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Busy schedule kept Harper from Games: Tory minister

Be it Whitehorse or Halifax, PEI or Sherbrooke, winter or summer, Prime Minister Stephen Harper helped open every Canada Games since his election in 2006. Every Games that is except the 25th edition that began Feb. 13 in Prince George.
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the Htel de Glace with Bonhomme Carnaval, the official mascot of the Qubec Winter Carnaval, as part of his two-day winter tour in Quebec on Feb. 13.

Be it Whitehorse or Halifax, PEI or Sherbrooke, winter or summer, Prime Minister Stephen Harper helped open every Canada Games since his election in 2006.

Every Games that is except the 25th edition that began Feb. 13 in Prince George.

Judging from an extended Facebook posting started by Prince George councillor Brian Skakun, reaction to the federal Conservative leaders' seeming snub of the city is mixed, ranging from anger and regret to indifference and sympathy. Explanations from the Prime Minister's Office have been vaguer still - in response to a series of questions on Harper's no-show posed by Prince George-based CBC journalist Andrew Kurjata (pgc.cc/1Dnble2), the PMO wrote in an email: "Our government was represented at the Canada Winter Games by its Minister of Sport Bal Gosal."

Speaking at the Otway Nordic Ski Center Saturday, Gosal insisted Harper is "probably the greatest sports fan in our country." Unfortunately, Gosal explained, the prime minister was unable to make it to Prince George and the Games due to "logistics."

"(Harper has) got a very hectic and busy schedule and he tries to attend as many events as he can," said Gosal "It's just a schedule issue... the logistics and how things work out. That's the only reason."

Gosal also pointed out Harper taped a video message that was played during the opening ceremony at CN Centre.

According to the prime minister's website, Harper was in Quebec on Feb. 13 as part of a two-day tour of that province. As part of his visit, he celebrated the 61st Quebec Winter Carnaval with the festival's official mascot Bonhomme.

Neither Thomas Mulcair, the NDP's leader of the Official Opposition nor federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau visited Prince George during the Games.

It is unclear how Harper's Games attendance stacks up against past prime ministers. Joel Allard of the Canada Games said, while the organization does invite the sitting prime minister to the event, it does not keep a list of which prime ministers attended which Games; he did say Lester B. Pearson attended the first Canada Games in 1967 in Quebec City.

Paul Martin attended the last Games in B.C. in Kelowna in 1993.