Stephen Harper and his caucus under ‘lock and key’ when speaking to Canadians

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

I was watching a clip from the prime minister's press conference on Monday, and thought: if I was his public relations chief, this is the Stephen Harper that I'd want to show more often.

Harper was asked a question about who he'll support in this weekend's Grey Cup and started to wax poetic about another Argos - Stampeders game 41 years ago.

"The reason I remember that so well is I think that was the only time I cried in front of the TV at a sports event," he said.

"We had been waiting for 20 years. I was growing up in Toronto then — obviously the Argonauts were my team.

"Now, look, I still have a soft spot for them, but now the shoe's on the other foot. I now live in Calgary. I represent Calgary in the House of Commons so I've got to be on the side of my new hometown."

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Stephen Harper uncut was open, he was funny and he was actually likable.

Why don't we see that more often?

Since coming into office in 2006, the prime minister has — for the post part — operated behind a veil of government press releases and talking points.

"Mr. Harper being the only prime minister in memory not to submit to open-ended press conferences, are well documented," Lawrence Martin wrote in the Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

"Journalists complain, but to no avail. Gone are the days when prime ministers appeared before open audiences and faced hecklers, when they submitted to questioning at lengthy media sessions or when they were photographed in non-controlled environments."

Harper has also turned his caucus into walking robots.

Last week, Global News interviewed Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre about the interim budget report. The journalist asked Poilievre seven different questions and each time received the exact same answer.  You have to see this video to believe it.

Also last week, CTV's Don Martin caught cabinet minister Maxime Bernier being coached on what to say before a live interview.

Making sure that cabinet and caucus are on the same page is undoubtedly important.

But too much messaging leads people to believe that you're trying to hide something.

My advice to the Tory PR gurus: let them speak.  Let Canadians see the 'real' Stephen Harper and the 'real' cabinet ministers.  These are successful accomplished people who can probably string together a couple of sentences without 'embarrassing' the government.

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Let them talk, and then maybe — just maybe — you'll get past the 35 per cent mark in the opinion polls.

My invoice is in the mail.