Are we seeing a kinder, gentler Stephen Harper?

Andy Radia
Canada Politics
July 8, 2014

In February, the Toronto Star obtained a secret Conservative Party presentation which suggested that Stephen Harper's advisers had devised a strategy to humanize him — to have him "connect" with voters and to "leverage" the popularity of Laureen Harper.

Well, it seems that plan is coming to fruition.

Anecodotally, at least, it appears that we're seeing a kinder, gentler Stephen Harper.

A Stephen Harper who takes selfies, who does free-form interviews, and who is being a little more creative — and witty — on Twitter.

Mrs. Harper has also been more prominent.

As recently explained by CBC News, the prime minister's wife is getting a lot of screen time on 24/7 — the video series produced out of the prime minister's office.

The taxpayer-funded online PR tool has recently shown Laureen Harper introducing the mascot of the Woman's world cup, talking to students about texting and driving and delivering a message to Albertans on the one year anniversary of the summer floods.

[ Related: Stephen Harper mentions ‘God’ twice in Canada Day tweet, and outrage erupts ]

Political communications consultant Marcel Wieder, suggests that the Conservative Party's efforts to humanize Harper may have been intensified after the events the past couple of weeks.

"I am sensing that Canadians are starting to shift how they view and choose leaders. As elections in Ontario, Quebec and BC have demonstrated voters are looking for authenticity," Wieder told Yahoo Canada News in an email exchange.

"In Ontario Tim Hudak could not connect with voters because was not seen as authentic. Kathleen Wynne on the other hand had the burden of eleven years of Liberal rule but was seen as authentic by voters."

Wieder adds that the recent byelections — which saw the Justin Trudeau Liberals increase their share of the popular vote in each riding of the four ridings contested — should be a wake-up call for the Tories.

While Harper continues to attack Trudeau for his apparent 'lack of substance', Trudeau continues to do well at the polls thanks, in part, to his ability to connect with the public.

"The challenge for Harper is that he created the view of aloofness and callowness of his government," Wieder says.

"Now he will have to spend the next year trying to erase that image and reset the view of himself and the Conservative Party. It is a tall order but if he is going to beat Trudeau and Mulcair it is one that he is going to have to step up."

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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