizing events together to create a new narrative, one that shows him as a human, caring leader rather than an aloof Machiavellian tactician.
"Given that he has created an impression over the past decade of being a micro-manager and master political strategist, I'm not sure he can change his persona overnight with a Broadway show number."
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