Canada Politics

The prime minister’s wife in Calgary: Working hard or hardly working?

Canada Politics

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen

There are, as they say, two sides to every story.

That's certainly the case with the story about Laureen Harper in Calgary on Wednesday.

We have one account of the prime minster's wife doing yeomen's work and another complaining that she was just there for a photo-op.

Here's side one:

The Calgary Herald is reporting that Mrs. Harper spent the whole day, Wednesday, getting her hands dirty to help victims of the Calgary flood.

"The prime minister’s wife — along with a whole bunch of Calgary MPs, friends and assistants — cleaned out literally tonnes of garbage from flood-damaged Calgary-area homes, helped deliver tonnes of food at the Morley reserve and then — after putting in a solid eight hours of work and travel, continued on to Exshaw, where she helped clean out a couple more damaged homes," the Herald's Licia Corbella wrote.

"In other words, this was no political photo op. This was hard, hard work."

Corbella even quotes individuals gushing over Mrs. Harper — the native Calgarian.

"It’s pretty incredible that she’s here, and look at her work," Rick Lauzon, whose basement was damaged in the flood said.

[ Related: Justin Trudeau to ‘roll up his sleeves’ and help with Alberta flood cleanup efforts ]

Diane Fjaagesund, however, has a very different take of what happened.

The Calgarian resident was on-site of one Mrs. Harper's 'missions' on Wednesday and has the photos to prove it.

She said the whole thing was nothing but a photo-op and ranted about it on her Facebook page:

PM Harper's wife was cleared to come through the area for a set up photo op. The city found a pile of garbage in a neighbour's yard and asked if they could help. I said it wasn't ours and to ask further down. The MLAs and the PM's wife formed and assembly line and made it look like they were hard at work... but it was all just a set up.

One of the PR people came over to the pile of tools we were cleaning and just helped herself to a screw driver so Harpers wife looked like she was dismantling something. Didn't ask.. just took it.

We were not the house they were helping... or pretending to help. My friend that lived there marched over and made his opinion's on the entire situation here, in High River and all other's affected well known and he got his screw driver back. He asked them where they were to help 3 to 4 days ago when they were knee deep in water. He said, "We don't need people down here for a photo op... we need help!"

As a caption to one of her pictures, Fjaagesund claims that the assembly line only lasted between five and ten minutes.

[ Related: Alberta Floods - Complete coverage and live updates ]

Regardless of which side of the story you believe, it's a lesson for other politicians — and their spouses — going forward: If you're going to offer to help, actually help and maybe leave the PR people at home.

Otherwise, you're going to have a lot of angry people who have more important things to deal with than politics and politicians.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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