Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Taxpayers foot the bill for PM's image guru

Apr 18, 2007 07:50 PM

Canadian press

OTTAWA – It turns out that taxpayers are picking up the tab for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's personal primper.

After two days of ducking media and opposition questions, the Conservatives finally revealed Wednesday that Michelle Muntean is on Harper's government staff.

But the revelation raises two more big questions: How much is she being paid? And why is there no government record of her employment.

Harper has been travelling with his personal image adviser for major domestic and international events – most recently at ceremonies at Vimy Ridge in France last week. Muntean helps him perfect his look, including managing his wardrobe and general grooming.

News that Harper uses a style maven had the opposition both frothing and laughing.

"Does the prime minister have difficulty sleeping at night wondering whether he should wear the light blue socks or the dark blue ones?" New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis asked in the House of Commons, to loud hoots and claps.

"Can the prime minister tell us who pays for his fashion adviser, and how much that costs?"

Liberal MP Garth Turner also took a shot at his former boss: ``It's a legitimate question. I think it's an embarrassing one to him because he likes the cowboy image and not all cowboys wear powder."

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan wouldn't say who pays for Muntean's services.

"Mr. Speaker, the prime minister maintains a tour staff, as do all prime ministers," Van Loan told the Commons.

But a government source later confirmed that taxpayers are on the hook for Muntean's services – although the Conservative party pays her expenses.

However, there is no record of Muntean as an employee of the Prime Minister's Office, according to an official at the Privy Council Office. And an Access to Information request turned up no record of contracts paid out to Muntean.

Harper, meanwhile, has demanded accountability on such matters in the past.

As an MP, Harper went after Reform Leader Preston Manning publicly for not detailing his party-paid clothing allowance. Under pressure, Manning eventually did provide an accounting of the $31,000 perk, but tensions between the two men had begun in earnest.

In a bit of synchronicity, Harper was to attend a Manning event Wednesday night.

Conservative Party president Don Plett said the matter is not one that the party's governing body would have dealt with, but rather the Conservative Fund of Canada, and said he didn't know anything about it.

Calls to both the party headquarters and to fund president Irving Gerstein were not returned.

John Williamson, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said such expenses are better paid by political parties.

"The idea that these expenses are going to be run up on the public tab and then answers aren't going to be forthcoming about how much its costing is unacceptable from a taxpayers point of view."

Muntean began working with Harper during his run for the Conservative leadership, and stayed through two federal campaigns. She hails from the world of film and television, and had become CBC's head of makeup by the late 1990s.

A warm, bubbly personality, Muntean has now become a fixture in Harper's entourage and remains the only staff member he tolerates style advice from. Sources said Harper has tried to convince her to move to Ottawa, but she remains based near Toronto.

In addition to her travels to Vimy Ridge, Muntean was also with Harper in Hanoi, Vietnam when he met with Pacific rim leaders, and in St. Petersburg, Russia for last summer's G8 summit.


At 10:52 p.m. , Anonymous don muntean said...

The Liberals many stole millions of dollars and the NDP are human rights violators and - you're concerned about the PM having an image consultant on staff - grow up!

If he wants to have that then that is his business - how many assistants did martin and cretin have? Did they have to justify that? No.

Clearly naysayers have to grasp at straws with Mr. Harper.

P.S. BTW - I'm not related to the noted image consultant - didn't even know this person existed until yesterday when this issue was brought up.

At 11:50 p.m. , Blogger ottlib said...


I would agree with you if it were not for the fact that Stephen Harper said he would do things differently. In fact he campaigned on it, which we now know is a lie.

You are pissed off at the Liberals for stealing money but you do not seem to mind being lied to by the Conservatives.

I think both are reprehensible myself why don't you?

Either you just do not see that you are being lied to by Mr. Harper and his ilk or you are just a hypocrit.

I would be curious to know which one.

At 12:05 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the big deal?

It is not as if she is Harper's girlfriend.

Come on, people. There are more important things to talk about.

At 12:06 a.m. , Blogger knb said...

If he wants to have that then that is his business

No my friend, when I'm paying the tab, it's MY business.

At 10:57 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harper put himself on the shelf of accountability and transparancy - he did it to himself.

I know PM's use image consultants advising how to dress and do speeches, etc.

But a constant companion for his hair and makeup and picking out his socks is WAY TOO MUCH.

Can't the man comb his own hair yet? I mean he keeps it so short (helmet head) it wouldn't move anyway.

Taxpayers should not be paying for this.

At 9:15 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares? Here we are all worried about our tax dollars being spent on his hair, when he's got us involved in a illegal war and occupation of Afganistan!?!? He's pushing the SPP through with his buddy the "super power of war criminals" and does any hear about this in the mainstream media? Of course not because they are controlled and will report what they are told to. Why do you think there isn't massive public protest to Harpers support of Isreal?? ..because we are all fed lies, eat it up and waste our time worrying about $100 hair cuts?

Get with the issues that matter. Liberals and Conservatives are taking this country down the shet tube fast.

Conservative = LIES
Liberals = LIES
Media = LIES

and lets not forget Chapters, Indigo, Coles, WH Smith all owned by one control freak who decides what you can and can not read..
So where do you get your information?

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