Here comes a softer, Steve-ier Steve

Yes, an election is in the air, for our PM, aided by a series of levers and pulleys, is smiling

by Scott Feschuk

Here comes a softer, Steve-ier SteveThere’s no longer any doubt: a federal election is on its way. We know this because Stephen Harper has started Giving Something of Himself.

Last time around, we could tell an election was coming when Harper donned a sweater vest and appeared in TV commercials in which he spoke in gentle tones and—aided by a series of levers and pulleys operated by a team of stout men and a pack horse—smiled.

This time he’s taken it up a notch, giving a magazine interview in which he “opens up” about his hopes, his children and the fact that, “When I play the piano, I become very involved emotionally. I’m no longer the same person.” (Spoiler alert: the person he becomes is named Denise and Denise doesn’t take requests, okay?) Another few weeks of laying the groundwork for a campaign and the Prime Minister will be “reluctantly” sharing some of his poetry from a Hello Kitty diary while braiding Lloyd Robertson’s hair.

The interview with Harper, published in Quebec’s Prestige magazine, is quite revealing. “My main preoccupation is not my personal image,” confesses the man who hired a stylist to comb his hair and pick out his ties, “but rather the country’s higher interests.” I think we all know what this means: Harper is getting his stylist to make over the entire country! You know, play down those unsightly bulges out west, spruce up those Prairies and—ugh!—that Canadian Shield has just got to go. It is so 540 million BCE.

The magazine piece features photographs of Harper skating with his son, playing cards with his daughter and building a temple from the bleached skulls of his enemies. (One of these examples may be made up.) But even as the PM rolls out his softer, Steve-ier side in the press, he remains focused on bringing serious, hard-nosed change to the way Ottawa works.

For instance, Liberal prime ministers used to dole out cushy jobs to their party loyalists, but Steve changed all that. Now he doles out cushy jobs to his party loyalists. Status quo, consider your mind blown.

Harper has named donors and party workers to government boards and authorities. He’s named them to government tribunals and commissions. Recently, he named so many close friends and associates to the Senate that we should all be relieved he didn’t accidentally appoint one of his cats. Although that would have given Conservative campaign mastermind Doug Finley—one of the new Senate appointees—something to stroke menacingly while preparing to kill James Bond. Now he’ll have to make do with Mike Duffy.

To be fair, it’s not as though Harper is appointing only party hacks. He’s also appointing a few non-hacks whose job it is to draw attention away from the hacks. Incoming senator Jacques Demers, former coach of the Montreal Canadiens, was so humbled by the honour of serving his country that he immediately asked if he could keep his day job as a hockey analyst. Life as a Canadian senator: drop by if you can squeeze it in.

Harper’s slew of patronage appointments riled those who, adorably, fail to understand that political pledges, especially those regarding integrity and accountability, are the Velveeta of promises—they vaguely resemble the real thing but then on closer inspection, umm, no.

National Post editors were so distressed by the shots being taken at their boy Steve that they rushed to his defence with an editorial, which had all the intellectual heft of the “Leave Britney alone!” video and twice the girlish whimpering. The Post posited that poor, helpless Harper was simply left with no choice—he had to stuff the Senate with senior Conservative party figures. Don’t you understand: he had to! LEAVE STEPHEN ALONE!!

Anyway, Harper’s principles may have gone bye-bye but his reading of the political climate is as savvy as ever. The Liberals do indeed seem poised to force an election this fall. According to reports, the party will soon roll out a “massive” ad campaign designed to let Canadians “get to know” Michael Ignatieff—to help them put their feet in his shoes, their necks in his ascot.

Apparently, Ignatieff has “an inspirational dream” to turn Canadians into the best-educated people on earth by 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation. How he plans to deport Don Cherry by then is unclear.

Which brings us back to that interview with the Prime Minister. What earned the attention of headline writers wasn’t Harper’s piano-playing alter ego but rather his assertion that he is more concerned about God’s judgment of his time on earth than historians’ judgment of his time in office.

Frankly, this seems a sensible viewpoint for a man of faith. But that doesn’t mean Stephen Harper is willing to leave that judgment entirely to fate.

