Is Stephen Harper a hologram? -

Is Stephen Harper a hologram?

Rick Mercer on what he learned on the campaign trail with the party leaders

Is Stephen Harper a hologram?

Chris Wattie/Reuters

Grown men all over North America pay big money for the privilege of riding on a horse, sleeping on the ground and spending 12 hours a day driving cattle down a dusty trail with actual cowboys. For me, going out on the campaign trail, riding on the planes and following the leaders is pretty much the same thing. This wasn’t so much an assignment as it was a trip to a dude ranch. Some men want to strap on leather chaps and breathe in the aroma of cow dung; I want to slap on a press pass and breathe the same air as Harper, Iggy and Jack.

To get a seat on those planes is not an easy proposition. The Conservative party charges media organizations $50,000 for a seat. In return you get fed and watered—after that, all bets are off. There is no guarantee you get to ask a question, just the guarantee you won’t.

My week at the dude ranch started with the big gun: Team Harper. I met up with them in Rivière-du-Loup, Que., rode the bus to Edmundston, N.B., flew to Fredericton, crossed the pond to Conception Bay South, Nfld., back to Sydney, N.S., and then on to the Nation’s Capital.

In hindsight, I spent too much time with the front-runner. To get a feel for the Harper campaign you only need a few hours. The differences from one event to the other are minuscule. In English Canada they start each event by singing “O Canada,” and Stephen Harper tells the crowd he’s proud to lead a party that starts every event this way no matter where they are in the country. In Quebec they skip this part and they hide the Canadian flags in the plane. Barring this nationalism of convenience, if you have seen one Harper event you have seen them all. The Harper campaign is far and away the most disciplined, the most professional and the most scripted. Every word is on a teleprompter, it is delivered in exactly the same way, and the Prime Minister does something I have, in a lifetime of watching live performers onstage, never seen before: he actually stops and sips his water in the same spot every time. Nothing is left to chance. Either that or he is a hologram on a loop.

My first Harper campaign event in Quebec was held in a senior citizens’ home, what we in show businesses call a captive audience. No vote mobs here.

Politics is a dirty racket, and certainly all politicians on occasion must do things they find personally distasteful, but I would like to think that most of them would draw the line at scaring old ladies. No such luck on this tour.

It’s one thing to put ominous, spooky commercials on TV during the Juno Awards, but to actually show up in a seniors’ home and tell the residents that the world is a scary, evil, dangerous place and that “chaos is lapping at our shores” without so much as a warm- up joke or a pleasant story takes a real commitment to fear.

The promise to write off a portion of their gym membership starting in 2014 might have taken the edge off, but I didn’t feel it in the room.

And then it was cue the music and head for the door.

This is another thing I learned about Stephen Harper: he loves to head for the exit. It is a cliché and a fact that during a campaign every successful politician is a security detail’s nightmare. Once a campaign starts, politicians of all stripes basically say to hell with the RCMP and they wade into crowds, lean down from the stage to shake hands or run across streets to speak to groups of strangers. It would have taken the strength of a thousand men to stop a Ralph Klein, a Jean Chrétien or a Brian Mulroney from glad-handing a crowd during a campaign stop. To them that personal interaction is like a shot of pure adrenalin into their veins. Stephen Harper is that rare breed of politician: he is a security detail’s dream. Even in a room of just 75 seniors, there is no wading into the crowd for this guy. To ask the Prime Minister to do that would be like asking Superman to dive into a pool of liquid kryptonite. Even if he wanted to, he just couldn’t. The damage to his system would be too grave.

And so day one could be summed up this way: “Scare some seniors, go to lunch, repeat.”

It was during lunch that I became reacquainted with the Tories’ not-so-secret campaign weapon, the ever-present Sen. Marjory LeBreton.

LeBreton’s job is to “assist the media.” This is a nice way of saying she never leaves them alone and listens to every conversation they have. She is a legend in Conservative campaign circles; she has been on practically every leader’s tour since the Diefenbaker days. She does not sleep, she does not take nourishment.

On this day, while reporters were shovelling back snack packs of takeout chicken and wet-napping the grease off their keyboards, Marjory went from one reporter to the next, eyes darting across laptops, loudly declaring that “ooo that smells good,” “mmm those french fries are delicious,” and “isn’t this the best chicken ever?”

This is the Conservative campaign strategy in a nutshell. Make something up, repeat it enough and eventually people believe it. A separatist coalition is coming, only Stephen Harper can stop a $75 iPod tax that does not exist, and these frozen french fries in the little greasy bag are the best damn french fries a person could eat.

From my perspective, I could not have joined the Conservative campaign at a better time. Events, as they say, occurred.

Brad Trost, a Conservative MP from Saskatchewan, reopened the abortion debate and Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s communications director, became a story himself when he was the subject of kickback allegations. Nothing has been proven of course, but when your campaign begins to resemble a subplot on The Sopranos that’s generally not a good thing.

And I will never forget the chilly Newfoundland morning when Stephen Harper faced not just a disappointingly low turnout, but a cantankerous teleprompter that left him standing on centre ice at a hockey rink in total silence for seven long seconds. Eventually our quick-witted leader said, “Jeremy, could you bring me my notes?” a sentence he kept repeating until Jeremy did just that. Thank God for Jeremy, because this mercifully allowed Harper to begin the same speech that he had given 50 times since the campaign began. Nine minutes later it was over: “Chaos is lapping at our shores,” “thank you and goodbye.” Later in that same rink Harper taped that night’s one-on-one interview with Peter Mansbridge; 24 hours later an Ipsos Reid poll was released suggesting a Harper majority. High above the skies of Eastern Canada a Conservative staffer wandered up and down the aisle of the airplane, white napkin over his forearm, serving champagne to all.

From there it was on to the Liberal campaign. Tragedy plus time equals comedy. Twenty-four hours after reports that the most successful political brand in the history of modern democracy was flirting with junk bond status was a perfect moment for all involved to look back and laugh.

Michael Ignatieff came on the plane, wandered to the back and welcomed the newcomers aboard. He inquired about someone’s mother and said he was looking forward to the rest of the campaign with a sense of serene optimism. I couldn’t help but note this is reportedly what victims of hypothermia experience in their final moments. He was wearing loafers, no shoelaces—just an observation, nothing more.

