Welcome, Mr. Obama. And yes, Harper’s hair is real.

Scott Feschuk on everything the U.S. President needs to know about Canada



Briefing Notes for President Barack Obama

Visit to Canada, February 2009

The Country: Our northern neighbour, Canada ranks second in the world in total area, fourth in total land area and 314th among favourite spring break destinations (ahead of “Greenland” and just behind “the basement”). Canada’s population density—3.5 inhabitants per square kilometre—is among the lowest in the world, but crowded enough when you consider that one of those inhabitants used to be Howie Mandel.

System of Government: Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. At one time a British colony, Canada asserted its political autonomy in 1982 after just 115 years of thinking it through really, really carefully. Britain, which by then had completely forgotten about the whole “Canada” thing, ultimately agreed to grant independence, though mostly to stop Pierre Trudeau from hitting on the Queen.

Electoral System: Canada’s Prime Minister is obligated by law to respect a fixed date for federal elections, unless he meets the legal requirement of “not feeling like it.” Meanwhile, convention dictates that upon losing the “confidence” of the House of Commons, the Prime Minister must either cede power or flee girlishly to the protective bosom of the Governor General, who has a formidable array of powers that baffle and confound us. She may be some kind of witch.

The Prime Minister: Stephen Joseph Harper, age 49. He’s known as “Steve” among people who don’t care that he hates to be called “Steve.” Yes, the hair is real.

Recent Political History: In the fall of 2008, Prime Minister Harper won re-election with what’s known as a minority—or “sissy”—government. So far as we can determine, this means he must surrender custody of the nation on Wednesday nights and every other weekend.

Political Environment: Mr. President, while it is true that you maintain record-high popularity levels among Canadians, history suggests that American leaders don’t always get a smooth ride when spending time in Canada. Consider the experiences of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Michael Ignatieff.

Arrival: Because this is not an official state visit, there will be no formal military band to greet you at the airport. Respecting custom, the Prime Minster will instead confer a more informal Canadian airport greeting—sending the foreign affairs minister to circle the arrivals level until you come out of the terminal. You’re instructed to “just give ’im a wave.” The $5 attached to this file should cover your share of the gas money.

The Capital: Your brief visit will take place entirely within the city of Ottawa, one of the world’s northernmost capitals and a metropolis renowned throughout Canada for its two or three restaurants that now stay open past seven o’clock. Ottawa boasts a professional hockey team, urban transit (sometimes) and many working stoplights.

Climate: Arse-numbing.

National Symbols: The beaver, the common loon, the playoff beard.

Language: Canada is officially designated a bilingual country, meaning you can easily get by speaking either French or English in every part of the land except almost all of it.

Economy: Over centuries, Canada progressed from a reliance on the fur trade to a rich and diversified economy—but thanks to Wall Street it’s now on its way back. Yesterday, shares in BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion closed up slightly at 4½ pelts.

Current Economic State: On one hand, Canada appears to be in recession. On the other, it can’t be in recession because—according to the Prime Minister himself—if the country were to be in a recession now, it would have already been in a recession before. You might wish to seek clarity from the country’s finance minister, Marty McFly.

Sensitivities: The “Buy American” provision of our stimulus bill has caused significant concern in Canada, where business leaders fear that protectionist measures could decimate industries devoted to the production and export of iron, steel and film comedians. (The Canadian government is said to be preparing draconian retaliatory legislation: Bill C-77, An Act to Force Them to Keep Mike Myers.)

Timing of Visit: You will be arriving in Canada just after Flag Day, on which Canada’s Prime Minister commemorates his nation’s adoption of a post-colonial flag by selecting one lucky countryman to strangle in broad daylight. Your visit will also coincide with the conclusion of a local festival known as Winterlude, the city’s annual celebration of windburn.

Important Notes:

• Canada is considered part of the G8, though kind of like the tambourine player is considered part of the band.

• Thanks to the combined efforts of U.S. and Canadian governments, the public remains blissfully unaware that at least four American thespians have been eaten during tragic overacting mishaps involving William Shatner.

• Canadian money is hilarious.

• For years, Prime Minister Harper has been “working on” a book about hockey. Just play along.


Welcome, Mr. Obama. And yes, Harper’s hair is real.

  1. What actual proof do you have that the hair is real?

    • Ditto for Ottawa restaurants that stay open past 7 pm. (Pubs that happen to serve hamburgers aren’t restaurants.)

      The Newfoundland & Labrador Stock Exchange trades in baby seal pelts. They’ve decided to drop the standard national currency of beaver pelts & go with a local currency.

    • The hair is real because if it was fake, it would have been fake in the past.

      • And, really, who would choose to fake that look, unless they could only afford to buy their hair piece from the clearance rack at Costco.

    • A relative of mine is in the foreign service. He has watched Stephen Harper comb (and comb and comb) that hair.
      For this reason, I believe the hair is real, but I am prepared to entertain arguments from the Harper-as-chessmaster crowd that the combing (and combing and combing) is a misdirection ploy whereby large gobs of attention are deliberately drawn to the hair precisely because it is not real, and whereas in a similar situation, LIEberals would probably try and evade the inherent dishonesty of the hairpiece by trying not to attract undue attention to it, Stephen Harper boldly puts it right out there and dares you to say anything out loud (that’s not a security guy standing next to him, it’s his lawyer, with pre-filled libel suits).