Hey God, any interest in sitting in the Senate? You can keep your day job.

There. Now He owes him.




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Here comes a softer, Steve-ier Steve

  1. That is a remarkably good photoshop

    and Denise doesn't take requests
    classic

    • I'll say…

  2. Since Stephen Harper's church claims the second coming is "imminent", there isn't much time left for historians.

    • Why do LIberal partisans always bash people's religion? Whence comes this bigotry? Why does the Liberal Party not condemn it?

      • I agree jarrid. The reason the Liberal Party does not condemn it is they have too much arrogance. It takes a humble person to acknowledge a dependence on God. I feel quite relieved that Stephen Harper relies on God–God has a much higher standard than mankind. Ignatieff is a self-proclaimed atheist –he has totally bought into the secular humanism that is taught in our secondary institutions. In his mind, being the P.M. is a natural position for him in his self-evolvement.

        • Proof that Ignatieff is a self-proclaimed athiest, please? I thought he was of the Russian Orthodox church.

          Why wouldn't we condemn Catherine? Because she has a right to her opinion and views about religion.

          Even Christ believed in the separation of church and state:

          Paying Taxes & Separation of Church & State: Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the
          things that are God's. [Matthew 22:21]

          And, Christ did not believe in organized religion:

          Public Prayer & Displays of Faith: And when thou pray, thou shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in
          the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
          But thou, when thou pray, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret…
          [Matthew 6:6 & 7]

          Anyway, you believe in God, some don't, some aren't sure – who cares.

          • The difference being that catherine displays a level of contempt for other's beliefs that only a self-righteous and narrow minded person could come up with.

          • How is it self-righteous to know that the universe is older than 6000 years old or to think that religion can be used for political gain or to have a sense of humour about long-term governing and imminent second comings?

          • Your wishful projections and half-baked thoughts on plots and conspiracies are not something I am going to debate.

      • Why do politicians who belong to churches which preach that the universe is 6000 years old always drag out their religion for political reasons?

        My position is clear – I want a Prime Minister who is not counting on his term in office being interrupted with a second coming. I just think it makes for better governing. That's all.

        • Hey Catherine,

          When did it become ok to mock people's religious beliefs? Shame on you.

          • When did it become okay to put down those who don't believe – as if they are evil, etc.?

            Again, church and state should be separate.

          • Probably sometime around the introduction of the Rule of Law, Freedom of Speech, the Rights of Man, Englightenment Values, etc.

    • How do you know? Do you attend the same church? Or is this just a knee-jerk "Let's make fun of Christians" comment?

      • Simple here is a link to Stephen Harper's Missionary and Alliance Church website..
        11 – Second Coming of Christ
        The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is imminent and will be personal and visible.24 As the believer's blessed hope, this vital truth is an incentive for holy living and sacrificial service toward the completion of Christ's commission.25
        http://cmalliance.ca/beliefsc1421.php

        Don't believe this is Stephen Harper's church?
        http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=200602

        Also read: Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons

        The rising clout of Canada's religious right
        by Marci McDonald
        http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2006.10-po

        Why Stephen Harper keeps his evangelical faith very private

        http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/

        • What's your point Geoffrey? I am a Pentecostal Christian (you know one of those bible-thumping evangelicals) but I do not necessarily agree with all church doctrine. You are confusing religion with faith. Faith is the personal relationship that an "individual" has with their God. Religion is the set of rules that man makes up in order to define God on mankind's terms. Big difference.
          Your assumption that Harper will impose his beliefs on Canadians is a great stretch and you are doing what you are complaining most about –judging. Only God has the power to change a heart and whether you believe it or not, Stephen Harper knows that.

          • Of course, there is no way to know if Harper believes in any of his church's 11 defining statements of faith, which include believing there is a god. It could all be a calculated political act. It really doesn't matter what Harper believes, but it does matter what he wants voters to think he believes.

          • Catherine, I'm embarrassed for you.

