How Green Was My Lawn: Liveblogging Stephen Harper’s happy Vancouver home invasion


We’re here in Richmond, B.C., to which destination the Stephen Harper campaign plane (official motto: “At Least We Have One”) flew from Quebec City last night, a five-and-a-half hour flight. We are ready to start the day’s only event. We are in a typical family’s back lawn. There are 40 journalists, a playhouse and the most astonishingly green lawn you ever did see. Tonight there will be pictures.

12:34:48 PM (Eastern)
“All right, cue the spontaneity,” one of the cameramen said once he’d set up. And as if on cue, here’s the PM. In a sweater-vest! Well, more a matching v-neck sweater with matching powder-blue shirt. “Look,” said a cynic in the press corps, “it’s Perry Como.”

The PM’s message is simple: he flew halfway across the continent so he could chat with Edwin and Fei Huang, who like him are family types with young children, or one child anyway — cute as a button, the young Huang is — so they could discuss the riverboat gamble that a vote for the Dion Liberals would represent.
Oops. Two children. The little Huang girl, also button-cute, was temporarily obscured by the also highly photogenic plastic playhouse.

Anyway. Dion: risky tax scheme. This cannot be repeated often enough, although clearly the Conservatives plan to try.

On to questions.

12:41:44 PM (Eastern)
The questions, in a new compromise system which we were amazed to discover none of us had a problem with, are drawn from a monster master list of every reporter on the bus. So I get my question tomorrow, and everybody who got a question yesterday goes back to the bottom of the list. Eerily…fair. Or Communist. Or egalitarian. Whatever.

1. Dalton McGuinty says something is unfair. Harper disagrees.
2. Do his candidates have the right to speak freely? “We campaign as a team.” So…kinda.
3. Liz May: should she be in the debate? The PM says it’s “not a strategic matter” for his party, but he clearly doesn’t want her there. That would be “two Liberals” and — this is striking, because I’ve been thinking the same thing — he “strongly” expects May to throw her party’s vote to the Liberals before the big day.
4. Will Harper buy carbon offsets for his plane? No, that’s a Liberal policy, he says.
5. Or 6. Or 7. I’m falling behind. Question for the Huangs: not yet. Later.
Next question: polls. “I’ve been through two national election campaigns…I have never yet seen a poll that was right on election night. So, take that for what it’s worth.”

12:51:30 PM (Eastern) (You think it’s easy to change blackberry time zones?)

The Liz May question in French. And again: he expects her to formally throw her party’s support to the Liberals by Oct. 14. Hmm.

Oh my. Now he’s making a hard, hard pitch to anglo Montrealers: supporting the Liberals bought you 40 years of national-unity wars. (No mention of 1987-92, I might note.) Won’t those nice Montrealers give another party a try? Say…his?

A Dawson College question. Dion’s there today. “Unfortunately the registry didn’t stop that incident.”
We checked the neighbour’s lawns, incidentally. They’re all gorgeous and manicured, so the Huangs’ astonishing lawn cannot, it seems, be chalked up to ambitious advance. It’s just great to have a lawn in Richmond. And you need to know that a vote for Dion would put those brilliant lawns at risk. See? I’m well trained.

12:58:34 PM (Eastern)
Ah. Local Chinese reporter asks: is it a coincidence that the local incumbent Liberal is Raymond Chan and the Huangs are Chinese? Answer: nope.


How Green Was My Lawn: Liveblogging Stephen Harper’s happy Vancouver home invasion

  1. So the question will be, do we want a risky tax scheme, where the amount we pay for carbon is determined by government and comes with an accompanying payroll tax and/or income tax reduction, or do we want a risky carbon trading scheme where what we pay is determined by private industry and speculators and comes with an accompanying assurance that these people would never try to make money for themselves off of it?

  2. No picket fences? Well…I suppose they kinda got the 1.5 children part down…

    Man…I would like to see a picture of the family…it would not surprise me if they were picked from the pool of asian actors in Vancouver.


  3. #2 – watching this live, my impression was a big fat NO. He has muzzled everyone except himself and those who are sticking to his script. He said they were running as a team, the same way they did to win PM, the same way they’ve done business while running the country. Well, they’ve done all that under a cloud of muzzled staffers and candidates and even muzzled press on what they’re doing to Canada and Canadians and when!

    So #2 – Harper said NO. His candidates cannot speak freely.

    Same old Harper

  4. Liz May: should she be in the debate? The PM says it’s “not a strategic matter” for his party, but he clearly doesn’t want her there. That would be “two Liberals” and — this is striking, because I’ve been thinking the same thing — he “strongly” expects May to throw her party’s vote to the Liberals before the big day.

    ‘Twas the advice her paid consultant/strategist provided before in ’07 before he was quitted (collapse the party).

    Wouldn’t surprise me at all if she did – it’s in character.

  5. Correction time, or at least a clarification: this isn’t the PM’s only event of the day. It’s his only event today in British Columbia. We’re off to a Saskatchewan farm later today for a rally. Filing in a Quonset hut on the farm. That’s what it says on the itinerary. “Media filing: Quonset hut on farm.” I’m actually very much looking forward to that.

