Harper hires Americans to help him “brand” Canada, presumably as a nation incapable of branding itself


Ever the generous neighbour, Stephen Harper is unveiling his own little U.S. stimulus package. Our Prime Minister has retained two prominent American consultants to help him get noticed in the United States.

What – the charismatic personality wasn’t doing the trick on its own?

Bottom line: there shall be no recession in the households of former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer and former Clinton mouthpiece Mike McCurry. How much are these guys getting paid to help our PM line up interviews in the U.S. media? Alas, the Harper government won’t say, citing the provisions of the We Didn’t Tell You How Much the Psychic Hairstylist Makes – You Think We’re Going to Tell You This?

But really, you can’t put a price on the PR value of having your Prime Minister go on U.S. cable news and repeatedly rub it in the faces of Americans that, compared to our own, their bankers are laughably inept and spazzy.

“Canada has a very good story to tell, and it won’t tell itself,” Kory Teneycke, Harper’s spokesman, told Canwest in an effort to explain the McCurry-Fleischer hires. At first I almost bought this line, but then it occurred to me that it was spoken by a spokesman deemed too incompetent by his own boss to be entrusted with the responsibility of giving Wolf Blitzer a buzz.

According to Teneycke, whose communications superpowers apparently peter out at the U.S. border, this is all part of a long-term government strategy to “brand” Canada in a positive light. Think of us as the Vitamin Water of the United Nations. Heck, maybe McCurry and Fleischer will help us come up with a catchy slogan that will really grab the attention of Americans – something like “Canada: We exist!” or “Canada: Our Prime Minister can’t get on Fox News without your help.”

I guess if there’s an upside, it’s that members of our own press gallery now understand what it takes to get a question answered by our Prime Minister – an American passport and Ari Fleischer’s cell number.

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Harper hires Americans to help him “brand” Canada, presumably as a nation incapable of branding itself

  1. Ari Fleischer is an interesting choice. His main reputation is as a master liar, but he had a way of making Bush look intelligent and astute by comparison. Some people concluded that Fleischer was too stupid to know he was lying. There are some pretty humorous interviews of him, such as the one where he is explaining how everyone was fooled into believing they would find WMD in Iraq.

    Fleischer is the type of spokesperson who would be useful for someone like Schreiber, so it’s interesting that Harper thinks this is what he needs.

    • Best headline ever: “Fleischer Tells Truth!”

      This is from Slate’s Timothy Noah who made a very good living documenting Fleischer’s stream-of-consciousness lies in his “Whopper of the Week” column.


      It really is a sorry statement that our *Prime Minister* is willing to work with a man who’s made himself a laughingstock in the very market he’s trying to woo.

  2. Meanwhile, the Liberals are pinning their hopes on their purchase of US software used by the Obama team. Perhaps a cybernetic Liberal fundraising machine will rise from the depths to outmatch the former Democratic and Republican Press Secretaries. (These two gentlemen are clearly ideological opposites, given that one was well known for styling his hair with a salad shooter, while the other used a bowling ball waxer.)

    • “These two gentlemen are clearly ideological opposites, given that one was well known for styling his hair with a salad shooter, while the other used a bowling ball waxer.”


    • The two are probably necessary to cover both sides of Harper’s split political personality.

      • The Three Faces of Steve

    • Well, they may carry different labels but there is only one ideology on K Street.

  3. Who has the PMO hired to raise Harper’s profile in Canada? Clearly, Kory T. is incapable of doing it. The guy can’t even get his boss out of the can in time for a photo-op.

  4. I presume Harper’s goal here has nothing to do with Canada’s reputation abroad. The goal is to raise his own personal profile in the U.S to help build his soon-to-be career as an international lobbyist/paid board-sitter, like most of his predecessors.

    I’m curious to know if his party members, or taxpayers, are paying for Harper’s career-planning efforts.

    – JV

    • As someone pointed out in the other thread, this may be motivated to win Canadian votes from the crowd that watches CNN, Fox, etc. These US advisors may book him with sympathetic interviewers and Harper manages to look like he is doing something and doesn’t have to answer questions from inquisitive Canadian journalists and he (or the CPC) doesn’t have to pay for it.

