Canada wives join electoral fray but lack Michelle Obama's star power

Tue Oct 6, 2015 5:26pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Political wives have popped up on the Canadian campaign trail, adding a personal dimension to a tight race, but none come close to the visibility or influence of spouses like Michelle Obama.

The partners of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair have helped humanize their political husbands but retain mostly bit parts in the 11-week campaign to the Oct. 19 election.

"Trust me, apart from the kids, your energy just feeds him when he's out on the road so long," said Sophie Gregoire, encouraging thousands of cheering partisans as she introduced Trudeau in Brampton, Ontario, last weekend.

Their children, Hadrien, 1, Xavier, 7, and Ella-Grace, 5, later joined their parents to wave at the crowd.

Five weeks earlier in the same city, the prime minister's wife addressed a smaller gathering at the campaign office of Ninder Thind, candidate for member of parliament, to spur on campaign volunteers.

"Getting somebody elected is about work, work, work, work. It isn't being glamorous on TV. It's about wearing out running shoes, going door to door," said Laureen Harper.

Less prominent has been Mulcair's wife, Catherine P. Mulcair, who attends most of his campaign events but has not addressed the crowds.

"Canadians have never gone in for the 'first family' fascination that we see in U.S. politics, so it isn't that surprising that we see less of this," said Ekos pollster Frank Graves.   Continued...

Laureen Harper, wife of Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduces her husband to supporters in Ottawa in this January 25, 2015, file photo.  REUTERS/Chris Wattie/Files