The differences between the Harper and Ignatieff campaigns are vast. With Ignatieff each speech is different, so you have to pay attention, and of course, perhaps the biggest contrast of all is that Ignatieff takes questions.

I have no idea if the general public is aware of or cares how few questions the Prime Minister will allow. I expect that they don’t care that if the Prime Minister rolls into a university town, student publications are not granted a single question. With Ignatieff the pendulum swings the other way—you can ask all the questions you want. From a journalist’s perspective it’s great, ask a question, get an answer; from a campaign’s perspective it’s a dangerous game, but a practice he seems committed to.

And then there was Prince Edward Island, where, in a curling club, Ignatieff showed off a set of skills I had no idea that he possessed. From a pure showbiz perspective he killed. Speaking without a teleprompter or notes he gave perhaps the best speech I have heard since watching Gen. Rick Hillier address the troops in Kandahar. Whatever happens, he has a bright future on the rubber chicken circuit.

Emboldened by the P.E.I. experience the Liberal team headed to the airport, and as luck would have it, minutes before takeoff our BlackBerries started buzzing—more polls, and more bad news.

I admit I had no intention of getting on the NDP plane. My plan, based on an astute political mind and decades of Monday morning quarterbacking, was to visit the Conservative and Liberal campaigns and ignore the NDP altogether. When news broke that the NDP had moved into first place in Quebec, I, like so many others, said a hasty goodbye and headed over to the NDP. The NDP in the lead in Quebec? I hadn’t heard anything as outrageous since 1979 when my older brother assured me that the dog up the road had kittens.

Karl Bélanger is Jack Layton’s senior press secretary. I have known him, not personally but professionally, for a very long time. He is from Quebec and he is a fixture on Parliament Hill. If you see Jack Layton on TV, look behind him and there is Karl. He’s been standing there for almost a decade. I do not know if in my entire life I have been as happy as Karl Bélanger was that night I hooked up with the NDP campaign. I was actually worried his head might come off.

At first I believed Jack’s new-found success among anglophone voters in Quebec could be attributed to the fact that in the French language debates his translator sounded like Sean Connery, but clearly it’s more than that. And while the crowds are larger than Jack is used to, Jack is doing exactly what he has done for almost a decade. I watched him get a rock-star response at a Sikh Khalsa Day celebration in Toronto, I saw him talk blue-collar issues for a boisterous crowd in Saint John, N.B., and finally parlez-vous them into a frenzy in Gatineau, Que.

And as I pulled out of the parking lot at week’s end only one thought was running through my head: why?

Diefenbaker was the last politician to cross the country by train. It was once a standard way of doing things, but campaigning by train became extinct the day the first political party chartered an airplane and began to charge the media to sit in the back to pay for the gas.

Since then the only consequential change to a leader’s campaign has been the introduction of the inflatable thunder stick. I think we can agree there is a special place in hell for whoever came up with that idea.

But times have changed. In a modern political campaign it is the air war that matters, the advertising matters, the debates matter, interviews matter, photo ops matter, but the leader’s campaign does not. It exists because it is a tradition.

My time with Harper on the road was excruciating for the Tories. Abortion, kickbacks, failed teleprompters and low turnouts—what saved the day was Harper’s successful high-profile interview with Peter Mansbridge.

Michael Ignatieff had the converse experience. He travelled the country and gave barn-burner performances, but when the lights came on in the studio with Mansbridge, Ignatieff dug up the corpse of the coalition and danced it around the room. A thousand speeches in a thousand hockey rinks won’t make up for that.

And Jack Layton is a great campaigner but a good speech in Gatineau doesn’t put the NDP in first place in Quebec. Jack made that happen on French debate night. Again, it’s the air war.

I’m glad I got to join the campaign this week, but now I view the national leader’s tour not just as a romantic notion but a nostalgic one. This was perhaps the most exciting week in politics in a very long time and I felt removed from the story, even though I was within 50 feet of a leader at any given point.

Very soon a national leader is going to make a quantum leap and launch a national campaign by staying home. He or she will enter a bunker in Ottawa and from there they will Skype streaming video into 10 curling rinks in 10 provinces in one night. They will hold a dozen town halls in a single afternoon. They will take or refuse questions from all over Canada from all sorts of people. By staying home they will reach more Canadians.

The national campaign as we know it will continue for the time being but I predict fewer journalists will spend less time on board. The parties, desperate for gas money, will have no choice but to fill those seats in the back of the plane with more tourists like me.

Rick Mercer’s column will appear each week during the election campaign


Is Stephen Harper a hologram?

  1. Thanks for the great story, Rick. I especially liked your summary of the LPC woes, and I'll stick my neck out here and suggest that we may not see Ignatieff gone after the next LPC leaders debate, for those qualities (and unforced errors) that you just highlighted.

    • .
      The infinitely malleable Mr. Ignatieff (except in trainers in Afghanistan, support of American exceptionalism, truancy from parliament, voting alignment with Rick's well-researched Terminator above) leaves only Layton as an acceptable alternative. I'm sorry Justin cannot see that very clear fact.

      • Justin? Trudeau?

    • A part of me kind of hopes you're right about that, Noob. The last three Liberal campaigns have been an utter embarassment, and at a certain point, you can't blame the leader, as there's been a different one each time. It's time to put the blame where it belongs: on certain so-called strategists who will hopefully be on their way out the door after this. Iggy has a lot going for him. And it takes time for a leader to get comfortable in the debates and so-on. The Liberals would be wise to let him grow into the role, as I really don't see any more credible options in the wing.

      • Yes, it's time to refresh the backroom, I completely agree. This insipid belief that the Liberal voters are suffering from temporary insanity and will flock back to the red mother ship has got to end. I guess a full election cycle or two out in the wilderness will probably cure them of that.

        • Refresh the backroom…agree completely.

          Was reminded of this earlier today when CPAC showed an LPC event where Jean Chretien was trotted out as the warmup act. Yes he was successful (while he was PM), but there is nothing the LPC can learn from him and the people that 'propped' up Chretien. He succeeded despite his backroom people and thier tactics, not because of those people and thier tactics.

    • Ignatieff is Canada's John Kerry. Very learned, massive resume, open to the public, but he just can't bridge the charisma gap.

      • Please tell me you're not suggesting Harpers lead is due to his charisma?

    • Liberals think Michael Ignatieff campaign is great.

