PMO killed the YouTube star: fishin’ buddies Stephen Harper and Rob Ford (briefly) go viral

PMO killed the YouTube star: fishin’ buddies Stephen Harper and Rob Ford (briefly) go viral

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mayor Rob Ford and a 39-centimetre fish became instant viral sensations last week when a video was posted to YouTube showing His Honour and His Worship cracking wise about a recent fishing trip (Ford caught the big fish) and the upcoming provincial election while attending an Etobicoke barbecue. Unfortunately, it seems that the prime minister’s pointed and partisan comments—he muses about the prior “NDP mess” at city hall and expresses his hope that Tim Hudak usher in a provincial Conservative government this fall to “complete the hat trick”—were deemed unfit for public ears. In other words, the video was summarily removed following a complaint from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Toronto Star’s national affairs columnist, Tim Harper, has the details:

The other problem with the Harper video was his cheerleading for Hudak.

It’s not politically smart, nor [is it] particularly productive, to take on a sitting premier on the eve of an election campaign in the country’s largest province.

If McGuinty really can capitalize on a Ford backlash, Harper just gave him a helping hand.

Over the past few weeks, it has seemed more and more that politicos of all stripes believe exactly that—that the provincial Liberals need to galvanize an anti-Ford movement in order to stay in office this fall. Interim federal Liberal leader Bob Rae—himself a Toronto MP—took a direct shot at the mayor last week, while MPP Bob Chiarelli blasted the mayor’s transit plan last month. And Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan briefly made headlines when, amid reports that consultants had uncovered very little waste at city hall, he said, “The bloom is coming off Rob Ford this week.”

While we’ve noted early indications of an end to the kind of popularity that swept Ford into office, we remain skeptical that the mayor will see a full-on backlash by the time the provincial campaign heats up (and, really, if that would even have any effect). What’s more interesting here is the breach of Harper’s legendary policy of media and message control. The PM has stuck with a winning formula of carefully planned and choreographed media appearances since taking office; these off-the-cuff remarks were clearly not supposed to go beyond the fence of the Ford family backyard.

Rob Ford barbecue has surprise guest: ‘fishing partner’ Stephen Harper [Toronto Star]
Tim Harper: Fishing Buddies Wednesday, gone by Thursday [Toronto Star]
August BBQ with Prime Minister Harper [Facebook]

(Images: Stephen Harper—Γιώργος Α. Παπανδρέου Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας; fish—Jeffrey Smith; Rob Ford—Shaun Merritt)