          • Excuse me? This is the man who talked of offering "financial considerations" to a dying MP, who oversaw the in and out scheme with allegedly doctored invoices, who used an international stage to wrongly attack his opponent, who said he would never run a deficit, who claims to know the internal motivations of his opponents, whose favorite work in discussing important policies seems to be screw,… and yet you think anything he utters on the great G word, is suddenly the real Harper, uttering nothing but the truth, rather than what will get him votes?

            Harper would be the first to explain to you that this is politics. He is talking to voters, not praying or talking to his minister. As Scott said, an election is coming.

          • Well, you better let Charles McVety know………..he's interfering with politics.

            I find it interesting that those of faith feel they have to inform advise what everything is. Some have studied them all and come to the conclusion they just don't believe in it.

            Some do believe in it.

            You know, we didn't have this insane right wing religious argument before Harper – and when I see what's going on in the US, it's frightening.

          • janwebb…. You are a Pentecostal Christian – but you do not necessarily agree with all that church's doctrine. Then, at best you are a lousy Pentecostal Christian, perhaps even a fraud like the many who claim to be Catholic but only in the À La Carte sense.

            As for Harper's piety… All hogwash. He puts it on the table when it suits him but, in practice, it's conveniently tucked away. Where was his Christian soul when a mother was kept away from her son – he turned her over to Kenyan authorities for immediate prosecution. Where was his Christian soul in dealing with a child soldier, indoctrinated before he was even a teenager, captured at 15, jailed amongst the most evil of terrorists? He has done everything in his power to ensure the child rots in that jail. Harper has demonstrated time and time again just how unchristian he can be.

            I am truly disgusted when people bring their ''Christianity'' to the forefront as if it bestowed on them certain redeeming qualities… In Stephen Harper's case, it shows him to be an extreme hypocrite (and a sorry excuse of a christian).

          • Harper turned Ms. Mohammad over to the Kenyan authorities?

            Wow, this is big news…
            Big news that isn't remotely connected to any facts.

    • Poor Catherine the Liberal hack who trolls every newspaper looking for the name Stephen Harper. She doesn't mind slamming people for their religion or belief in God – it is her right as a Liberal. Why don't you stick to politics Catherine or are you embarassed about your lack of believing in anything except the Liberal party of Toronto. When all else fails then all you have left is attacking a person for their religion. Typical Liberal troll.

      • Oh grow up. Attack non-believers, agnostics is okay, but not those trying to interfere in politics – Charles McVety, et.

  3. Just watch him do a speech – it's like a dance instruction song. Turn body to left – say a few sentences, turn body to the right, make a couple of sentences – stop, look into camera, force corner left of mouth to head in the direction of nostrils – repeat on right side of mouth…..turn to body to the left and say a few lines……repeat and repeat until someone is convinced you've made a speech.

    • Heh Ontario town – I see the Tories are making gains in your province. Do you know Catherine by chance – you should get together and cry over a beer together, rehash old Liberal Party days, sing a few Liberal election songs. I would rather watch Harper do a speech than watch Eyebrow (sorry I can't call him that anymore since he had his makeover) in the woods in his blue (Tory) shirt. Does a bear sh– in the woods – ask Iggy.

      • Just stay mature and classy there Linda. By the way, Ignatieff and his eyebrows are in good company – Mark Twain, Einstein, Darwin, etc. – oh, and my dad.

        • Don't drag the term 'mature' into the argument when all along you have been defending a person's right to viciously attack other people's beliefs with innuendo.

        • Don't drag the term 'mature' in to the argument when all along you have been defending a person's right to viciously attack other people's beliefs with innuendo.

        • Don't drag the terms 'mature' or 'classy' into the argument when all along you have been defending a person's right to viciously attack other people's beliefs with innuendo.

  4. "Recently, he named so many close friends and associates to the Senate that we should all be relieved he didn't accidentally appoint one of his cats. "

    I'm sorry, I heard that was so that someone would vote in the senate for the reform Harper promised, given the liberal majority present which would block anything happening? Or was I mistaken?

    Blocking any forward movement seems to be the only thing which the opposition parties have been good for, outside of disrespecting Canada's electoral choices for possibly the fourth (fifth?) time in a row in a few short years.

