The lawn of 24 Sussex Dr. was partially covered in pink flamingos this morning.
Fifty of them, to be precise – which, not coincidentally, happens to be the precise age of one Stephen Harper.
The prime minister’s staff determined that a lawn peppered in pastel pink would make for an ideal good-morning greeting for the birthday boy, not to mention a decent photo op.
So a pool of representatives from the national press gallery was invited to record the moment for posterity.
We entered the gates at 24 before 8 o’clock, just in time to hear PMO staffers quipping that the event had been unscripted and that, if it happened to fall flat with the boss, they just might find themselves looking for new jobs today.
Photographers sprawled themselves on the dew-covered grass to test out shot angles.
Ben Harper emerged just before 8 o’clock, unfazed by the sight of reporters crowding around a flock of fake birds just outside his front door, and he hopped into the SUV that would take him to school.
Photographers and cameramen continued setting up their shots. A burly RCMP officer stepped into the frame. Camera shutters were overheard snapping in rapid-fire. One of the officer’s colleagues motioned for him to get out of the shot, and he backed away.
A few minutes after 8, the prime minister emerged from the house, holding his daughter Rachel’s hand.
A pair of prime ministerial staffers began singing Happy Birthday in surprisngly decent tune, capping their ditty with the penultimate line, “Happy birthday, Prime Mi-ni-sterrrr…”
Harper responded by telling them: “We should get you a band.”
He and Rachel strolled the 50 or so paces from the front door to walk amongst the flamingos and, at his urging, they both crouched down next to a lawn sign that read, “Happy 50th birthday! Prime Minister”
The PM pointed and gestured toward some of the lawn toys. Much camera-snapping ensued.
A few seconds later they stood up. The PM said, “Thanks, guys.”
And they walked back towards the house, hand in hand.
We were quickly escorted off the premises.
Fun fact: According to a 2006 article in the Christian Science Monitor, the pink flamingo was invented in 1957 by Don Featherstone, who worked for Union Products, and the effort earned him some kind of mock Nobel Prize for art in 1996.