    • I’m with Catherine on this one. I think this is all about domestic politics and not foreign affairs. I think Harper’s decided that even journalists at places like CTV and the National Post have an annoying habit of “knowing stuff about what’s going on in Canada” and “asking the Prime Minister about stuff that has to do with his governance of Canada”; whereas, for the most part, U.S. journalists, in the current climate, will mostly focus on things like “Why is Canada so great?” and “What can we Americans learn from you Prime Minister?”.

      I really think this is mostly about making sure Canadian voters see Harper in a positive light, and see international figures of some “fame” fawning over him on T.V. (your Blitzers, your Coopers, your Wallaces). It’s really about getting a bunch of positive media coverage by going to the media that doesn’t really care much about, or know much about, the issues that are of importance to Canada, so that Harper can just look good, and appear on CNN and Fox without having to deal with substantive issue, or being seriously challenged.

      Or am I way too cynical? LOL

      • Or am I way too cynical? LOL

        We have a Prime Minister who introduced a fixed election date law, saying it fulfilled his campaign promise for electoral reform, would prevent a Prime Minister from calling an election at a politically opportune time, would increase voter turn out and would reduce voter cynicism.

        We know how that turned out.

        It really is not possible to be cynical enough.

      • No, I think you’re absolutely right. I also think, as I’ve said before, that he should not be allowed to do this. Why should he spend our money getting his image polished in the US, and what’s wrong with Parliament that he’s allowed to get away with it? It’s no good having Ignatieff ask him these questions in Parliament, because nobody sees this — and apparently Harper has wrecked the media to the point where we’re not going to find out about it either. He’s a big beefy bully who just does what he wants to do.
        Alberta Beefalo.

        • Also, in the last election Harper had the “leadership” edge sewn up (… like an ugly sweater…) before the race even began. This time, it looks like he’s got some more work cut out for him, and nothing make you look more prime ministerial in the eyes of those Canadians with permanent inferiority complexes (EG the “Chretien isn’t effective as PM because Americans make fun of his speech” crowd) than attention from the U.S. media.

          He may have miscalculated – Fox News is painting themselves as anti-government – ALL government – these days. They’re more likely to bring the guy who meets with his freidns in a shack on weekends and thinks Obama’s coming to get his guns in for an interview than most Repblicans, let alone a Canadian.

  5. Maybe my memory is totally off on this, but didn’t one of Harper’s advisors leave the PMO a few months ago to go do consulting work in the US? Or, at the very least, do work with a GOP-leaning thinktank? You’d think he could line up a job for his old boss…

    • Yes, one of his top aides, whose wife is American. Harper is quite involved with the wealthy elite Republicans in the US – and involved by way of his Alliance church which is bigger in the US than in Canada. He’s more American than he is Canadian – he might as well take out US citizenship. If he could turn Canada into a Republican country beholden to the US, they’d be real happy.

  6. I think Harper is on to something here, but it may all fall flat by poor execution and personnel choices. it is certainly worth spending some effort to prevent Canada being used as a scapegoat by low-grade US politicians and talking heads, but Ari Fleischer? Yuk.

    Of course, Feschuk would rather he was using Lindsay Lohan or similar(she is apparently looking for a new purpose in her life), but then he is just biased against Harper.

  7. If anyone thinks that Canada is going to get noticed in the US by paying these 2 clowns millions, they are in for a big surprise. What, Canada is suddenly going to be top story in the news because of our banking system? Clearly, this move is designed to get Harper’s message to the CANADIAN people through US news without having to deal with the CANADIAN media who ask too many questions. Harper is turning out to be quite the joke.

  8. It just doesn’t get any weirder than this, eh?, good old boy.

  9. He may not wear Guccis, but I think this is greasing the skids for Harper to slide into a career in the US, just like Mulroney did.

    • Using some of the good old time shmeergelder I presume?
      Why can’t Harper user Monster.ca like everybody else who is out of work or soon to be?

  10. Ah, isn’t Michael Wilson, Mr. Suppose to have all the right connections, not doing his job?

  11. I used to be a proud Canadian right now Im fighting to get E.I. and I here my tax dollars are supporting Ari Fleicher?I feel like knocking myself off!!!

  12. I imagine that we the Canadian Taxpayer are once again picking up the tab for this????!!!! This is TERRIBLE

  13. Slime bug   Ari       master  of    creating monsters…

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