The Prime Minister emerged with a Conservative blue apron hanging from his neck, approached the designated grill and proceeded to flip a few already well-done hamburgers. The faithful were then marched forward to receive their patties from their duly elected leader (the first six recipients including, no joke, three small children, two visible minorities and one old lady). The news cameras, dutifully lined up ten feet in front of the Prime Minister, dutifully recorded the great moment in national leadership. Mr. Harper, squinting through the smoke and late-afternoon sun, made an altogether commendable effort of seeming like this was exactly what he had in mind when he applied for the job.
“What’s your name?” he would ask. “Nice to meet you.”
“I still can’t believe this is really happening,” gushed one young man as he watched the show. “This is great.”
Ten minutes after he appeared, he disappeared back inside the Romanian Cultural Centre, trailed by his phalanx of men in dark suits. Five minutes after that he reappeared, the apron gone in favour of a beige suit jacket, to walk the 100 feet or so to the stage, set up as it was on a perfectly green and splendidly treed hill, over-looking the sleepy suburban neighbourhoods below. To those who weren’t still busy back at the condiment table, he was introduced as “a man who defines leadership” and lo he did proceed to re-read the same script of the night before (the only adjustment seeming to be a single sentence inserted to ridicule the leader of the opposition’s latest equivocation).
The applause was more polite this evening. No standing ovation this time when he got to the part about keeping your family safe from the raving, drooling gangs of drug addicts who prowl your streets at night, stealing your lawn furniture and educating your children about “juicy.” But when Mr. Harper did get to the part about tabling a balanced federal budget, there was an audible shout of “thank you!” from one man up front. He stood before them and promised mildly competent management of the national treasury. And lo they were pleased.
Afterwards, there was a half hour of grip-and-grins, each disciple posing for his or her commemorative photo, the Prime Minister now less the burger-flipper than the burger. Or perhaps less a burger-flipper than a mall Santa.
(To his credit, he seems not just to tolerate this stuff, but even to have taken to it.)
(Unlike events in Mississauga and Hamilton, there was some advance notice of this gathering, details promoted by one of the local campaigns and posted, apparently, on Facebook. That may explain why, in this case, a small group of auto union protesters were able to gather by the road.)