      But to non-Kool-Aid drinkers, what you guys think is wonderful comes off to us as "how can those stupid people be supporting Harper and Layton" .

      Ignatieff doesn't connect because he loses the people who don't believe that Harper is evil and Layton isn't an option. Michael Ignatieff's campaign has been preaching to the converted. And when you start out at 25%, you can just be preaching to the converted.

  2. .
    Mr. Harper makes my voting decision very easy. It has never been easier. There is no hidden agenda.

    But finally there's a choice for bean-counters, robots and programmers to love.

    The visible reduction of humanity and freedom. Pieces of the democracy-cookie broken off in measured increments by a clockwork machine. The debate:

    On question
    Stare down the person talking to you.
    Stare into the tube when answering him.
    If wrong tube
    Talk anyway
    Repeat until next question or program end
    End subroutine

    I haven't voted NDP in years, but now there's no alternative.

    • Yay…… don't know how happy that makes me. I just don't want conservs or liberals….so NDP makes sense .

      • It's a sad state for politics in Canada when we now choose who we vote for based on the 'must' system (e.g. boxing). I remember being young and voting for who I wanted to win. Now I base my vote on who I want to lose.

  3. Fear seems to be route the politicos are taking, and it's sad that people has to resort to that. I see a more Americanized style of campaigning these days and I don't like it. What I'd like to know is how come no one brings up the Reform Party joining with what was left of the Conservatives to form a new party? Maybe that's why the Reform party/Conserv is so scared of a coalition with the Libs and NDP. Hmm…..

    • I totally agree with you, AnnaR. Harper's people have a lot of nerve throwing out the "coalition" fear factor when that is exactly how they & Harper got into power. It's public apathy that keeps them in power along with a really good dose of Conservative back-room boys who have the backing of a seemingly endless supply of cash to promote their agenda. I used to think the same of the Liberals but for some reason I feel the big money has shifted to the Conservatives. I guess the Liberals are too left of centre for the corporate world.

      Wait till they have to deal with Jack! Then we'll see some incredible politics happening & I don't think it's going to be funny to watch. Just look at what's happening south of the border. I know I'm going to be paying attention for the next few years. I'm not going to sit back and think the world is a better place now that Harper's not here. His minions are still working the dark side. I prefer to help the parties with policies that share the wealth of my country, not horde it for the few.

      • right on!

    • I totally agree with you, AnnaR. Harper's people have a lot of nerve throwing out the "coalition" fear factor when that is exactly how they & Harper got into power. It's public apathy that keeps them in power along with a really good dose of Conservative back-room boys who have the backing of a seemingly endless supply of cash to promote their agenda. I used to think the same of the Liberals but for some reason I feel the big money has shifted to the Conservatives. I guess the Liberals are too left of centre for the corporate world. __Wait till they have to deal with Jack! Then we'll see some incredible politics happening & I don't think it's going to be funny to watch. Just look at what's happening south of the border. I know I'm going to be paying attention for the next few years. I'm not going to sit back and think the world is a better place now that Harper's not here. His minions are still working the dark side. I prefer to help the parties with policies that share the wealth of my country, not horde it for the few._

    • What I love is how the people are responding by standing up and saying we will not put up with it and it's time for something new.

      Go Canada!!!

    • Recent scientific research has shown differences between conservative and liberal brain performances. Conservatives are better at identifying risks and more responsive to fear. Liberals are better at integrating divergent information and more likely to act out of self principle.

      Seems like the Cons have been reading up and playing to their core.

  4. Hahaha! Well done, Rick!!! :)

  5. I am a conservative of a conservative of a conservative. It is bred in the bone. But it is NDP time. It is the first election where I actually feel in the pit of my gut I need to vote NDP for Canada's sake. The rest of the world thinks our only leadership is the beaver or a Mountie or that hologram guy. We need a real leader folks, someone to represent us on the world stage. I wish it could be Iggy but it can't. He isn't quite up to the job. We need to be proud of our country and Jack will make us proud. Yes, I know, it may be expensive but let's consider it an investment in putting Canada on the map.

    • Have you heard Jack on how he's going to deal with the US? So far it's basically – defer to Obama, whatever the US wants. Ignatieff – knows the Americans, knows you can't trust them.

      Don't be dumb. Don't be sucked in by a slick carsalesman's act.

      • As opposed to Harper's "buy this car, or your family will die".

        • – As opposed to Harper's "buy this car, or your family will die".

          More like

          Harper: "Buy this car, or your family will die."

          Canadian: "Really? Well, I want my family to live so I'm going to buy it. So, how much?"

          Harper: "I'm not telling you."

          Canadian: "Hmm. Well, can you tell me what kind of car it is?"

          Harper: "You don't need to know that."

          Canadian: "So, what exactly is going to kill my family?"

          Harper: "Sorry! I've answered enough questions today."

      • Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black. For years we have been asking Harper for a policy on greenhouse gasses. First he says we will have a "made in Canada" approach. Now that the Americans can't get anything past Congress, we have to wait for a pan-north American approach. Harper wants to wait for the Americans to do anything on climate change. Where is the leadership there?

        I am a lifetime Liberal, and don't necessarily support the NDP, but I am confident Jack wouldn't defer to anyone. If We don't have a Liberal government after this election, I would much prefer the NDP to the Conservatives.

    • Absolutely agree – never in a million years did I think I'd be voting NDP – I think Jack's a breath of fresh air we sorely need!

    • Yes, it will be expensive, but hey, a person making $75,000 pays 45% of his/her wages out in taxes so there is still lots to give before we become completely dependant on the government to care for us.

      The only difference between a socialized country and a communist country is that in a democratic socialized country you get to vote.

      • That's a pretty big differance there Suezy…

    • Con grats on breaking the cycle! Fear not . The only difference with NDP influence in Ottawa is that The money flow to the rich will be a little stifled. I can't get over this statistic… " 1% of america owns 70 % of the wealth." in other terms thats, ( 400 individuals are richer than 150 million americans) {google it ,there are lots of sources…."wealth in America}… and apparently its a little worse in Canada. Nothing to fear but fear itself !! and of course climate change if you have kids or a conscience.

  6. Very true about the NDP….they aren't doing or saying anything different from what they have all these years.

    It's just a fluke of this campaign that anyone is paying them any attention at all.

    But I enjoyed the round-up of campaign impressions!

