How in God’s name do you explain? -

How in God’s name do you explain?

Rick Mercer on how, in Canada, time spent at the massage parlour is a positive, at Harvard not so much

How in God’s name do you explain?

Rick Mercer

Having led the Conservative party to a majority government, with the Liberal party lying bloodied and dying at his feet, Stephen Harper saw the breadth of his domain and wept, for he had no more worlds to conquer.

Twenty-four hours before Canada went to the polls, I went on BBC Radio International to explain to a very pleasant radio personality with excellent diction why Canada was having yet another election.

Now it’s one thing to go on the radio and blather about politics in Canada—the audience knows the cast of characters and it’s safe to assume they are somewhat familiar with our recent history. But when you go on BBC International, the audience is in the tens of millions worldwide and you have to bear in mind that the average listener is likely tuning in from a shantytown in Nigeria or a loft in Oslo.

How do you explain in a few minutes just what an accomplishment a majority would be for the Conservative party? How do you explain how Stephen Harper became the leader of a grassroots western-based regional party, a party that existed solely to give voice to individual MPs, and somehow transformed it into a national party so centralized in its power structure that no more than five of its MPs are allowed to speak in public?

And how in God’s name do you explain that the demise of the Liberal party would be a seismic shift on our political landscape? And really, did anyone have an explanation for the orange crush?

And why, my Nigerian friends may wonder, did the last-minute revelations of a visit to a sketchy massage parlour 15 years ago lead to increased support for the leader of Canada’s socialists, especially among separatists in Quebec?

How do you explain that Michael Ignatieff was shaping up to be a loser of Ben Johnsonian proportions, not for having cheated or for having lied but for having been vilified for doing too many things in his life and for having lived in too many places?

Yes, my Nigerian brother, in Canada, time spent at the Velvet Touch massage parlour is a positive, time spent at Harvard not so much.

And speaking of Quebec, why on the eve of the election was the most senior government cabinet minister in that province, the minister of foreign affairs, facing certain defeat at the hands of a part-time karate instructor, collector of medieval weapons and one-time member of the Communist party?

One assumes the phone lines at Immigration Canada did not light up that night.

Luckily, the conversation soon turned to something any person with a passing knowledge of democracy could understand no matter where they lived: election night. It was shaping up to be a barnburner and the host assumed correctly I would be glued to the results. “But,” she inquired, “is the rumour true that twittering about election results in Canada as they come in is a criminal offence?”

Yes, I was loath to admit, Elections Canada was attempting to succeed where Mubarak in Egypt and Ahmadinejad in Iran had failed. They were attempting to stop people from tweeting.

When the interview was over, I declined an offer to be interviewed the following night after midnight to report how it all turned out. This was a wise stroke of foresight. I know me. Why is that man yelling and why is there the sound of ice clinking in a glass?

The producer of the program wasn’t too disappointed. Canadian election results hardly warrant great international scrutiny, especially in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death and sexy Will and Kate honeymoon updates.

By now we all know that on election night it was all over by 10:15 Eastern, with most networks declaring a Conservative majority.

For many Conservative voters, this was simply closing the deal on Stephen Harper’s promise of a stable government for the next four years; it was a vote for more of the same, please. For others, this indicates that Canada has finally taken a big step to the right, and they hope to see a very different Canada emerge.

All we do know right now is that the animal farm in Ottawa has changed dramatically. The once cocky and entitled Liberal, an animal that once roamed wild in the nation’s capital, has ceased to exist. In its place we have a population explosion of a new breed of NDPer. Not only have their numbers doubled, but they have gone from earnest to unctuous in one historic night. Very soon they will gather in Stornoway—Jack will play guitar, they will shake their lentil jars and plot the next once-impossible step. They have supplanted the natural governing party of Canada in opposition, next stop 24 Sussex Dr. God give me the strength to sit through any of those conversations.

And then there are the Conservatives: the staffers, the supporters, the MPs themselves. For them a majority is uncharted territory. This changes everything.

