The PM meets (and greets) the Press

21 Dec

For a Prime Minister with a reputation for disliking – and avoiding – the Ottawa press gallery, Stephen Harper has spent a good chunk of time this past week with its members.

He’s done a whole whack o’ traditional year-end interviews with journalists, answering questions about Afghanistan, the economy, isotopes, etc.

He told a number of interviewers he’s not sure if a public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair will go forward in the New Year. It all depends on the recommendation of independent advisor David Johnston

Despite his chilly relationship with the press corps, Harper has made a couple of … sociable… gestures toward Ottawa hacks that were never made by his Liberal predecessors.

Almost every June, the Prime Minister – whoever he happens to be – throws a garden party outside his home at 24 Sussex Drive for Parliament Hill journos. Maybe because he’s the first Prime Minister in a couple of decades with young children, Harper was the first resident of 24 Sussex in recent memory to also invite journalists’ families to this event.

He’s also taken the rare step of inviting Press Gallery members as a group inside the residence for a Christmas reception. He did this for the first time last year. When he was told it was the first time many journalists had seen the interior of 24 Sussex Drive, he said:

“If I knew you guys were never invited inside before, I never would have invited you myself.”

But… he was just kidding, it seems. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister welcomed journalists for his second annual Christmas reception, held in the two large rooms on the main floor of the official residence (Mounties guarded the stairs leading up to the Harper family’s living quarters).

In a more casual chat than those that would follow later in the week, Harper talked with a gaggle of press gallery types about the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. He said all you had to do was look at Schreiber to know he was a “bad guy”.

He had nicer things to say about Mulroney, telling a story about the event during the last election campaign when Harper made his now-famous promise to cut the GST by two percentage points to five per cent.

After the event, Harper got back on his campaign bus, sitting next to Senator Marjorie LeBreton, one of Mulroney’s closest confidants. Sure enough, her cellphone rang and it was Mulroney asking to speak to Harper.

“I just want you to know,” the former PM with the slick baritone told the future PM (who does a mean impression of that baritone), “not only did I introduce the GST back when I was in power, but I also made sure to introduce it at seven per cent just so you could promise to cut it many years later.”

An amusing anecdote from the Prime Minister about a guy who isn’t giving him a lot to laugh about these days.

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