  7. Rick Mercer seems to be asking for the return of a Brian Mulroney, the conservative leader whose charm, wit and sponteneity won him such good will with the ink-stained hypotwits.

  8. I'm with you Rick. We socialists have to stick together, if for nothing else but to save our jobs especially if we work for CBC. As we know Harper with a majority would more than like would reduce and then cut funding for our bread and butter. So what the heck, let's not worry about the rest of the country, let's protect our own necks and give ole socialist Jack a boost. Nice going Rick.

    • Awesome. .. Together we can save our country.

    • I'm with you doughhead…Harper must go and if it's Jack that sends him walking then hooray for Jack. If politicians are going to be giving our money away (like Harper gives our money to the rich), then at least Jack will give it to the people. As for your crack at socialism…when did you give up your health care? do you send your kids to private schools or do you just pay your way by the month at the public schools?

  9. I looked into the The Big Red Tent… Pretty Empty.

  10. "Diefenbaker was the last politician to cross the country by train." – Didn't Elizabeth May do her whistle stop tour of Canada in 2008? Just asking.

    Interesting article Rick – thanks!

    • Elizabeth May did whistle stop tours in April 2011 as well!

    • Yes, Rick is quite wrong, and strangely so since May's whistle stop tours of Canada took place both in 2008 and 2011. I guess he lives in the same sort of bubble that the rest of the CBC and Broadcast Consortium fashion for their personalities.

      May also conducted a Skype campaign, at one point holding a video conference with Linda Keen who endorsed May from across the country.

  11. Harper is not a hologram, he’s a Borg!

    • No he's Ferengi!

    • You're right! A Borg, and according to this article, is in need of an upgraded memory chip! (seeing he's recounting the same speech, but is incapable of memorizing it!)

  12. Mr. Harper is right and has the experience to tell us the truth. Coalitions are very dangerous. He has shown Canadian’s an example… we only have to look at the disfunction in Canadian democracy when the Reforms and PC started to work together.

    • We need a strong Federalist party, not Separtistas in the East, or Separtists in the West; i.e.) The reform/alliance/conservative party, I think that leaves us little choice!

    • @John Does the fact that the Conservative Party of Canada started with a lie NOT bother you at all? I realize this has become a way of administering for the CPC, but it is a poor way to begin any endeavour. Peter MacKay lied to David Orchard in order to get his votes to become leader of the PCs. He told Orchard that he would NOT form a coalition with the Alliance party (Reform party). A week later he and Harper were engaged in just that. Did he have his fingers crossed? Doesn't he know the story of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf?
      In the Leaders debate Harper said, "I refuse to acknowledge the truth of that comment", when speaking about the contempt of Parliament. What's with that?
      I agree that Harper is Right, but NOT correct, and he may have experience, but NOT enough to tell the truth, nor acknowledge it when it is spoken.
      The CPC has NOT cooperate in a minority government like it needs to. It has created a dysfunctional government and does NOT have the confidence of the rest of the country … represented by the majority of the voters. If the NDP & Liberals want to form an alliance to govern this country, and have the majority of voters behind them, then they should be allowed to; it's simply the way our Constitution is, even if Harper refuses to acknowledge that truth.

      • You might want to read past the fourth word of John's comment.

        • some people only read the titles . .

    • Um John, I hate to be the one to tell you this but a parlament is by nature a coalition…you really are not voting for a party you are voting for a single person. That person forms a coalition with a group of other people to form a government…or not as the case may be , but and it is a big but every one of the MPs we elect is free to leave thier respective group at any time and join another group or go out on thier own. That is the way our government is set up. In fact if, like minded, people from the PC, Lib, NDP, Green and even the Bloc all decided to get together and (assuming there were enough of them) declair Rick Mercer Prime Minister they could do so, all they need is a majority and permission from the GG!

    • It was hard to give you the thumbs up because you started with "Harper is right" Well done. You know , I keep looking to see if I can find one policy that I can agree with,….. finally I kinda found his tax rebate for joining a gym …what a guy.

  13. Welcome to the land of Oz!

    Where Tin Man Harper, Scarecrow Ignatieff, and Cowardly Lion Layton will gladly lead you along the yellow brick road to meet the Wizard!

    Only, there is no Wizard, just an old man in a voting booth with some paper.

    I'm so glad it's all in glorious tecno-color!

    • Lol. I would just invert Tin Man (wants a heart but already has one, just can't show it) with Scarecrow (wants a brain but already has one and can't show it). This Cowardly Lion is Brave, we all know that. Both Harper and Ignatief have to show less IQ and more EQ.

  14. Nice.

  15. Voters Remember we need the F-35's and we DO NOT need Minimum Sentence Provisions that will cost us more long term than new Aircraft!!!

  16. CAPSLOCK much?

  17. Thank you Rick. I too was so disgusted with Mansbridges interview that I can no longer bear to look at him let alone listen to him. How he could have let harper take over and and control that interview boggled my mind.

    • Mansbridge is stale as a newsman. He's probably hedging his bet so that Harper might remember to repay his favour by appointing him a senator

    • Have you watched anyone else interview Harper? Have you watched Terry Milewski try to ask him questions? Peter did what he could do; you can't force someone to answer questions, and it's pretty hard to deal with a bully like that without decking him one on his huge ugly nose. Peter had to remain civil; it's his job. He pushed, Harper refused. End of story.

      Watch the GlobalTV interview with Harper. His rudeness to the interviewer (woman) was stunning. I am sure she wanted to kick him in the balls and walk out – but again — they have to remain civil.

  18. I am really happy that once in a federal election, people are spending more time into examinating all possibilities and not just red and blue. There's a few good reasons why Jack is a good prospect for leadership of this country.
    No1. He has lots political experience. He is persistant, he never gave up even if his party didn't do well enough, even if life has thrown him a few curve balls.
    No2. He is a people person and has an authentic smile.
    No3. People understand that now is the time for a political revolution that will put an end to the scandal relaying red and blue had for so many years.

    • Getting a new party in power is not going to suddenly get rid of political scandals. Scandal and politics go hand in hand, and that's not going to change, no matter who's in power. People will always be people, and someone is going to take the "easy way out" or something at some time. Find a bunch of perfect people and you'll have a scandal free gov't. Until then, scandal is not a good reason to not vote for a certain party.

    • "He is a people person with an authentic smile"?????? WTF, are we in grade seven?