Liberals, even when in opposition, are always surprised when they meet someone who isn’t a liberal. They tend to believe everyone looks at the world the way they do, everyone is on the same team. Conservatives are the opposite. No matter how much success they achieve, they constantly believe someone is out to get them. Conservatives always believe they are swimming against the current, even when there is ample evidence to prove otherwise. This has served them well; it has allowed them to remain united and focused. The one ideological characteristic all Conservatives in Ottawa share is a complete loyalty to the authority of Stephen Harper and his quest for a majority. But along the way a lot of Conservatives have been told to sit down and shut up and wait for the big day. Now that it’s here, what now?

Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to relax, be more amicable, comfortable in the knowledge that the opposition’s power has been erased? I think we all know the answer to that. Or will Mr. Harper go to work and salt the earth, remove the subsidies to political parties, making it more difficult for the opposition to function?

And more importantly, will he be able to keep his own troops down on the farm now that they have seen the glory that is a majority?

All we can be certain of is that for the time being, with a comfortable majority in the House, Stephen Harper will do whatever the hell he wants. That’s what Canada voted for.

The more pressing question is, what will the Liberals do? The talk on election night, despite Harper’s historic victory, was all about them. In four years from now, on election night, will the Liberals be mentioned at all?

Some people, Liberals among them, say this is the best thing that could happen to the party. It’s been called tough medicine, the political equivalent of a bankruptcy protection that will force them to restructure and refocus.

But this is not just a train wreck for the Liberal party. This is Lockerbie. Yes, this is a plane crashing into a Scottish village. If you are a Liberal it must be very hard to imagine any good coming out of this.

But election results are not random events, they are not natural or man-made disasters; they are just that—results.

And the results are stunning. A Conservative majority, the rise of the NDP, the annihilation of the Bloc Québécois, the near death of the Liberals. We saw two national leaders get defeated and Elizabeth May win. In Quebec, a 19-year-old voted in his first federal election, for himself, and is now a newly elected NDP MP. Had he lost, he would have sought summer employment at a golf course.

We have had 41 federal elections in this country and one hopes the plan is to have many more. And if history has taught us anything it is this: we show up at the polls and at the end of the night governments may rise and governments may fall. For some of those running it will be the greatest night of their lives. Others will find themselves in the glare of TV lights wearing a smile while secretly cursing the day they considered public service.

And while we ponder the results and we study what happened, and speculate what it all might mean for Canada, it doesn’t hurt to think about what didn’t happen on election day.

No shots were fired, no cars were burnt, nobody was intimidated at the polling booth and nobody died.

And while that mightn’t make headlines on the BBC World Service, that’s exactly the way it should be. It’s why we are a nation worth voting for.


How in God’s name do you explain?

  1. After your rant to get the youth vote out, I exepcted you to at least be the one bright spot in the media that would not pick on the low-hanging fruit. The golf course line was more obvious than refreshing as your takes normally are…..

  2. You raise a great point about the attention the Liberal party has received in defeat. Everyone wants to know wither the Liberal party. Meanwhile, the Liberals have gone behind closed doors to grumble and fight over who will be interim leader.

    I remember a time when a meeting of Liberal party bigwigs ended with a brief discussion of – what is going to be our message when we go out that door. Everyone agreed, and that was what everybody said.

    Liberals are once again failing to jump on the opportunity to avail themselves of attention, and risk once again allowing themselves to be defined by others.

    How hard is it?

    Everyone say "Canada still needs a party that represents the moderate centre. We will still be that party for Canadians". Repeat ad nauseum.

  3. Watched part of the Mercer Report on TV and tuned out. Have not seen you in years and will not be reading McLeans again

    • Awwww, sorry to see you go……

      Keep up the good work Rick!

  4. Another reason not to go on the BBC again – lines like "this is Lockerbie." Too soon, Rick.

  5. NDP support was up across the country, even though it only translated into a significant number of seats in Quebec.
    Liberal support was down across the country.

    Mercer's analysis seems solid.

    • that's because all the people who were voting for the Liberals against harper, voted for who they have wanted to all along, since the haprer majority was unstoppable, they decided to stop strategic voting.

      The swing voters, aka middle class people with jobs, will never EVER vote for a fringe party like the NDP, no matter how much the media spins it. They voted the liberals into consecutive majorities, and now they will vote the conservatives into consecutive majorities. The economy is always the number one issue, and the liberals became too corrupt and entrennched. Harper fought up hill against the left wing media, won minorities, showed he wasnt the demon they portrayed him to be, and now the Conservatives have become the centrist party to manage the economy.