  6. Has anyone asked Harper yet, if everything is so risky, why he is risking his government in an election?

  7. Dot do you have some personal history with Elizabeth May? I can see how she might rub some people the wrong way, but if she has been anything it has been consistent, hasn’t folded any of the organizations she worked for so what do you mean “in character?”

  8. In an interview, Liz May called the frenetic pace of leaders tours “silly” and I’m starting to think she’s right.

    At this point I’m getting the sense that the travel schedule of the leader’s tours are mostly designed to make leaders look busy while keeping national media out of trouble.

    The leaders (with planes) seem to be flying all over the country to small, tightly organized events where they meet almost no-one, and that are supposed to visually illustrate, well, whatever.

    So why not just do these events in a studio with a nice backdrop without all the travel?

    I think the CPC has the right idea building a wired media centre in Ottawa. They should just run their leaders campaign from that facility. There is no reason for them to be flying themselves and their contingents all over the place for no particularly good reason.

    If they were going to rallies and the like, then I guess this kind of travel might be justified. But to fly all over the place just to manufacture small events makes no sense for Harper or for the others.

    As for local media, they can do all these now from a central, wired facility.

    The whole “leaders fly all over the place” tour concept is a throwback to an earlier era. It has little logic at present.

    – JV

  9. Pretty easy ride you guys are giving Harper. You all sound pretty docile.

  10. A propos the green lawn, PW, would you say they’re so green that it’s unjust in Richmond?

  11. Has anyone asked him about his policies toward the Health and Safety of Canadians? They have cut back the funding so much that the jeopordy of Canadians are at risk, they’ve also stopped testing for the mad cow disease. They only stepped in when Canadians started dying, what other policies are putting Canadian lives at risk.

  12. And the attacks on Wells begin!

    Seriously, it kills me when people attack Wells on partisanship. I mean there is not another blogger/reporter/journalist out there who is as UNBIASED as Wells. He comments strictly on the value/intelligence of strategy! Not just on Liberal strategy or Conservative strategy, but strategy in general! When something is boring, he says so. When something is interesting, he says so. It’s as simple as that.

    If Wells is “docile” then the assumption on my end would be that the event he covered was a bit of a bore and not much to speak of. Should he attack Harper for that? He’s just telling it like it is. So lay off Wells.

  13. Harper raises the fact that the Liberals are not running against Elizabeh May, therefore she is a de facto Liberal and shouldn’t be included in the debate.

    Why is it never brought up that the Liberals didn’t run anyone against him after he became leader, nor did the PC’s?

  14. May has also endorsed Dion for PM; therefore if she was in the debates, there would be two candidates arguing that the Liberals should form government.

  15. Thanks for the defence, but people should feel free to lay on me, so to speak. Especially if it makes you all a little gentler toward one another — something I feel I should remind you about. Be gentler toward one another, people!

    But as for me and my colleagues — bigcitylib comes from a certain perspective (guess which one!), but if we’re broadcasting and liveblogging pressers, readers and viewers have a right to an opinion about how everyone at those events is doing — and not only the candidates.

  16. Hey, Paul aren’t the Tories planning their 1-a-day policy announcements, or is it going to be All-Oily all-the-time?

  17. Fewer policy announcements. Today was announcement-free. There’ll be other such days. Their line is that they have less to promise because this time they don’t have 13 years of opposition behind them. Now they have a record which they must defend/ want to promote…I think they’re probably cognizant that this makes them vulnerable to being less able to control the agenda because there’ll be less of what we normally define as news.

  18. knb,

    Why is this long standing practice brought up as having anything to do with giving the Greens a free seat without asking voters?

    An MP steps aside for his new leader and other parties allow a new MP to be seated for the same party. NET GAIN = ZERO

    Anyone who runs in a byelection for a seat held by another party should not expect the voters to be deprived of a choice.

  19. OK, here’s one for Mr. Wells: I’ve lamented Harper’s lack of transparency and refusal to make himself available to the media during his tenure as PM. Now, the man has been a public persona for decades now, and he is certainly polished in front of the media and cameras and appears to be able to brush off the topugh questions like a pro;
    Do you see (or foresee) any rust, or lack of practise, on Harper’s part now that he kinda has to make himself available to the media? Has hiding from tough questions over the last 2.5 years made him soft?

  20. Paul, will harper be announcing a candidate for Palliser — is the media event in the Palliser riding (between Regina and Moose Jaw somewhere)?

  21. How do you think the lack of surplus bounty will play out in terms of election promises?

    IE will the shrinking surplus impact the ability of parties to make big splashy campaign promises like the 5% GST promise Harper made or the $1200 kid package?

    If it does impact, does that mean we are going to see less of an “issue” campaign and more of a “style” campaign?

  22. The different being the last election was “how do you want to spend your money” versus this election being “who do you want to spend your money?”

  23. Am I alone in thinking May endorsing the Liberals before e-day would backfire disastrously? Harper and Layton would have the case already made for them that it was her plan all along, a betrayal of the Green Party and movement, and (therefore) the last place would-be Green voters should go is the Liberals.