      • He didn't come back for you……just visiting…..
        Yes..we are in grade 7

  19. It ain't over yet. I asked for Harper to be cut off at the knees – and that's what I'm expecting.

  20. I think your diary notes will be a suitable and enjoyable read for Pol Sci students for many many years to come.

    But more than anyone reporting in this election campaign you've really captured the real essence and meaning of chicken in the Harper campaign.

    In your subliminal way you've discovered and labelled 'Conservative Chicken Man's 4 Q's a Day Campaign.'

    "He's everywhere, he's everywhere… but truly Harper is a nowhere man."

    I think no matter what this election brings in terms of minority government it has amazingly illustrated that Canadians want back their democracy, Canadians may very well have stepped back from the brink and just in time. People in Canada need a vision, not the same old.

    Thanks for eating all that terrible food.

    A trip to Whole Paycheque must be in store for you when this campaign is over. And what what were they thinking…giving Rick Mercer greasy chicken.

  21. I wonder if Harper's audience has been chroma-keyed onto a green background.

  22. Thanks Rick
    Although I fear that you may be blamed for the election results. I mean who knew your rant touched a chord with young voters?

    So if the participation in the 18 to 25 group goes up 5 or 10% will the Conservatives try and cut you and the show off at the knees?

    I mean they are that paranoid. But maybe I'm just overreacting.

    • If Harper gets a majority he will cut the CBC no questions asked! He will then actively promote Sun Tv (Fox News North) by spending millions on advertising on that channel. Just watch him!

      • He apparently already gives them the promotion services of his staff… does this bother anybody else?

    • Tell young people that they can't do something and they will go out of their way to prove you wrong. Not because of their egos, but because they want to show that they do care about our great country and that they have ideals which are about the whole, not just about business. They know that this is about a higher standard of living for all, not just the upper class. That if you get sick, it will not cost you everything you have while the insurance companies laugh all the way to the bank. That education is more important then war machines(F-35 jets). That our future should not be ruled by fear, but instead by hope and a vision for Canada that the generation after them will be proud to call home.

      So to the youth standing up for my beloved Canada, I say thank you.

      Oh and they also like to make the haters look dumb (conservatives). lol

      • well said!

  23. On the supremacy of airwaves in an election. This was Nixon’s excuse for loosing an elections to Kennedy. Harper might find himself in the loser’s shoes (all laced up, of course) not because of the omnipoverful airways, but because he is no Kennedy. People would forgive him everything, but not the arrogance he is full of.

    • Nicely put, but I'm not sure the conduit between his throat and his lungs has anything to do with a federal election.

  24. Teleprompter or not Harper looks the same………….bored and boring

  25. Tears of laughter as usual Rick. Keep it up please.

    If Harper get's his majority do we get to blame Mansbridge. :)

  26. Loving Jason Kenny checking out the blonde girl in the crowd.

  27. I heard the journalists were mouthing Harper's speech while he was delivering it. If they had been allowed to stand closer to him they could have acted the part of the prompter when he lost it in the arena.

    • You'd think after so many repetitions, he'd have it memorized.

  28. I'm a huge fan for Rick Mercer, but the title sounds quite similar to a Smew article I read not too long ago. Of course, the candidate is different but kinda strange, unless Mercer is a Smew fan, perhaps?
    "Liberal Leader Actually a Hologram, Aides Admit"
    Am I crazy here? Thoughts?

  29. What I like about Jack is that he is different in light of the two other options we have. I may not like the NDP party for historical reasons, but then again I don't like the Conservatives because of Mike Harris. As for Iggy, he just does not resonate with me the same way Jack does.

    I only wish Jack was running the Liberal party, my vote would be that much easier to make.

    • Who knows, after this election, if the Libs get trounced, a combined left party may just have Layton at its head!

  30. Rick is the funniest political commentater I have read. Just wish he wouldn't follow the other political writer's lead and use 'most disciplined, the most professional ' like it was a bad thing. If it was any other party than the conservatives, those descriptions would be used as praise not disdain. Personally, I like to see our country led in a disciplined and professional manner, especially in these difficult times.

    Also, I went to see Stephen Harper speak in Campbell River last Saturday. He did not make a dash for the exit, but spent a lot of time with the crowd after the speech shaking hands, being introduced to children and young people, and chatting with people, and I have the photos to prove it.

  31. My hypothesis about Harper is that he has Asperger's.

    • Narcissistic sociopath is more likely.

    • My hypothesis is that his campaign strategy is "turn people off opponents, don't screw up by going off-message". His campaign strategy is to scare people, make sure all the Conservative voters turn up at the polls, and try to scrape up seats here and there to make up a majority. Trying to make people like him or gain any level of broad national agreement with his policies doesn't play into it – so he's completely open about his contempt for anyone who's not part of the Conservative base.

  32. Nanos and Ekos call cell phones.

    • Good for them for getting with the times. That may explain why the NDP's polling so well.

  33. Now that the Carnival Man could become Prime Minister I hope that the posters here remember their comments. I do not need an entertainer for Prime Minister, or a lecturer, or someone that caters to the leftist press. I want a competent man, nose to the grime stone, and working for me and my family. But then, I really liked Robert Stanfield and was discussed with Piere Trudeau and his finger to the West, NEP and his arrogant attitude.

    • "Grime stone"?! It's "grindstone."

  34. Canada, (Trudeauvia) is the hologram, slowly but surely disintegrating from the distortions and denials of history and traditions, and the divided, estranged populace, that watches helplessly as the special interests and the corrupt media lead the country into the abyss. Good times.

  35. It is amazing to me that Jack had zero support until the media started playing him up …. now all these "posters" have come out in favour of him. Where were you all these years? Jack has not changed his mantra since he became NDP Leader 8 years ago. Jack has a great personality but his policies would be so bad for Canada.

    So, Who do you want to run the country – the FUN guy with the great personality or the boring stable guy that is fiscally responsible?

    Don't forget that Libs/NDP/Bloc were the ones that forced the deficit on Canada. Remember why Harper prorouged parliament? The Libs/NDP/Bloc voted non-confidence to his budget because it DIDNT contain a HUGE deficit spending package …. oh and he was going to take away their subsidy gravy train too. Also fiscally responsible!!!!

    • Harper squandered the surplus he inherited and put us into a deficit long before the other parties forced him to acknowledge the recession and do something about it.