      • Silly, everyone knows the liberals are the ones who part their hair down the middle. Does the guy standing next to him have a fire-extingusher, those spray on jobs are extremely flammable, so i hear.

      • Jealous?

        • Nope. I got some pretty nice hair and not much need to sue anybody. I’m good, thanks.

      • wait a sec – you’re telling me he combs his own hair? What does his staff do?

    • A couple of years ago we have seen him with his front hair slicked back and it made him look quite handsome. Yes, his hair is REAL.

  2. Scott
    What’s that bit about Ottawa boasting a professional hockey team? Boasts? Really?

  3. Yeah, well if I were from Ottawa I wouldn’t boast about the Senators, the hockey team either. Rod

  4. Excuse me Mr. President sir what you are wearing is not a hat but a tuque sir. No Mr. President sir not Toque … (clears throat and sighs and makes mental note – Haavad people – good grief) Tuque as in took only with a U. Mr. President sir. Well it sure looks good don’t it? Mr. President sir that would be ‘ doesn’t it ‘ (another heavy sigh and mental note – see speech writer again and thank the lucky speechifying gods no tape is rolling – wouldn’t do at all). So you were saying that they have more than one opposition party? That’s right Mr. President sir … As well that Steve I mean Steven won his second term in OCTOBER from a minority position … That is also correct Mr. President sir. Well I’ll be hornswaggled what with the crash and all how on earth did he manage that feat? Well Mr. President sir … apparently he has outplayed, outmanouvered and outfoxed all attempts by all the other parties to get rid of him so far and in point of fact the new leader of the opposition, that’s right Mr. President sir the party threw the last leader under the bus, well the new leader that’s Mr. Ignatieff or endearingly known as Iggy, he’s the one sir that is travelling around trying to remind people that he went to the same university as you did sir, well Mr. President sir Steve I mean Steven was starting to look like a bully by beating the opposition up so bad that the Liberal Party …. Liberal! …. No Mr. President sir it is not quite the same term up here as we use down there sir. Well the Liberal party Mr. President sir considers itself the natural governing party .. Sounds like the ROC … Yes Mr. President sir it sure does, well they tried an end run around an election and threatened to join forces and have a coup but Steven prorogued parliament. Pro Rogued ?… Well Mr. President sir, it’s a scheduling thing, well their attempt ended up with the liberal party having a coup against their now previous leader who apparently has gone for a very long walk in the snow as they say up here … HAHAHA! … yes Mr. President sir it is rather apropriate.

    • Yes Mr President George’s boy Steve’s still in charge, sort of. Lucky you could come when you did. We almost had Steve out the door a couple of times. But he’s sneaky, he’s always off on some libel suit or begging the Queen to postpone play for him. Yes Mr President exactly like George and those hanging chads, always some reason or other for him not to play by the rules. Not to worry Mr President our Parliament functioned as it should, we had a coalition all lined up to take over if necessary. Until that is Steve called play on acount of stormy weather – for him that is. As i said Mr President, everything has worked out. The liberals – yes sir they are the good guys here too – took advantage of the uproar to install a more effective leader. And that seems to have done the trick nicely. Steve’s meek as a lamb these days, i even hear rumours that he may be leaving, or taking a walk inthe snow as we like to say up here.

      • kc – By law I believe unmitigated drivel can not exceed two full sentences.

        • Hmmm! Interesting. Would that be glaks law? Formulated on the assumption that 3 full sentences of anything are a bit of a stretch for you.

        • Point of order: I think that law was challenged during the last filibuster. Members of the house successfully challenged that law by pointing out that Madame Speaker would have a problem reading the latest budget if that law were to remain in force.

  5. Canada was 115 when we repatriated the Constitution. After 125 years, we had that awful Canada 125 campaign.

    • I remember that. I think it was around the same time as clear pepsi.

    • fixed now. thanks matthew. the most humiliating part is that i actually did the math in my head.

  6. Hey, I am visiting Victoria for Spring Break, so maybe it moves up to #299

  7. I personaly think that we aren’t that bad. Although that article pointed out some funny facts, that any other Canadian would not realize, we don’t come first in the “Idiots Of The Year” section, I believe that would be Mr. W Bush over here.

  8. Ah come on plenty of restaurants are open past 7pm in Ottawa.
    Haha but Marty McFly aka Jim Flaherty is hilarious.

  9. Wayne and KC are channelling Bob Newhart!

    • Thank you for the highest compliment I have ever had! I love Bob N. some of his laid back routines from his early days are the funniest ever.

  10. His hair is real? I thought his whole head was fake.

  11. “harper working on a book about hockey, just play along” – hilarious, nice job scott
    I am of a similar vintage as our PM and believe me, if you you took piano lessons as a teenage male in the 70’s, I’m sorry but you were a geek!

  12. Is Mark Steyn back yet?

  13. Starting out with that dreary, abysmally dark webcam shot of the Parliament buildings, it looked like a good day for a Gothic horror show. Harper made a good impression as Gomez Addams.
    Then you’ve got Ignatieff displaying his Cheshire cat grin. Speaking of which, the Governor General is starting to remind me of Morticia Addams. Michael Wilson played a good Uncle Fester.
    Ignatieff ? Lurch, the butler.

    Right near the end of the broadcast, Bob Rae made an appearance as Cousin Itt.

    I’m sure President Obama is going to have a lot to discuss over dinner tonight with his wife. Probably something along the lines that he was afraid all day that ‘thing’ the hand was going to jump out and scramble down the wall then run down the corridor.

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