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Newsmaker: Tony Turner, the scientist turned ‘Harperman’ star

He’s been suspended by Environment Canada. But Turner has a minor hit on his hands with the protest song ‘Harperman’


 

Most protesters voice their opinions with chants. Tony Turner composed his into a ditty. “Who’s the king of secrecy? Harperman, Harperman. Who has slashed the CBC? Harperman, Harperman.” With a choir bobbing in the background and soloists performing other verses, Turner strums his acoustic guitar to a tune that got nearly half a million YouTube views since posted in June—more than 200,000 views this weekend alone.

Turner was working as a scientist with Environment Canada, specializing in GPS mapping. “He’s not a political animal,” says Andrew Hall, the producer who recorded Harperman. “But the bureaucrats are frightened to death of him right now.”

Environment Canada has suspended Turner while investigating his musical fame, suspecting it could violate the public service’s code of ethics. Among the lyrics: Harper “won’t buy into climate change until it’s sold on the stock exchange. Harperman, it’s time for you to go.” Meanwhile, Turner is on paid leave, laying low as his union takes the front line.

Turner was inspired to write the song after skimming a pamphlet advertising Harper’s misdeeds. Adding to the list, he debuted the protesting jingle at a May Day celebration in Ottawa, where Hall recognized the potential for a video. Now, the song has snatched headlines overseas, and a Harperman website calls for Canadians to record their own renditions, as well as join a Parliament Hill singalong on Sept. 17.

Turner may never finish the environmental project he was working on—a mapping of migratory birds—but was due to retire this month anyway. Hall says the scientist may miss the unfinished work, but always planned to have a post-retirement music career, and this week’s turbulence will help. “The notoriety of this is a godsend. He’ll be well-known around the world as the guy who got expelled for singing an anti-Harper song.” Right now, says Hall, Turner is probably sitting at home and strumming his guitar.


 

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