    • …and if you really believe he was trying to get rid of the subsidy because he's fiscally 'responsible' your completely delusional. It is 100% a political manuver to give the conservatives an unprecidented advantage

    • Suezy, you talk about a subsidy gravy train… but you're ignoring the subsidy elephant. 75% tax return on all political donations, meaning those with money get to decide which political parties get subsidized by ALL taxpayers.

      The $3 per vote subsidy is peanuts by comparison and is COMPLETELY DEMOCRATIC. One $3 subsidy assigned per voter, regardless of their current financial situation, meaning the poor have some voice. I know that's not popular with those who already have the wealth, because they want to keep the status quo which sees them in power. But please don't be deceived into believing that taking away the per-vote funding is about ending political subsidies… it's a naked power grab for the conservatives, nothing more.

    • Suezy, I think a little bit of fact checking is in order. When libs got in in the 90's, they inherited a scary deficit from Mulroney (con). Libs did some unpopular junk, cut stuff, and got rid of deficit, started posting surpluses. Harper got in, and BEFORE the recession, took us back to historical deficit. It is a joke to hear Harper campaigning on responsible economic performance – but as Rick says (ok, I'm paraphrasing… sorry Rick), Con strategy = lie until somebody proves it isn't a lie, then continue to lie, because busy, tired, hard working people don't have the time to fact check, and many (maybe enough to get your another minority?) will believe you because they don't expect to be bald-faced lied to!

      • sorry – lie until somebody proves it IS a lie…

  36. Entertaining and right about Ignatieff. I wonder if Rick will do the same as Andrew Coyne and say he will vote Liberal. Rick has influence with students. Being gay, he could also influence much of the gay vote too.

    • That makes about as much sense as saying "being male, Rick could influence the male vote". Gay people aren't a monolith.

  37. You know so little about hypocrites and phonies ,just keep listening to Layton and you will learn.The man has nothing more than a smile.No experience at anything.A monkey could be leader of the NDP.They can promise anything and know they don't have to deliver the goods to Canadians.He has no idea about the real world outside of his own party and we certainly have had enough of Chretien types.No one that you know Awysteria can come close to being as respected on the world stage as PM Harper.Grow up and learn something about politics before you comment.

    • I know that Harper is not a Tory, but a Reform man, ready to sell us all out to American corporate interests (like the Liberals). Only the NDP has a strong pro-citizen stand on the internet while Harper has thrown out all due process in his rush to appease the dying business model of a few entertainment companies. Our future rights and freedoms are being decided right now by these back room deals. BTW, also a lifelong conservative until the last election. The self-serving 'Harper Government' doesn't deserve my vote with their betrayal of the individual and cheap scare tactics.

    • His a politician so the rest is assumed!

    • bert…as respected as Harper on the World Stage? Where did you get that idea? Because of the photo-ops or because he told you? Steve had never travelled outside of Canada before he made PM. He has no life experiance, only ideology. How is his hockey book coming along. Ha, this is not a man who will write books but he will have books writen about himself and the danger he is to a truly Canadian existance.

      How could a man who is afraid of most canadians engage with world leaders in any meaningful way?

      And by the way, what happened to NASCAR, and wear red on fridays and all of those other "timmies" moments showing Stevie's "common" touch?

    • Bert, I'm not an aggressive guy , and I don't want to put you on the defensive. My beliefs from years of growing up to Aynn Rand books (totally capitalistic doctrines, if you're not familiar) ,but the pendulum has swung way too far.! The Conservatives are all business. There are a few rich doing extremely!!!!!! well , and their policies will support this trend! We have a plethora of resources in Canada,and we'll come through any world recession. Don't let fear mongering dictate your vote. In the news today…Argentina is increasing corporate taxes on oil companies. Also today ,"record profits in the first quarter by exxon and Shell and BP. Around 7 to 10 BILLION each. Its just grotesque! This $ does not benefit the general public in any way. Really, I could go on… I spend this time replying because I sincerely hope you investigate this yourself a little further, objectively. Personally I'm a green supporter, but there is a chance I will strategically vote,because of our ridiculous !st to the post system.

      • Well said Joe!

    • Hey Bert – your comment to Awysteria is so disheartening. How would you know anything about what Awysteria knows about politics based on her comment? If you want to talk about monkeys, that's exactly what Harper wants us, the citizenry, to be for him. Obedient chimps that let him run this country as if he were a King. He doesn't want PARLIAMENT to ask him questions, let alone his constituents, let alone the constituents of other parties. And before you suggest someone else "grow up and learn something about politics" be sure you don't bare your own ignorance in public. Jack Layton has been in public service for 30 years and lead the NDP since 2003 – if you are speaking logically, that is quite of a lot of experience, in many things. But I imagine that you are speaking dramatically – employing bullying techniques like name calling and belittling to make yourself feel stronger and more powerful. That is what I see children do on the playground. So, in all fairness, I would suggest YOU grow up and learn something. Literally.

    • I think you'll find that Jack has more knowledge of the rest of the world, than Harper did when he came to the job. As to respect for Harper around the world, sorry, most people don't even know who he is. Suggesting that someone "grow up and learn" merely because they do not share your point of view, smacks of the same level of arrogance displayed by Harper.

    • How can you tell someone in one breathe to grow up and learn politics and in another say that they know so little about hypocrites and phonies when the man you (i'm assuming) support tells english Canadians they always play O'Canada and then pander to Quebec separatists by hiding any reference to Canada as a nation. Maybe it's time you did some objective research on Harper (not on CTV or SunMedia) and then cite your reasons why you still support him. All leaders deserve the same scrutiny, Jack,Iggy and Liz all let reporters and citizens alike ask as many questions as they see fit, because they know they work for us. Harper doesn't do ANY of that so that tells me right there he doesn't think he works for us, that he thinks we should just fall in line. If you can't see that the Harper campaign does whatever it can to stop normal citizens from learning about their beliefs then I'm not sure democracy will survive.

  38. I think the benefits for the environment alone would make a stay-at-home campaign something to consider…all that jet fuel, all those decorations and bunting and signs…

  39. I’m amazed at those who post about Harper’s fiscal responsibility even though he took a surplus and turned it into the largest deficit the nation has ever seen, in spite of the stability of our financial system that protected us from the meltdown in the rest of the western world. The job losses we suffered had much less to do with the economy than with his friend continuing to ship jobs offshore, only at a higher rate than ever because their own portfolios were suffering … That kind of fiscal responsiblity we can do without … If you keep repeating the same lies, they do not become truth, except in the minds of the liars.

