Harper's new staffer to counter criticism

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new director of communications says he'll address criticism of him once he's started his job.

New director of communications doesn't speak French and wrote critically about Quebec

Angelo Persichilli, named the Prime Minister's director of communications this week, was in Ottawa Friday but deferred questions about his views on Quebec and his new role until he starts the job next week. 0:51

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new director of communications says he'll address criticism of him once he's started his job.

Angelo Persichilli, who starts next week as Harper's top communications adviser, is being criticized for some of what he wrote about Quebec when he was a columnist for the Toronto Star.

The former journalist, who was also political editor for an Italian-language newspaper and a commentator on Omni TV, is being called out for a column he wrote last year that took issue with the province's "annoying lament." He's also being criticized for not speaking French.

Spotted in downtown Ottawa Friday with Terry Guillon, the chief of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, Persichilli told CBC News he didn't have time for an interview.

"When I'm that position [of director of communications], definitely. I'm not. 'Til Monday it's Dimitri Soudas, so you have to address all the questions to Dimitri," Persichilli said, referring to Harper's outgoing spokesman.

"I'm going to address the issue at the proper time," he added.

Politicians from Quebec are joining some media outlets in questioning Harper's choice of Persichilli.

The Parti Québécois says Harper should distance himself from Persichilli's comments.

And NDP MP Romeo Saganash says hiring Persichilli shows the Tories have abandoned Quebec.

Passages from Persichilli's Toronto Star column from April 2010 were also splashed across the front page of the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir Friday.

Harper's press spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, told CBC News that "the prime minister has been quite clear ... that Quebec will remain at the heart of our government."

"We will continue to practice open federalism towards Quebec," MacDougall added.

Soudas released a letter late Friday to answer criticism earlier in the day by a reporter from Le Devoir.

Speaking to Radio-Canada, Hélène Buzzetti said Harper doesn't have anyone in his office who speaks French or is a Quebecer.

Soudas' letter says that's not correct: MacDougall speaks French and Harper has a press secretary, Carl Vallée, who is a Francophone Quebecer.

With files from The Canadian Press