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Return to Vimy Ridge: It's personal for the Harpers

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, are on their first official trip with their children, Ben, 10, and Rachel, 7, as they travel to Vimy Ridge this weekend.

Last summer, the prime ministerial couple went to Vimy after attending the G8 summit in Russia. Near Vimy, Mrs. Harper was able to visit the gravesite of her great-uncle, James Teskey, who was killed in the Battle of Arras; he was 19. Although the Harpers will not have time to visit the grave on this trip, the family will attend the parade in Arras.

Interestingly, Mrs. Harper said she just found out this week that her grandfather, Benjamin Teskey, was at the opening of the monument in Vimy on July 26, 1936. "Ben, especially, is very interested in this trip," she wrote in an e-mail. "He spent a day at the War Museum two weeks ago to learn all he could." And so, the great-grandson will be at the monument's rededication ceremony on Monday, standing where his namesake had stood so many years before.

Kenney woos the suburbs

Jason Kenney, the Alberta Tory MP and junior cabinet minister responsible for multiculturalism, is working hard wooing the ethnic community and as a result, making important inroads on the Conservative's ethnic outreach strategy, according to a senior Grit.

Any progress on this front is important to the Tories in attracting voters in the 905 area code outside of Toronto and the 450 area code around Montreal, as well as those in the 604 area code in B.C. Voters in these regions could help the Tories form the majority government they're seeking. These days, it seems as if Mr. Kenney spends more time in Toronto than in Alberta (Tories in Alberta don't have to spend much time in their ridings), meeting with different communities. For example, the Harper Tories have made great progress in attracting Jewish voters as a result of strong support last summer for Israel during the Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Mr. Kenney is also, according to the source, working other communities with the help of newly minted Tory Wajid Khan, who recently crossed the floor from the Liberals.

Mr. Khan, who is Muslim and originally from Pakistan, has been bringing people from his community to meet with the Tories for months now, the source says.

Martin redux

There is much gnashing of teeth by Liberals -- both elected MPs and non-elected strategist types -- about the fact that some key Paul Martin players -- Brian Guest, Tim Murphy and Mike Robinson -- are involved in election debate preparation (and other tasks, it seems) for new leader Stéphane Dion.

Whatever happened to party renewal? And aren't these the guys who lost the past two elections? These are all questions many Liberals are asking themselves these days.

While it makes sense that Mr. Robinson, a senior lobbyist in Ottawa, is involved because of his expertise in many of the past elections, there are some raised eyebrows about the involvement of the others. This is also the brain trust that in the past election debate had Mr. Martin offer up that wacky and desperate idea of removing the possibility of the federal government using the notwithstanding clause.

Hot: The political parade at the Junos. NDP Leader Jack Layton walked the red carpet at the Junos in Saskatchewan last weekend; Mr. Dion was apparently a hit at the after parties and Heritage Minister Bev Oda, who got in trouble for her use of a limo at a past Juno Awards, was busy working the receptions and talking to music industry representatives about copyright issues and the controversial issue of downloading music. (No sign of an idling limousine, by the way.) Other Tory MPs, such as eastern Ontario MP Gord Brown and Edmonton MP James Rajotte were there, too. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Rona Ambrose, who will be spending some time in the coming campaign trying to engage youth, posed with some of the musicians, including Sam Roberts and Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy.

jtaber@globeandmail.com

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