Politics

Harper names Soudas as his main spokesman

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed one of his closest and most faithful aides as his official spokesman.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed one of his closest and most faithful aides as his official spokesman.

Dimitri Soudas, 30, who has worked for Harper for eight years, replaces John Williamson as director of communications. Soudas, whose most recent position was associate director of communications, will be the prime minister's fifth communications director in five years.

Soudas's partisanship has landed him in trouble in the past.

Last December, he accused Canadian environmentalist Steven Guilbeault of being behind a spoof designed to embarrass the Canadian government at the Copenhagen climate summit. It turned out the Yes Men were responsible for the series of fake news releases that claimed Canada had committed to drastic greenhouse gas emission cuts.

In July 2009, Soudas had to apologize for passing along incorrect information to Harper about comments made by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

Harper criticized Ignatieff for saying Canada could become irrelevant at major international summits. But Ignatieff never made the comments, which were made by former Canadian diplomat Gordon Smith.

Earlier this year, Soudas had to close his Facebook account after he accepted a wanted criminal as a friend on the popular social networking site. Infoman, a Radio-Canada news program in Quebec, had faked the friend request and warned Soudas could have been causing a security risk by including personal photos of his family on Facebook.

Soudas, a bilingual Quebecer, has also been Harper's key Quebec adviser and spokesperson since the Conservatives won government in 2006.

His ties to the Action démocratique du Québec party have sometimes put him at odds with Tories in the province who are supporters of Premier Jean Charest's Liberals.

A government source told The Canadian Press on Sunday that Soudas has signalled he would like to change the government's communications strategy in his new role, directing ministerial staff to make their bosses more accessible to the media in a more timely fashion.

With files from The Canadian Press