Four out of five press gallery members agree
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
Stephen Harper is a dour, robotic man. Controlling, pompous and devoid of any sense of humour.
If indeed you have heard this one, you’ve probably heard it from a Liberal – and for obvious reasons. However, unlike most of the Liberal party’s many characteristic partisan whispering campaigns, this one is apparently true.
Provoking a small amount of controversy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has declined to attend the upcoming press gallery dinner, scheduled for 27 October. It is customary for politicians attending the said dinner to give mock self-effacing speeches, and it’s generally considered a highlight of Ottawa’s social calendar.
He won’t be alone, either. His office has reportedly also issued instructions to federal cabinet ministers to also take a pass on the event. Governor-General Michaelle Jean has also decided not to attend.
Depending on who you ask, recently the Conservative party has seldom missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This is another one of those times.
It’s hard to understand why Stephen Harper would decline to attend this event. As Leader of the Opposition, he has attended twice before, delivering what many people considered to be uncharacteristically funny performances in 2004 and 2005.
When Audrey McLaughlin declined to attend following a flat-on-her-face performance penned by a feminist comedian, at least it was understandable when she declined to attend the next year. With Harper, not so much.
This really is one of those times when Harper could learn something from George W Bush, who not only invited Stephen Colbert to give a characteristically hilarious performance at the White House Correspondant's dinner, but was actually fairly gracious about the entire affair, despite the speech's often-scathing nature, even shaking Colbert's hand afterward.
While many may point to Harper’s decision not to partake in this event as merely another skirmish in his ongoing feud with the Ottawa Press Gallery, the core truth beneath it all may be simpler than all of that.
Perhaps Harper, as Prime Minister, really is no fun at all.