      Eventually they will go the road of the Liberals, become too entrenched and too much cronyism, and out they will go and back come the Liberals.

      The only difference between the harper governement and the chretien/martin governments, is there might be a little more privatization and tax cutting, and morality and the family will be held in status quo, instead of further sliding into the ruin of post modern hedonistic relativism.

      There will be no extreme social activism from the conservatives, (unfortunately), because it would just put the liberals back into power.

  6. Rick Mercer is a jerk.

    • He's from Newfoundland & Labrador as we all know. They used to be the brunt of jokes in this country but not anymore. And if I remember correctly ex-Premier Danny Williams found out about the Harper Government and liked him so much he went ABC. Wonder who he voted for. He must be a jerk too?

      • Is this a rhetorical question? If so, what is your point? Danny Williams is a blowhard who wanted to kkep collecting transfer payment (or, interprovincial pogey) even though his province was a “have” province. So, yes, a jerk.

    •  And James Walker is really reall really smart. Haha, thanks for bringing such insight to the debate, i know where you would fit right in…the government side of the house, somehwere in the back, perhaps falling asleep..huh? what? hey dont question us your a jerk

  7. Now that we have had near 20 years of efforts at reform, cumulating in the CPC majority, it has to be admitted that the reform efforts have largely failed. Please note the adjective "largely". Yes, the conservative reformers have managed to attain power – a notable success, but this was done while leaving the system almost entirely intact. Perhaps this is by circumstance as much as any failure of nerve or program.

    Here is my forecast: Despite having criticized the system as unfair, the CPC will leave it largely intact. Working the system is what enabled them to attain power. They will not tamper with it now that they understand how to get rewarded.

    Reform is dead! Long live reform! I also suggest that governing will be the new black. Reform is dead letter. The next four years will be all about effective government.*

    *By which I mean over then next four years the "talk" will be about effective government. I am not prepared to vouchsafe if it is to be actually effective.

    • I think there's a very strong possiblity the PQ are going to dictate what the next four years are about.

      • May well be, but that is a governing issue, no? Besides, the reform issue that the PQ wants, sovereignty, has been dealt a very major blow in the defeat of the BQ.

        Nope, my money is that the theme that will capture attention is "Getting down to the business of governing."

        • You may cite Venezuela as doing this well. But there is one difference. He nationalized his country's oil industry instead of letting Conoco-Philips run it. Country is doing well I understand because of it

          • As much as I would love to get into an extended discussion of neo-Bolivarism in the Venezuelan context with reference to it's defense against corporate proxy colonialism as brought to light by Chomsky's work… I will have to decline at this time.

            But start another thread & see what happens. I am sure it will be lively.

          • I think your understanding is flawed, based on the unrest and shortages there.

  8. Rick Mercer is a funny guy with a leftist bent.
    He lives off tax payer's dime and comments on how surprised he is the Tories have risen to the top and how simply foolish we are for rejecting a fellow Toronto elitist.
    I hope the CBC's funding is cut and Mercer is forced to find his way in the real world. Maybe then he would realize we didn't reject Iggy because of where he was educated but because of the education he clearly lacked which was obvious in his policies and his attitude towards the peasants who wouldn't "rise up, rise up" at his command.

    • Rick is from Newfoundland. Hint: that's nowhere near Toronto.

    • In my view, Rick Mercer is a funny guy who is pretty adept at being non-partisan.

      • Yes, being a leftie probably makes him sound non-partisan- to lefties.

  9. A pretty good analysis, Rick. On the other hand, I think the time at the massage parlour may actually come back to haunt Jack; not for going to the massage parlour (who cares?) but for his slippery answer in which he raises questions about his veracity. As for Mr Ignatieff, it was not his time at Harvard that hurt him, it was his abject failure at responding to the substance of the question that was being asked – "Did Mr Ignatieff leave Harvard because he wanted to be Prime Minister or did he really have a plan for Canada?" If Mr Ignatieff had spent more time outling a vision for Canada and less time on trying to identify faux scandals, he might still be Leader of the Opposition today.

  10. To answer your question: the whole nation suffers from hockey concussion. I am now a cynic and I don't like it! I haven't had a concussion, but I am getting there.

