Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

PM's Tim's trip tries to crack 'bubble' image

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DIEPPE, N.B. -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited a Tim Hortons here on Friday morning.

He didn't just waltz in the door, unannounced.

Rather, it was a pre-arranged photo op to show Harper away from the other controlled settings that have defined his campaign tour.

Harper has faced questions over whether he is running a campaign in a "bubble" because he has not done any unplanned "walkabouts" on city streets. He has also been limiting questions at daily news conferences to five queries.

However, on almost every day, Harper's campaign has arranged at least one photo op. The journalists on the tour who take pictures and video are invited.

But Harper's staff say there is not enough space at the event for all journalists travelling on his tour, so a smaller group of "pool reporters" come along to observe and then file a report to the other journalists.

Here's what happened at the Tim Hortons on Friday.

When the journalists walked in, some of the people inside looked at their watches and said that Harper must be coming soon.

One of the customers didn't even hide the fact that he was a Conservative supporter. He was wearing a blue Harper sticker that the campaign team gives out to supporters at rallies.

At about 11:30, Harper arrived, accompanied by his wife, Laureen, and New Brunswick Premier David Alward.

Harper shook hands with a few people, then went behind the counter and served coffee to six or seven customers.

He talked about hockey with a boy, whose name is Ben.

Harper told him his son, also named Ben, has retired from hockey, and is doing other things.

Another customer told Harper he looks younger in person than on TV. The Conservative leader thought that was funny. He laughed and said he feels younger than he looks on TV.

Once all the customers had been served and there was no one left in line, Laureen told her husband to get her a regular coffee, black.

"You should know that," she joked.

Then she told him to pay for it.

Harper then dipped his hands into his pockets and couldn't find any money.

As everyone from the campaign was leaving, Laureen made sure someone paid for the coffee.

And that was it. One more day on the trail. One more photo op.

 

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 2, 2011 A4

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