    • Something tells me this might be Jay Hill – Government House Leader

      • No, clueless guy asking a serious question. I am not at all surprised to get snarky feedback.

  5. It's too bad Stephen's speech to the party faithful in Sault Ste. Marie was filmed and has been released to the media. Here's a quote from the speech

    "If they get together and force us to the polls, we have to teach them a lesson and get back there with a majority, and make sure their little coalition never happens," said Harper.

    It's the first sincere words he's said in ages

    • What's the problem? Seems like a reasonable statement to me.

      • Not a tad disingenuous considering his letter to the GG when Paul Martin was leading a minority government?

    • Listen here for yourself, it's a good opening speech.
      PMSH says either Cons get a majority or Iffy will lead a coalition (7:10)
      Just because Libs don't want to talk about it, doesn't mean Canadians aren't thinking it.

      http://www.cbc.ca/mrl3/8752/news/features/harper-

    • Why then, if Harper can say sincere words, does he only do it behind closed doors? Why can't he be sincere to Canadians out in the open? Does he have something to hide OR does he only put on an insincere show when he faces Canadians? If he really believes what he says behind closed doors then I challenge Harper to say these same "sincere words" directly to the electorate! Harper, come out of the closet and show Canadians your true stripes, if you can that is.

      • Yes indeed BobbyB.

        Why call the majority of Canadian voters either lefty-socialists or separatists behind our backs? Because he still dreams of a majority and knows it can only happen if we complacently stay home while the CPC faithful go to the polls.

  6. I love the picture. I hope they ditch the sweater. Fortunately Harper is running against a man who has defended jailing people without evidence, torture and targeted assassinations.

    • "Harper is running against a man who has defended jailing people without evidence, torture and targeted assassinations."

      No, it was Harper who supported those things. It was the Liberals who prevented him from making them an everlasting shame for Canadians.

      • Ignatieff expressed these views as well. He's moderated his stance significantly, almost certainly for political reasons, but he did support those practices at one point, at least in principle. I suspect the only reason the Conservatives haven't rolled out that gem is that Iggy would just hold up a mirror.

        Look for the other parties to bring it up though, the Bloc in particular.

        • Ignatieff debated the arguments like a scholar would. Harper cheered on the US and their agents and scolded Canadians who thought an illegal war wasn't right.

  7. Actually no, we will know that an election is close when the leader of the Opp. spends the summer in the woods talking about India and China and then sends Brison on some secret mission to China.

    So instead of idle speechwriters wandering aimlessly around offices imagining why a sitting gov`t only 10 months into their mandate would want an election, maybe he should find some humour in a man who sounded so threatening a week ago in Sudbury to his Lib faithful, then he disappears again——probably out in the woods somewhere.

  8. Tom Flanagan (Harper's former advisor) had some good advice for Steve and his attack ads in yesterdays Globe and Mail

    “It doesn't have to be true. It just has to be plausible.”

    • I think the comment is intended to refer to political perceptions and what motivates voters. He is indeed correct about this — and ALL politicians know it.

  9. Just for the record, I think the pic is silly. It reinforces an inaccurate media-created stereotype. (Harper has a good sense of humor as has been noted on many occaions.) The pic does not contribute in any way to intelligent dialogue.

    • Harper may have a sense of humour, but it looks like you've lost your's. This is satire – laugh a little.

      • I'm just happy it's not a liberal party picture they are making fun of. That seems to spur on the hatred from liberals in the comments section of most news sites. =/

    • Today's Tory only laughs when someone more powerful starts laughing.

    • Disagree. No sense of timing.

    • I don't think Feschuk's columns exist in order to contribute in any way to intelligent dialogue.
      If you want intelligent dialogue, how about picking up one of Pierre Poillievre's mailouts.

      • Ha ha you are funny. I trust you are joking. If you are not I will stop laughing out loud and snicker quietly to myself.

  10. Yes, a Lib led coalition with the socialists and separatists is pausible..
    .because the agreements all three (including MI) signed are still valid,
    Duceppe drops out June 2010, but Jack and his cabinet seat are in it for the duration.

    So really, all that is required is a slight amendment, slipping in MIs name as Lib leader.