  11. Suck it up princess , The people have spoken , Oh and for the "only 40 % crowd: Layton got 65% in his riding Harper 72% May got only 46% so the majority of people in her riding didn't vote for her .

    • …furthermore, while we are talking numbers, 70 percent of the electorate did not support Jack; over 80 percent of the electorate rejected Michael; while an overwhelming 95 percent of the electorate rejected Liz.

    • the interesting thing about EMay’s win was that people from all parties voted for her, including prominent conservatives. And she ran a respectful campaign which was incredibly refreshing. She has the ability to bring people together on issues that they can agree on which is exactly opposite to the divide and conquer tactics of the current gov’t. She was by far the best candidate in our riding. We still vote for candidates here, not PM. Although one of the four con calls that came to my house asked me if I was voting for Harper. I told him he had the wrong postal code.

  12. "And while we ponder the results and we study what happened, and speculate what it all might mean for Canada, it doesn't hurt to think about what didn't happen on election day.

    No shots were fired, no cars were burnt, nobody was intimidated at the polling booth and nobody died.

    And while that mightn't make headlines on the BBC World Service, that's exactly the way it should be. It's why we are a nation worth voting for." The results are what they are… be it…but then again we have so many of our First Nation people who do not have clean drinking water and I do not see any solutions anywhere in the horizon. I do not need a "poll" to inform me that most people in Canada do not care about this issue.

    • I think we spend enough on Native affairs. Let them get their own house in order now.

  13. HEY, Rick .. ya doofus …. Western Canada now starts at the OTTAWA RIVER …. and the Dippers are a Quebec-dominated Eastern Canadian party …. because there is no mo' "Central" Canada … kapish …??!!!!

  14. "Liberals, even when in opposition, are always surprised when they meet someone who isn't a liberal. They tend to believe everyone looks at the world the way they do, everyone is on the same team."

    Brilliant. I have said this myself, and been criticized for it. The reason the Liberals lost is their almost total disconnection from reality. They (like anyone with an opinion) feel that they are right. The difference between them and others, is their belief that anyone who opposes their beliefs is uneducated/stupid/ignorant. Basically, they believe everyone will eventually end up thinking as they do.
    Their fatal flaw is that they cannot comprehend that their opponents have well thought our opinions. They cannot understand their opponents beliefs as rational, and therefore dismiss anyone who holds the beliefs. I feel this is why conservatives seem to feel that the media is unfair to them. It is in the way that the conservative are 'opposed' in the media. It has this idea, behind the stories, that only stupid people can think this way, and the reporter (obviously to themselves) is not stupid. The story sometimes has that feel to it. When liberals are 'attacked' in the media, it is usually on policy or on something the person has said/done.

  15. Liberals = Clowns ….. the new Canadian perception of the federal Liberals. Canadians may laugh with Rick, but now they laugh at Liberals.

    Rick ….. now that you don't have Iggy to kick around any more, and you had better not kick Harper or else the CBC will suffer, you can go skinny dipping with Jacq and Mulcair. If you visit Quebec just remember they've switched from Pepsi to Orange Crush …!!!!

  16. "All we can be certain of is that for the time being, with a comfortable majority in the House, Stephen Harper will do whatever the hell he wants. That's what Canada voted for."

    Rick you nailed it – Canada voted for a majority, any majority, and then after they got it, a national survey of them said overwhelmingly that they wanted it 'kept on a short leash'. Probably just as well you didn't have to talk about that with the BBC.

    • 4 years of hell is going to be a long time. How do you like your meat? Rare, Medium or Well Done?

      • Hell for you, bliss for us. Enjoy.

        • we’ll see. cannot wait to see the AG’s final report.The emperor has no clothes 

  17. The Canadian youth vote split between the Conservatives and NDP … and the Liberals were roundly rejected. Wonder why …??!!!

  18. No more mushy middle Canadians … we've bravely polarized between left and right … as it should be.

    • Eh? Could you explain this comment? Particularly the ‘as it should be’ part.

  19. Mercer the Curser -I luv him, I really do -he's great but of course.!

  20. Canadian youth shouldn't be masturbating over politics; they should be fornicating … fecund females and horny boys … practicing to make new little homegrown Canadians.

