Laureen Harper cancels plans to attend arts gala
Laureen Harper cancelled her plans to attend the National Art Centre's annual gala a day after her husband, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, said such events don't resonate with "ordinary people."
Harper told the centre Wednesday that due to campaign commitments outside Ontario, she could no longer make it to the event on Oct. 4, the centre confirmed Friday.
The gala features jazz singer Tony Bennett along with classical performances by the NAC orchestra to raise money for the centre's educational arts programs for youth across the country.
Jayne Watson, director of communications for the centre, said she doesn't think Harper's decision had anything to do with her husband's remarks.
"Mrs. Harper's been a very strong supporter of the National Arts Centre since 2005," said Watson, adding that Harper has been the honorary chair of the centre for the past two years, as is customary for the spouse of the prime minister.
Watson said Harper is among a dozen people involved in federal politics who have cancelled their plans to attend the gala since the election was called for Oct. 14.
"We heard from a few other people involved with the campaign, elected officials who actually have to be out knocking on doors," she said, naming Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, Heritage Minister Josée Verner and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
Watson said Harper's attendance at the annual gala in past years "adds some star power," but the musical stars on the program will make this year's event a wonderful evening, nonetheless.
On Tuesday, Stephen Harper responded to criticism about his government's cuts to arts programs at a campaign stop in Saskatoon by calling that a "niche issue." He went on to say: "I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at a rich gala all subsidized by the taxpayers, claiming their subsidies have actually gone up, I don't think that's something that resonates with ordinary people."