  40. There is absolutely no logical reason why the NDP is so high in the polls. The numbers are skewed, they are artificially inflated by 3 times. A perfect storm has been created to get people to vote for the party that is close to the NDP to stop them from getting into government. They have slotted the Liberals a distant third so that they won't be a factor. People will panic and vote CONservative giving harper his coveted majority.

    Vote strategically.

  41. Saint Jack would be well advised to get his crack team of candidates in Quebec in order. Including asking Ruth Ellen Brossard of the riding Berthier- Maskinonge if she plans on returning from her Las vegas vacation in time for election day.
    NDP in Quebec surging and ready to lead. Seriously Quebec are ya bonkers?

  42. No wonder people are confused!

  43. <wince>

  44. About 90% of the Green Party's platform is shared by the NDP. I'd gladly vote for Elizabeth May if I were in her riding, and will volunteer for her on election day, but sadly I'm just over the riding boundary.

    When parties are close in terms of beliefs, voting for the one that actually has a chance is sensible.

  45. If Stephen Harper isn't an evil robot overlord, why can't he stand up in front of a croud and speak from the heart? How is giving the same speech over and over again supposed to win support for the Conservatives. Harper has taken the idea of the frontrunner campaign to a new low.

  46. As always, Canada owes Rick Mercer for the most astute political commentary on politicians. Looking at the Sierra Club's list of organizations which the Harper government no longer will support says it all…anything that is environmentally or charitably oriented is slated for destruction, but mining companies are allowed to destroy the environment. Go Jack Layton! I voted for you!

  47. The NDP is the closest thing we have to a socialist party in Canada. Caps lock or not, it is true.

    Not sure if Jack has been sainted, or if he is the hardest working, but he and his wife are sure good at adding to their expense account. At our expense. Jack racked up the highest expense account of any MP, despite being the leader of the smallest party. Olivia wasn't far behind. Imagine how he will spend if he is in power.

    Don't believe me, check for yourself – be sure to compare him to Harper. . .

    • Your comparison is flawed because King Steven gets provided with many more freebies such as accomodations, transport in DND planes,etc. You probably would never accept that Harper is a liar and a cheat but the proff is in the pudding. The Crime Minister is an arrogant dictator who will be lucky to even get a minority.

      • for the record, the majority of my post had nothing to do with Harper . . .

        You had me for a while, thinking you were trying to make a valid point, and then you went off ranting. (it's proof, by the way).

        Compare Jack to almost any other MP, if Harper offends you that much. . .

  48. I have been comparing his actions to sociopaths too,lol

  49. Not a hologram (although he behaves like he could be), but not quite a sociopath either.

    A number of commentaries have, for several years now, noted that Harper displays the hallmarks of being a "malignant narcissist", which makes him only slightly more cuddly than a full-blown sociopath. For example, see:

    The bottom line — *don't* vote for the Harper Government!

  50. I'm terribly disappointed in Mercer for missing such an obvious fact. At least he's backhandedly endorsing May, without even realizing it!

  51. Too bad Rick wasn't running for office. I'd vote for him

  52. I think Stephen Harper is a good politician! He is serious, committed, and thorough. He isn't out to win a popularity contest he wants to be the responsible leader for Canada. He also wants us to be able to help ourselves through hard work and personal dignity and not to wait standing in line for government handouts. Iggy is airy fairy, spur of the moment with comments, lofty ideals and lots of whining. Glad handing Jack is a whirl of popularity but there is no way he could walk in and take over the reins of our country – he is making lots of economically minded people really nervous.

    • What simpleminded arguments you are making.

    • behold, a sock puppet!

  53. Love the article. Thanks for an insider's perspective. However, I am still leaning to my theory that Harper is a Stepford PM (and is secretly being manipulated by the US). Case in point: after the debates, he had to go in for servicing to fix that eye misalignment! lol

  54. really great article. i laughed aloud more than a few times.

  55. As a Canadian living south of the 49th for 15 years I plead: Beloved Canadians please demonstrate continental leadership by rejecting Harper and thus regain the world's respect as a righteous nation.

  56. OMG you're right… And the picture thing is really creepy.

    • You nailed it Joe… "creepy" is the word. I don't think there could be a better description of the reported removal, "of all images of any other Canadian political leader from the PMO offices as well as from the government lounge of the House of Commons, and replacing them with images of himself" [Harper] (Finch, 2008 —…. There's no other way to look at that than it being just plain weird.

  57. Please Rick. Tell us now. Are you going to run in the next election? C'mon Ronald reagan , Arnold Swaarttzenhaegaer, TV personalities are valued commodities. ,but you have to promise to come back and tell us about the aliens that brief you when you win the election, and they explain to you why you can't do all those nice things you wanted to do. If you you do run, be ready, There is a chance you would win.

  58. I don't know why so many, hate people who vote coservative.

    I'm the guy who:
    -worked overtime and paid extra taxes
    -picked you up hitchhiking:
    =to work
    =from work
    -will help you fix up your Mums house to make it safer for her.
    -actually goes to a meeting
    -actually pays attention.
    -likes the idea of taxing families as a unit
    -wants lower taxes because:
    =i will have more money to spend in my community
    =the martin transfer cut cost are still trickling down through the system.
    i need to be able to afford the municiple tax increases that are yet
    to come.
    -never wanted universal daycare despite raising 3 kids
    -expects the true north strong and free.
    -thinks criminals need to be punished before we can rehab them.
    -thinks harm reduction means decreasing access to drugs.
    -would rather lose a seat on a council than put my countrymen at risk to
    apease an unelected government.

    • In other words, you think you're special for doing what Canadians of all political stripes do. Maybe people don't hate you for voting Conservative. They just hate you because your a narcissist.

  59. My favourite part is when Harper did show up in a seniors' home and tell the residents that the world is a scary, evil, dangerous place and that “chaos is lapping at our shores”. Well done Rick.

  60. Rick Mercer is a pipsqueak who places his values on a higher pedestal than the countries interests. And in Rick's little world Jon Jack Layton is his alter-ego:

    The officer's notebook indicates he asked the suspected john: "Did you receive any sexual services?"