    Stop, I say STOP, Rick … don't confuse the youth with dirty politics that divert them from their natural activities .. sex, sex and more sex.

  21. Best post election synthesis so far. Good on you!

  22. The Conservatives and PM Harper have good reason to be skeptical and cynical about the msm. They don't trust the msm, and they have proven time and again they cannot be trusted. Maybe if the msm starts giving the PM of Canada at least the level of respect the position warrants, and stops giving Jack Layton a free pass on everything and anything he says or does, and stops fawning over Layton's every word; then maybe the conservatives of Canada who elected our government , and the CPC, will give the msm some respect. Until then, that's not on. The absolute best part of this election result is the giant, and unequivocal "middle finger salute" that Canadian voters gave the leftist msm. Canadian voters showed them who will be selecting our government, thank you very much. Hint: not the leftist msm.

    • respect has to be earned. still waiting for that one. how about respect for our democratic institutions and traditions?  

  23. It wasn't the fact that Iggy was a Harvard teacher, or that he had "international experience" – most Canadians would see these as positives. It was the FACT that Iggy lived outside the country for 30 PLUS consecutiveYEARS, and returned just in 2005 solely for the purpose to take the biggest jofb in the land. Some how the Liberal elite that plucked Iggy from foreign lands, didnt' think this might be a "problem" for Canadian voters. This was viewed by most of the country as the worst case of Liberal Arrogance we've ever seen. the Liberals tried to spin it as "international experience = good"; thinking Canadians were too stupid to notice the difference between that, and the real deal – a carpetbagger and convenient Canadian.

  24. Centrism is an abstract. An illusioin. It is where the left and the right go when at risk of losing votes by being labelled "too far left" or "too far right".

    • So you're saying there's a desire among voters for a party that's neither too far left, nor right.

      I think you may be on to something here.

  25. Yes, my Nigerian brother, in Canada, time spent at the Velvet Touch massage parlour is a positive, time spent at Harvard not so much.

    LOL! Best line in the article. Thanks Rick!

  26. As an astute political observer, Rick, I'm guessing you predicted last Monday's Conservative majority in your BBC broaaadcast. I didn't hear it so I just have to guess, mind you.

    What's that you say Rick – you didn't see it coming – but …. but ….

    Michael St.Paul's

  27. For all you blatantly bi-assed Liberal ignoramuses at Macleans, THE answer to your banal question, "how-in-god's-name-do-you-explain/…………..? Simple! Daniel 2:21, "HE changes the times and the seasons: HE removeth Kings, and setteth up Kings: HE giveth wisdom to the wise and knowledge to them that know." And the "HE" here is NOT the so called Canadian " liberal kingmaker" Paul Demarais, CEO Power Corporation of Canada, active in the fields of mass media and probably the power behind recruiting Iggy in the first place to lead us dumb Canucks. Long live Harper, long may he reign and God save CANADA!

    • Seriously? You’re going the manifest destiny route?

      • Sheesh, I’m backing Thwim on this one. That’s just silly.

  28. Ricky, the massage parlour story wasn't covered by the Government Broadcaster to whom you've been joined at the hip with a taxfunded IV for some time now so I'm puzzled as to why you would bring it up now that the election result is known. Your ACCOR-like mob tactics to sway impressionable youth failed. There's a fine line between comedian and activist, Ricky, and in your case the line is severely blurred.

    • Umm, it’s “State Broadcaster”. Let’s be accurate here. Just like North Korea and China. Yeah, Canada!

      • And don’t forget the UK’s contribution to state broadcasting: the BBC. Heaven knows they’ve never provided a useful contribution to international journalism.

        • My point proved. Another state broadcaster preaching to the masses.

  29. Or maybe, Rick, from a loft in Nigeria or a shantytown in Oslo. I don't think you should generalize the accommodations of other countries.

  30. I've never seen such a concentration of lame, snivelly comments. Geeeeez. I'd rather have a beer with Harper than Layton and maybe even Mercer, but definitely not with over half the commenters on this one.

  31. You actually compared the collapse of the Libranos to Lockerbie? I stopped reading at that point, and will not read, listen to, or watch you again. What an arsehole.

    May you and the Liberals drift into obscurity, totally irrelevant to how Canada grows and changes. Goodbye, Rick.

    • I stopped reading at "I stopped reading."

