OTTAWA — MR. HOCKEY
Stephen Harper got to show off his hockey skills at a photo op in Port Moody, B.C., on Tuesday.
The Conservative leader was visiting Cascadia Sports Systems, a company that builds products for gymnasiums and hockey arenas, including boards.
Harper blasted about a dozen shots into the boards at a test area within the facility.
He also pretended he was shooting a puck at the assembled media and then started laughing saying, “I could do that all day.”
Harper didn’t specify whether he was talking about scaring cameramen or shooting hockey pucks.
The Conservative campaign was faltering last week, which is to say stumbling, drifting, losing ground on the long road to Canada’s federal election on October 19: that’s what everybody was saying, if not the Conservatives themselves. The big problem? Missteps, according to The Globe and Mail. Also? Dogged controversies. Mike Duffy was one of those, along with some candidates who had to be dumped for loutishness. The economy hasn’t been playing well for Stephen Harper’s governing party, of course, not to mention (other than to mention) the Syrian refugee crisis. Dissension in the ranks! Plummets in the polls!
The Toronto Star’s Ottawa bureau chief was on the case, Tonda MacCharles. She said that Stephen Harper was rattled.
No, sir, said the Conservatives.
Still, campaign manager Jenni Byrne did leave Harper’s side to return to Ottawa party headquarters, a sign of … something? And there was (as MacCharles reported) “a report that Australian polling consultant Lynton Crosby was parachuting in to pull the rip-cords on a campaign in free-fall.”
Peter Mansbridge and the “At Issue” panel got into that on Thursday on CBC-TV’s The National. Here’s what Andrew Coyne from The National Post:
“I wonder how much of it is just sort of a morale boost. Sometimes in a hockey game you replace the goalie, not necessarily because that’s going to make a difference, functionally, but it just gives the team a jolt.”
Mansbridge: “Yeah, but it can also work the other way.”
Also from Tonda MacCharles came news of a private Tuesday dinner for the prime minister in Toronto. Stepping beyond his small circle of advisers and strategists, he’d gathered unnamed friends for consultation. MacCharles:
Asked about the performance of campaign manager Jenni Byrne on Thursday Harper refused to comment, saying he won’t discuss “questions of staffing.”
“Obviously I have a good team,” he said, before shifting his answer back to campaign mode: “For me the big question of this campaign remains the same,” he said in French — the choice before voters about which party has the best economic plan to move the country forward.
That, too, was deliberate, part of one of the takeaways from the kitchen cabinet dinner, that the campaign had to get back to focusing on its core economic message, and pitch the contrast between Harper and his opponents.
Other takeaways: Harper should loosen up. Voila: there soon followed two photo ops of him doffing his suit jacket and playing ball hockey with kids after a disability savings announcement, then later shooting the ball around with his staff on an airport tarmac.
Yet no one downplays that it had been a tough week.
“Well, you know, I thought going into this debate that Justin Trudeau had to do one really important thing: he had to go into the corners and come out with the puck. He had to go toe-to-toe with these really strong-willed politicians and I think he did that a number of times tonight …”
• Abacus Data chairman Bruce Anderson’s verdict on how Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau delivered on expectations at the Maclean’s National Leaders Debate in Toronto, during a discussion on the August 6 edition of the At Issue panel on CBC-TV’s The National.
“He needs to show that he can go into the corners with those other, kind-of-brawling-type politicians and come out with the puck. So toughness is something he needs to demonstrate. He doesn’t get to do that in the House of Commons very much; he doesn’t do it on the hustings, particularly. But this is an opportunity to do that.”
• Abacus Data chairman Bruce Anderson on what Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has to do at tonight’s Maclean’s National Leaders Debate in Toronto, during a discussion on the August 5 edition of the At Issue panel on CBC-TV’s The National.