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Harper’s new social-media strategy: tweet new jobs before anyone else can

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen arrive for the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, July 15, 2013.

PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

As each new cabinet minister arrived at Rideau Hall, the news went out – each new job, broadcast one by one by none other than the Prime Minister's Office itself.

The PMO took to social media to announce Monday's cabinet shuffle, posting the new roles of each appointee online for the first time, saying it wanted to reach out directly to supporters. The move also allowed the Conservatives to circumvent the filter of the media.

"More and more Canadians are getting their news from social media and so today's shuffle was circulated on social media channels," PMO spokeswoman Julie Vaux said.

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It had Twitter buzzing and presented journalists at Rideau Hall with a balancing act – the press gallery was not given a list until all the appointees were announced, leaving reporters watching Twitter as each car pulled up.

The announcements also typically included the Twitter name of each minister, an apparent effort to build their own online clout. In one case, though, Mr. Harper's announcement referenced the wrong Twitter account when congratulating Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt – leading an anonymous Twitter user to quickly register the mistaken account, using a photo of Mr. Valcourt crudely altered to show him with horns. The PMO later deleted its tweet.

As the swearing-in ceremony began, Mr. Harper's social-media push continued with pre-recorded YouTube testimonials by two new ministers, Shelly Glover and Michelle Rempel, meant to help give cabinet a fresh face.

Ms. Rempel took to Twitter herself to celebrate the elevated cabinet role of women. "To the young women of this country – we can make it in [Canadian politics]. Run for office," she wrote.

Steven Fletcher, formerly the Minister of State for Transport, was among those left out of the new cabinet. After issuing a statement online, he took to Twitter to make light of his demotion. "I am Conservative. I am a traditionalist. I wish I left Cabinet in the traditional way – with a sex scandal!" he wrote.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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