    After the drama of watching MI caving to Danny Williams, and caving to multiple other self inflicted 'lines in the sand'
    how could anyone have any doubt MI will cave to the Bob Rae factor in the LPC?
    Is that how MI got Rae to walk away from the leadership race, promise him a coalition, but not then?

    • But you were all for coalitions between the leader of the opposition, the socialists and the separatists in 2004, Wilson. Don't forsake your ol' roots too just for a sweet taste of the precious…

  11. Who did the fine photoshopping? Give the artist some credit. Who is he/she?

    • That would be the lovely and talented Adam Cholewa.

      • Thanks. Good work, Scott and Adam!

  12. Totally disenchanted with all the parties…maybe Canada needs a new party.

    • Well, I'm starting a new party. Our avowed aim is to entrench me as benign dictator.

      You want Senate reform? How does eliminating it because I'm dictator sound?

      You want national unity? If a Celine Dion pinata in every house can't have us singing off the same page, I don't know what will. (Note, as dictator, I actually get the real Celine as a pinata.)

      July and August as statutory holiday months? I promise not to lift a finger all summer, in symbolic rest for the nation, while the rest of you happily toil to make this land a better place.

      We're calling the party Sean Of Benignity. Catchy, eh? Send me a cheque – a big one – and your membership card will be in the mail.

      • A Celine Dion pinata in every house is certainly not benign.

  13. While some of your comments are entertaining, and reveal a somewhat awkward, somewhat reluctant-to-be-exposed Steven Harper, whose handlers have tried to script out his real personality and build it around his fuzzy sweater, I would expect that Macleans would try harder to dig beneath the surface and give voters a real look at what lurks underneath. We need to see. This is the man we have trusted to lead our economic recovery – and perhaps this the the most we can expect. Perhaps even it is more important how he manages the tiller of state, than how he manages interviews, Stay with this, and, before the coming election is over, give us an in-depth, unbiased and fully believable picture of who STEVEN HARPER is. MACLEANS owes us this!

    • You tell 'em, Brian! Can Macleans finally get off their duffs and write about the "real" Stephen Harper? A search through the archives reveals zero critical articles & blog entries about the "real" Harper. I particularly agree with the tilling comment. Can Harper till? Why does the media leave this important question unanswered?

      Macleans has left us so lacking for information about Harper, that poor Brian doesn't even know how to spell his first name.

      • "…build it around his fuzzy sweater, I would expect that Macleans would try harder to dig beneath the surface and give voters a real look at what lurks underneath."

        I think what Brian's driving at is naked pictures.

  14. it's rare that a lefty is funny. it's a stupid article, but it is funny,

    • "It's rare that a lefty is funny"? OMG, you must be kidding….. have you ever read Al Franken? … anyway, I'm glad you can at least see the humour here…. the fact of the matter is, now that Harper has (limited) power, he sees the reality of actually trying to get anything done in Ottawa, rather than the ideals he had while in permanent opposition (reform days).

      Harper will never win a majority, and I beg Canadians to vote for anyone other than the Cons in the next election (this fall?). If they couldn't win a majority against Dion…. come on now…. Harper needs to go. MacKay will probably fare better.

  15. Personally I love the bit about appointing one of his cats to the Senate – now that is funny sort of updated post modern Caligula. I think this could work for Harper.

  16. You might want to get in the habit of agreeing with me. Just in case…

    • I now see the error of my ways. Democracy is dead. Long live Seanstokracy. I shall shout this message from the mountain tops (er, hilltops) of Southern Ontario.

  17. Oh for crying out loud I will never buy this 'softer' Harper. What a cook

  18. Exxxxcelllent….. No promises, but I think you can safely expect electricity in your house more frequently than your neighbours get (something lush like three days per week). Long live me.

  19. His comments when he thought he was off the record show his true colours, and if we're stupid enough to elect him after that, we deserve what we get.

  20. Michaelle Jean for Prime Minister.

  21. The skating with his son was the made up one? Your right ! Bad King Stephen is not a lovable chap like The Little Guy from Shawinnagin or Count Iggy. Since when are Prime Ministers soft cuddly kittens?

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