Inside Politics

Harper's birthday disrupts his ministers

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For a government known for meticulous message control and media event planning, it was rather unexpected to see the cabinet ministers assembled in the Commons foyer to react to Tuesday's auditor general's report disrupted by enthusiastic singing from above.

April 30 is Stephen Harper's birthday. Despite the fact that four of his ministers were facing a small crowd of reporters, beaming live to the nation with their explanations and action plans following Auditor General Michael Ferguson's findings, no one directly upstairs in the prime minister's office seems to have checked to see if the news conference was over before bursting into bilingual song in honour of the boss's special day.

The assembled ministers stopped, looked upwards, then tried to re-concentrate and carry on with what turned out to be the final question.

The Harper government boasts a large communications shop - historically large, by some accounts, and anecdotal observations and Access to Information requests have revealed the lengths to which communications planning and image cultivation are top-of-mind considerations, from carefully vetted scripts and centrally-managed talking points to heavily produced and stage-managed backdrops whenever cameras are rolling.

Was the news conference supposed to have ended by then? Or maybe the distraction from above was deliberate, helping to wrap things up? If so, it worked, in a sense: several reporters switched off the topic of the AG's findings and tweeted about the singing instead of what the ministers were saying.

The cake presented to Harper by his team gently mocked the government's current communications focus.

Here's a photo, courtesy of Calgary MP Michelle Rempel's Twitter feed:

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