  24. cool blue, if you ask May who should be PM, she’ll say May.

    Once asked if the 2 choices came down to Dion or Harper, she said her policies are more closely alligned with the progressive aspects of the Liberal party. That my friend does not make her a Liberal.

    It’s such an incredibly lame argument I cannot believe it’s being repeated.

    You and Mr. Harper would do well to actually look at each party’s policies.

    anon. Both the Lib’s and Jim Prentice of the PC’s stepped aside to allow Harper to run. How did the Progressive Conservative voters feel about that?

  25. I will be very disappointed if you didn’t find time to wander off and rearrange some of the “meticulously littered” toys into a familiar message:


  26. Re sweater vest. I saw that smarmy “fatherhood” commercial on TV this morning and just about gagged. I way more prefer Harper as the Jack Nicholson character from A Few Good Men: “Deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me in the PMO, you need me in the PMO.”

  27. I am a conservative supporter and I want the Greens to be at the debate (more “green shift” votes to chop on the left). I can’t understand why the Tories are taking this stand. They can also point to Dion as being as crazy as the Greens and the most left-wing Liberal leader in history.

  28. Quote:”It’s such an incredibly lame argument I cannot believe it’s being repeated.”

    Almost as lame as suggesting that May has a chance of becoming PM.

    It’s like me going to McDonalds and saying my first choice is lobster and caviar but since they don’t have that I’ll have a hamburger.

    If she says her #1 choice is herself (an impossibility) and her #2 choice is for Dion, then in reality, she’s endorsing Dion.

  29. Quote: “anon. Both the Lib’s and Jim Prentice of the PC’s stepped aside to allow Harper to run. How did the Progressive Conservative voters feel about that?”

    In by-elections.

    The tradition, which only took place between the Libs and PCs, was to not run against leaders in BY-ELECTIONS.

    In general elections both parties ran full slates.

    It should be noted that the NDP and Reform/CA never followed this “tradition”.

  30. Cool Blue: Okay. So somebody go around and ask Mr. Layton who he’d like if it’s not him. Will you then claim that Mr. Layton is endorsing the Greens or the Liberals?

    Really, it was a stupid question. May would have been better off politically just saying, “That’s a stupid question,” but she chose to give a real answer. I don’t like May, but I do like politicians that give real answers. Perhaps you don’t.

  31. Fair. Communist. Egalitarian. Not a bit.
    Just another increment in the taming of the press.
    As though the owners and publishers weren’t doing a very good job already. Anyway,besides taking a number, questioners should really be colour coded.
    What’s the penalty if Paul Hunter goes off orbit and asks an inappropriate follow-up. Exile to street crime and cute puppy stories on the local news?

  32. When asked about the timing of the election, Harper said that things have started going downhill since April/May. Oh, you mean the Bernier-Couillard thingy?

    You know, Mulroney took nearly nine years to break the record for most scandal-ridden government. Has Harper managed to beat that in less than three?

  33. TobyornotToby writes: Dot do you have some personal history with Elizabeth May? I can see how she might rub some people the wrong way, but if she has been anything it has been consistent, hasn’t folded any of the organizations she worked for so what do you mean “in character?”

    I’ve followed closely her reign as GPC leader – actually, from before then when, while the Executive Director of the supposedly apolitical Sierra Club of Canada, she held a press conference with a bunch of the usual suspects to advocate voting strategically for the Liberal Party of Canada (ie not Green).

    As I recall, she had also circulated an e-mail to a number of her compatriots (U.S. based NGOs) lamenting the direction that the 2006 election was heading (Conservative win) and asking for their assistance or whatever in influencing the outcome of our election. I believe I also read a blog comment at the time from the Sierra Club’s Treasurer/Financial guy, Bob Plamondon, who had taken issue with E May using her position at the Sierra Club in becoming politically active.

    I could go on, but the possibility of her advising the electorate to abandon their primary choice abnd vote strategically for the Liberals to avoid a Conservative gov’t in the dying days of this campaign is not outside the realm of possibilities and in fact has precedent.

  34. I’m definitely curious about what he’s really up to.

  35. When oh when will Canada grow up and join the civilized nations of the world and embrace proportional representation. How is it possible that in the last election 4.5% of the electorate voted Green and they ended up with zero seats. In a true democracy they would have received about 12 or 13 seats, but not in old staunchy stubborn Canada. Go with the old outdated system of the mother country and simply ignore almost 5% of the electorate… except the mother country already saw the light…

  36. Hi Paul!

    we had a wet August, and Richmond is below sea level, and has a high water table… hence the fabulous lawns. I am a crappy lawn care guy, and mine looks treeemendous- I will happily rent it out to any campaigning politicos, their hacks and hangers ons, and Kady O’Malley!

    be nice to each other?!?!? you slay me! you are the nastiest post responder when you are at your crankiest, I recall being jumped on several times for what I thought were innocent enough questions or statements. so stay off my lawn, you can live blog from the circle in the cul-de-sac.

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