    He replied: "No sir, I was just getting a shiatsu."

    The cop: "Why did you have all your clothes off?"

    The suspected john: No answer.

    The cop: "Are you aware that there were sex acts being done here?"

    The suspected john: "No sir."

    The woman, who was from mainland China, denied masturbating the suspected john His notes also claim he saw the "female dump wet Kleenex into garbage."

    In the interview with the Sun, the officer said: "I asked him for his wallet and I looked at his name and I looked at the last name and it looked familiar.

    He's registered as 'John' and I thought he's a 'john.'"

    Layton's Christian name is John.

  61. I think it's important to remember why this election was called. It wasn't called because we're buying new jets or because we're getting 'tough on crime'. It was called because Harper and the Conservatives will not release information about the budget and how they came up with their numbers. They were found in contempt of parliament. And they have demonstrated their contempt time again from proroguing parliament to not taking questions.

    Regardless of the good or ill you attribute to the Conservatives, regardless of whether you believe Layton or Ignatieff or even May are capable leaders, how can we have a party in power that does not respect our system of government?

    A vote for the Conservatives means a vote in support of this lack of transparency in government. A lack of transparency translates into a lack of accountability. In a democracy, that is just not a viable option.

  62. Great article, Rick, except for this statement: "…when the lights came on in the studio with Mansbridge, Ignatieff dug up the corpse of the coalition and danced it around the room." Ignatieff did not dig up the corpse. Mansbridge dug it up and wouldn't leave it alone. Throughout the interview, Mansbridge scowled at Ignatieff, interrupted him, and harped about the supposed Liberal "attack ads" and the dreaded coalition. It was a shameful and unprofessional performance from one of Canada's leading journalists. I have lost all respect for Mansbridge, whom I had always believed was an unbiased reporter.

  63. Diefenbaker was not the last politician to cross the country by train. Elizabeth May was. Have you heard of Elizabeth May, Rick? Apart from your solidarity with the rest of the media to ignore the Green Party, nice article.

  64. No, he didn't. He went much harder on Ignatieff. The whole thing is very animal – Mansbridge and other journalists obviously pick up on signals of weakness in normal people like Ignatieff – but people like Harper, who are impervious to normal feelings of guilt, shame, or other such emotions manage to get what the upper hand over these guys very easily. It is remarkable to see how Harper, as a sociopath or "malignant narcissist", manages to cow even our most senior journalists (with the possible exception of Terry Milewski – who, it should be remembered, took on Chretien with the same determination). He does it with an interesting, and not very aggressive, warning look, which acts as some kind of reminder. There was a fascinating example of Robert Fife getting completely tongue tied and making animal 'tale-between-legs-signals of submission noises' around the whole refusal to answer questions thing.

  65. It is a shame that if you are an honest and decent person, you have little chance of being elected. It's all showbiz and we'll all suffer because of it. Terrifying, isn't it?

  66. A great piece Rick. i do not like the American stile of politics employed by Harper. We need to discuss real issues not hide from them. I was lucky enough to shake Dief's hand at the train station when I was 12 years old and I remember him waving to the crowd from the back of the train as it pulled out of the station.

  67. He does work hard – so did Adolf Hitler.

  68. To Rick Mercer's Brilliant Analysis, "Is Stephen Harper A Hologram?

    Answer: Reality Even Worse!

    "Scare some seniors, go to lunch, repeat.” = HARPER'S The Quintessential HOLLOW MAN T.S. Eliot Warned Us About …


    Mary C. Kelly
    Toronto Centre constituent

  69. If one wants another example of the essential hollowness at the core of Mr. Harper's character, watch the fascinating final question that Peter Mansbridge asked them (selected from questions sent in by readers). It concerns the worst error they've made as leader, and what they learned from it. Both Layton and Ignatieff are able to answer it graciously, acknowledging they did something stupid, and say what they learned. Harper starts by blaming the Press Gallery, and then goes on to justify his error. Unbelievable. He is a sociopath.

    • If
      Stephen Harper ever gets tired of being Canada’s Crime Minister, he might like
      to consider a second career in China – he’d fit right in.

      week, I attended my first ever Harper ‘press availability,’ and it reminded me
      of nothing so much as the hundreds of Chinese press conferences I’ve attended
      over the years. At lower levels of the
      Chinese government, such as the daily meeting with journalists at the Foreign
      Ministry, spokespersons never, ever, utter a single spontaneous, unscripted remark.

      At the
      top, when the premier holds his one press conference per year, handpicked
      journalists have to submit their question in writing in advance. Harper’s news conferences are more frequent
      than his Chinese counterpart’s, but the underlying principle seems not so very

  70. For a further example of Harper's character deficit, see tonight's episode of the National for the revealing last question by Peter Mansbridge, saved from his interviews with the three leaders. He asked them the same question sent in by a viewer, about the worst mistake each man had made as a leader. both Layton and Ignatieff were able to respond candidly and acknowledge and take responsibility for an error. Harper began by blaming the Press Gallery, before going onto justifications. Incredible. There's something wrong with that man.

  71. VOTE!!!!

    • 2006 Election: There
      was no appropriate consequence for the Conservatives (Reform Party) breaking
      Canada’s election law. Harper spent $1.3
      million more than allowed to by law, “won” the election, and paid a
      penalty of $52,000 (granted this was the highest penalty the courts were
      allowed to charge Harper with, but still, pretty low sum).

      The reward? Gaining
      access to the levers of power and deciding how to spend the Government of
      Canada’s $270.5 billion dollar budget.

  72. Harper’s motto: be good to the help.  You’ll need them later.

  73. Repost from Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize winner and former war
    correspondent for the New York Times) on Canada’s right-wing neocon Prime
    Minister Stephen Harper:

    Harper is a poster child for corporate malfeasance and
    corporate power, just sort of dismantling everything that’s good about Canada. So he’s the kind of species that rises to
    political power and is utterly subservient to corporate interests at the
    expense of the citizenry.

    Yeah, he’s a pretty venal figure.


  74. Reading this made me think of the Nuremberg rallies as presented in the film “Triumph of the Will”. And, no, that’s not to suggest that Harper is Hitler or that the Cons are Nazis. Just to say that Hitler & Co. were not the first, or last, to use propaganda and pageantry to bullsh*t and bedazzle folks.

    • Although I will add that Adolf had more charisma than Steve.