Published in the Vancouver Observer | March 17, 2012 | Circulation 150,000 unique monthly visitors
Sara MacIntyre, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former press secretary, made a splash in her first week on the job as British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s media handler. And handle the press, she did.
In a video being widely circulated on the internet, MacIntyre – the conservative Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF)’s former British Columbia director – got snarky when several reporters at a trade show attempted to ask Clark about her proposal to move welfare recipients to jobs in northern British Columbia.
“But you said that the Premier –” one reporter protested, before MacIntyre interrupted her.
“– No I did not. Where? I did not issue an advisory saying she was taking media questions.”
Minutes later, when journalists decided to bypass the press secretary and access Clark directly, MacIntyre inserted herself in front of the camera in a seeming attempt to spoil the shot.
“She’s not taking questions today,” she repeated. “If you want to shoot the Premier, she’s right there.”
MacIntyre started her BC job on March 6, nearly a month after announcing her resignation as Harper‘s spokesperson on February 10. She is the latest in a series of federal Conservative hires for the premier which include former Enbridge, Taser, tar sands and pharmaceutical lobbyist Ken Boessenkool, who served as a chief advisor to Harper.
MacIntyre, a political science masters candidate at the University of Calgary, previously served as head of the CTF’s BC branch, communications director for BC wind energy company NaiKun, and a policy researcher on human resources and Aboriginal affairs when Harper was leader of the opposition.
“The exchange brought back all the memories of what we go through every day with the Harper government: tight media control, lack of respect for the media,” said Robert Fife, CTV’s Ottawa bureau chief. “She’s taken the Harper media plan and brought it to B.C.”
But the mid-thirties staffer – who took over former BC press secretary Chris Olsen’s $125,000.10 a year job (salaries accessed by a Canadian Taxpayers Federation document request) – has a background as politically engaged as it is technical. She’s no public relations flak, it turns out.
With BC teachers taking job action currently, and Clark’s Liberals pushingback-to-work legislation through this week, it is interesting that MacIntyre herself has played a prominent role in the issue in 2005.
In her time at the CTF, MacIntyre helped coordinate a precedent-settingclass action lawsuit against the striking BC Teachers Federation(BCTF), calling upon parents to express their outrage over educator walk-outs. 150 disgruntled parents took the BCTF to court, in a move mirroring earlier lawsuit against the hospital employees’ union, also under MacIntyre’s watch.
“Anyone that has witnessed the power of public sector unions in this province can genuinely appreciate the courage that these individuals have to say enough and to sign on with this class action,” MacIntyre said in an October 17, 2005 press release.
“The BCTF’s illegal actions are sending a terrible message to kids–which they purportedly care about—that it’s okay to break the rules in order to get what you want,” she said at the time. “I’d like to see them try to enforce order in their classroom if students followed their example.”
On her Facebook wall, MacIntyre expressed admiration for a fellow Canadian Taxpayers Federation staffer-turned-media handler – the spokesperson for Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s winning campaign, Adrienne Batra, who had previously worked at the CTF’s Manitoba office.
Describing Batra as “my good friend and fierce force,” MacIntyre congratulated the former Ford staffer on her hiring as comment page editor at the ultra-conservative Toronto Sun newspaper, operated by the same media chain Sun News Network – which itself is headed by Kory Teneycke, Harper’s press secretary from 2008-2009.
In her time with the successful Ford campaign, Batra became “known for her caustic wit and her fierce, relentless protectiveness towards Mr. Ford,” wrote the National Post – attributes which are strikingly similar to MacIntyre’s inaugural media management effort at the Globe trade show this week in Vancouver.
At this point, little else is known about MacIntyre. According to her Facebook posts, she loves Bikram’s hot yoga and traveled throughout Latin America last August. When she moved to Calgary for her Masters degree, after graduating with honours in political science from the University of Western Ontario, she reportedly “complained bitterly” in a Calgary Herald editorial that a preferred local beer was not served on tap at the university (the editorial was cited in an official university press clippings page).
In the Sept. 16, 2002 Herald editorial, titled, “Beer, beer, everywhere, but not a draft to drink,” MacIntyre lamented that the student union had ceased serving Calgary-brewed Big Rock ale in its bars, criticizing procurement policies. But early political engagement of the self-proclaimed “libertarian” “agnostic” (according to her Facebook profile) is elusive.
On May 4, after Harper’s Tory government’s majority win in the 2011 elections – now-controversial after alleged fraudulent calls to non-Conservative voters – MacIntyre’s expressed pithy, but capitalized, jubilation on Facebook: “MAJORITY!!!!!”
In her farewell Facebook note to Ottawa, MacIntyre praised Prime Minister Harper as the best in history.
“It has been an incredible, challenging and rewarding two and half years serving the best Prime Minister our beautiful country has known,” MacIntyre said on her Facebook wall. “But as they say, all good things come to an end.” She promised that she “will continue to fight the good fight and serve with humility.”
For British Columbia, it’s just beginning.