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 Exercising with Obama, jamming with Nickelback -theglobeandmail.com- 23. Dezember2010 
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Exercising with Obama, jamming with Nickelback
JANE TABER
SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER— Globe and Mail Update
Posted on Thursday, December 23, 2010 10:00PM EST


Laureen Harper discovered herself alone with U.S. President Barack Obama last month, working out in the gym at one of the hotels where the leaders were staying during the G20 and APEC summits.

With his security detail scattered around the basement gym, she ran on the treadmill while he exercised on a number of different machines.

The Prime Minister’s wife recalled this story – she didn’t specify whether it was at the G20 summit in Seoul or the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Japan – during a recent Christmas gathering at her 24 Sussex Drive residence.

She joked that she tried to get a look at what songs were on his iPod; it’s always revealing of a person’s character to find out what kind of music they listen to.

All of this, meanwhile, simply illustrates how dramatically Ms. Harper’s life has changed in the past five years.

If she’s not exercising with a U.S. President, she is listening as her husband sings with the Canadian Tenors or jams with Nickelback at their residence. The couple often invite over musicians who are playing in Ottawa venues.

And in an interview with CTV’s chief anchor Lloyd Robertson and Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife, Ms. Harper noted this, too. She said that one of the joys of her new life is meeting so many interesting people.

“… we invite people over to jam and you know, Bryan Adams or Jann Arden or – like whoever, it doesn’t matter,” she told the two journalists. “If you like music and you like what these people do, we get to meet these great people. So I would say that’s fun. Or international leaders … you just can’t believe who you get to meet.”

This is the first television interview Ms. Harper has given with her husband since he took office in 2006.

She is not shy at all – Ms. Harper has a wonderful sense of humour and a good political nose – but she has declined offers to sit down with journalists, preferring not to be the story. Rather, she wants the light to shine on the work of her husband and his government.

But in this instance, she joined her husband for nine minutes at the end of his hour-long Christmas interview with Mr. Robertson and Mr. Fife. (Cynics may think that the couple agreed to the interview because an election may not be far away).

The interview will be broadcast in full on Christmas Day at 7 p.m. ET. It took place at Harrington Lake, the Prime Minister’s official country retreat in Gatineau Park.

Her television appearance follows another event in which she broke out of her comfort zone. Last month, she played host at 24 Sussex to a roundtable of activists concerned about the plight of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery.

Ms. Harper has teamed up with Heather Reisman, the CEO of Indigo Books and Music, on this issue, becoming quite outspoken.

In the CTV interview, however, she spoke more personally – about her children, (the couple have two children, Ben and Rachel), her charitable activities, including having fostered about 150 cats, and making the transition from private to public life.

“Well, I had to go from being a working mother and having a business in a town where I knew everybody and had lived for almost my whole life, to moving somewhere far away, far away from friends and family,” she said.

Ms. Harper grew up in Turner Valley, Alta. The couple have a home in Calgary, where they are spending Christmas. She says she loves having big chaotic Christmases with her family – the more the merrier.

“So you have to start again, which people do all the time. I’d never done that, but people, our diplomats and soldiers … do that all the time. So we had to, we had to do that. And it was hard the first year, but after the first year, I love Ottawa. I’ve lots of great friends here and we have a great life here,” she said.

Her children go to public schools, have the same friends they have had for years and she makes 24 Sussex Drive as kid-friendly as possible. She says her children live a normal life.

“… it doesn’t affect them very much,” she says about her kids having a father who is Prime Minister. “They go to school, they have their friends, they’re on sports teams. They do their music lessons, riding … they do what other kids do … they are just like everybody else.”

Asked about the stresses and strains of the job on their relationship, the Prime Minister jumped in to answer:

“Well, you know, we have a strong relationship,” said Mr. Harper. “I think, to be frank about it, I mean the demands are all on Laureen. Laureen is a very giving person. Laureen allows me to concentrate as fully as I do on the job and then on other things. She doesn’t put a lot of demands on me.”

The Prime Minister said his wife’s support is one of the reasons he has been “successful in this business.”

And then he joked that when he’s done being Prime Minister, he’s going to be doing “a lot of payback.”

Added Ms. Harper: “He owes me.”

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