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All in a day: A charm offensive from the desk of @pmharper

There are no sweater vests in this digital makeover but Stephen Harper is launching a carefully orchestrated effort to broaden his online appeal to Canadians.

In recent weeks, the Prime Minister's Office has begun experimenting with a more behind-the-scenes approach to the Conservative Leader's posts on Twitter, the popular microblogging service.

On Monday, Mr. Harper diarized his day on Twitter, beginning with a picture of him eating breakfast at 24 Sussex Dr., a cat named Stanley at his side.

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Unlike the 2008 election, where a Tory TV ad campaign tried to market the Prime Minister as a friendly uncle in a sweater vest, Mr. Harper's more than 25 Twitter posts on Monday made few attempts to brand him as warm and fuzzy.

The Prime Minister doesn't even look at the camera in his breakfast photo. The video clips he tweeted were edited to remove sound, so Canadians couldn't hear what he was saying behind the scenes. When asked by a teacher on Twitter where his career plans might have led him if he hadn't become Prime Minister, Mr. Harper replied that his "plan was to be a professor of economics."

If anything, the Prime Minister seems to be fond of photos of himself working at his desk. At least 10 tweets on Monday were pictures of him seated in his office or at meeting tables, talking to staff or reading briefing books or calling people such as Ontario premier-designate Kathleen Wynne. "Even when you're PM, you have a healthy dose of homework to do every day," says one tweet featuring a photo of Mr. Harper at his big desk and surrounded by empty chairs.

Andrew MacDougall, the Prime Minister's director of communications, said the "day in the life" tweeting aimed to give Canadians a glimpse of life in the Prime Minister's shoes. "One of the questions we're often asked is 'what does a typical day in the life of the PM look like?' "

Mr. Harper's outreach is supported by a sizable staff. The communications contingent in the PMO has more than doubled in the past half-decade. A 2007-2008 phone directory shows 11 people in the PMO communications shop, not including translators. Today, the same directory shows 24 people.

Lighter tweets in the Prime Minister's Monday session include a video of him high-fiving popular Calgary Tory MP Michelle Rempel and a photo of Mr. Harper stroking a pet chinchilla when he returned home.

The PMO quickly followed up the fluffy rodent photo with another shot of Mr. Harper working at a desk, though.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More


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