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Laureen Harper on raising family in public eye: Sophie Grégoire could give me tips

Laureen Harper takes part in an interview at 24 Sussex in Ottawa on Monday, April 22, 2013., to promote the website needhelpnow.ca which is aimed at combatting online exploitation of youth.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Laureen Harper has no tips for the Trudeaus about raising a young family in the public eye.

In fact, Harper says, she could probably take lessons from newly elected Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's wife, Sophie.

"I wouldn't give her any advice, they are more public," Laureen Harper said in a recent interview at 24 Sussex Drive.

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"She would walk down the street and people know her. I walk down the street and nobody would know me."

When Stephen Harper became leader of Conservative party in 2004, the Harpers' children were nine and five; the Trudeaus' are six and four.

In the nearly 10 years the Harpers have spent living in the public eye, they've kept Ben and Rachel mostly out of the spotlight, save for the obligatory family Christmas cards and occasional photo op.

On his first day as prime minister, Harper was famously photographed sending his kids off to school with a sound handshake.

The Harpers do make regular appearances at the childrens' extracurricular events, including sports tournaments on the weekends. And during the 2011 election campaign, Rachel baked cookies for the travelling press corps.

But the Trudeaus already have a much higher public profile among Canadians, Laureen Harper said. "They would probably have to deal with it a lot more than me."

Sophie Grégoire is a former model and television host, well-known in Quebec if not in the rest of the country.

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Justin Trudeau, of course, has been in the public spotlight since the day he was born; his father Pierre Trudeau was prime minister at the time.

By contrast, Laureen Harper's self-professed ability to fly under the radar sometimes makes for awkward encounters with the Canadian public, like one at a recent volleyball tournament, she said.

"I could hear people talking, and I'm standing right beside them and they had no idea that it was me standing right there," she said.

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