      • I read everything, the election is over and I NEEDS MY ELECTION NEWS FIX!!!!!!!!

    • Your loss. He’s a comedian.

      • I’m glad you told us. It isn’t evident WHAT he is.

  32. Who's Rick Mercer?

    Isn't he the guy who went swimming in the nude with Bob Rae on national TV in Canada on the CBC.
    Can we expect his next gift to Canadian entertainment and the arts will be a naked performance with Jack Layton in some community clinic in Toronto possibly the Velvet Touch, where Layton has some connections?
    This could happen after Mercer and Layton have finished organizing some political rave event of university students.
    Could a university students rave event be next at some Toronto massage parlor?

  33. Nice post Rick. It amazes me how many comments here are bringing religious quotes into what has been a secular government up to this point. I read a lot of comments during the election and there was a lot of finger pointing coming from baby-boomers regarding the youth vote. Well I am a baby-boomer and we have really dropped the ball when it comes to encouraging voting with our kids.

  34. “Some people, Liberals among them, say this is the best thing that could happen to the party. It’s been called tough medicine, the political equivalent of a bankruptcy protection that will force them to restructure and refocus.”

    I have been a Liberal supporter since I could vote but have always supported NDP values as well (obviously making me supportive of a merger) however this comment truely reflects what me and my whole family (also Liberals) believe. The Liberals have had a wake up call and need to figure out what has to be done, Iggy was a great man and should have won his seat but this is not only about the leaders. Whether the Liberals come back will be entirely up to them and if they dont get their act together then they will truely dissolve. Things will change because of this election and who knows what Canada will be four years from now? Could be the same but with a more polarizing spin, could be something completely new to us. This just shows that anything can happen.

  35. The Lockerbie reference is completely inappropriate. There was no plane crashing into a Scottish village, only an election.

  36. .
    Yes, Canadians have brought in the future autocracy, and in a very Canadian fashion. No bloody coups, no Krystalnachts, and Dear Leader looks no Gaddafi, but someone with a face as threatening looking as a vanilla custard with a piece of banana, two blueberries and a slice of pale maraschino. Only Bashar al Assad looks more harmless.’Would everyone please stand in line and vote quietly for Big Brother?’ Yes…thank you…’.

  37. My goodness.

    Can anybody really take you seriously?

    Who pays you for your excretions?

    Probably some cultural” pourboire”

    • Feel free to look up the words ‘comedian’ and ‘satire’ at your nearest convenience.

      • Still waiting to find it here…oh there it is, the election result was like the mass murder of men, women, and children. Ha ha ha. So silly.

        • Good heavens, it’s almost as bad as someone stating that the solution to poverty would be for poor people to eat their children. How could anyone find such a horrible–yet modest–proposal to be remotely satirical?

          • Unfortunately, the writing was not up to par with Swift. In my opinion, Mercer is funny- love his show. But equating the Liberals “disaster” with Lockerbie was a miss. Agree or disagree, your choice.

          • It wouldn’t be my choice of metaphor, but here we are, talking about it.  I assumed that was the intended effect, to highlight the insanely hyperbolic coverage of the Liberal disintegration during Election 2011.  Rick was being intentionally silly with the comparison; the bulk of the rest of the media establishment was not, which really just shows how unintentionally silly they’ve been over the past few weeks.

  38. My goodness.

    Can anybody really take you seriously?

    Who pays you for your excretions?

    Probably some cultural” pourboire”

    Good news: this website === ===

  39. An old lefty boomer who enjoys Rick’s sense of humor, happy to stumble across this post in Macleans, thanks . What is with some of the nasty ass comments from the other side? You have the keys to the kingdom, and still not happy?

    • Very happy. And still calling a spade a spade.

  40. @rickmercer I am with you on the yelling and clinking ice in the glass.Thank goodness I live in SGI or I wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed morning after.  

  41. Seems to me that nobody is remembering how the Conservatives were in the same boat that the Liberals are in now after the election following Mulroney’s departure where the electorate took them to the woodshed and reduced them to a handful of seats. Only a total blood transfusion from the Alliance brought them back to the land of the living. 

    Good thing voters have such short memories or elections would become a choice of who we hate the least. Oh, wait, isn’t that how we do it now???