'The what? I thought I was against those.'

An exclusive interview with Stephen Harper—by Stephen Harper from 2005

The Kobal Collection; Reuters; CP; Photo illustration by Taylor Shute

The Kobal Collection; Reuters; CP; Photo illustration by Taylor Shute

Even in the frenzy of a looming election, Maclean’s was able to snag a rare interview with the Prime Minister. He sat down once again with the Stephen Harper from 2005.

Stephen Harper 2005:  Thanks for doing this.

Stephen Harper 2011:  It’s always great to see me.

SH 2005: We look so different. Greyer up top—and the eyeglasses!

SH 2011: There are some things that haven’t changed. Tony Clement still puts up his hand when he needs to use the bathroom.

SH 2005: So, another election. Time to take off the kid gloves and put on those other gloves—the latex ones for touching people.

SH 2011: It never gets easier. I went to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities during one campaign and it took days to get the smell of mayor off me.

SH 2005: What’s important is that we never lose focus on what really matters . . .


SH 2005: The economy.

SH 2011: Attacking Michael Ignatieff’s father for possibly not being destitute 80 years ago. [A silence.] And also that thing you said.

SH 2005: Look, I’ve made my values clear: courage, honesty, integrity—these are for suckers. The surefire way to win an election is negative advertising.

SH 2011: Then you’ll love this new one I’ve been working on.

Shows crude drawing of Ignatieff drinking martinis with Al Capone, Pol Pot and Dr. Octopus.

SH 2005: Hey, you should ask to see Ignatieff’s birth certificate.

SH 2011: I love the way me thinks!

They try to hug but realize they don’t know how.

SH 2011: You know what bugs me?

SH 2005: Everybody and most things?

SH 2011: Exactly. But also the media’s obsession with all the scandals we’ve been having.

SH 2005: It’s unfair. If the opposition parties come together in a coalition, think of the risks: I might never get my photo op with Sting.

SH 2011: I’ll tell you a secret. Sometimes with the media I like to use the carrot instead of the stick. It leaves a more interesting bruise. And then I remind them the economy is still fragile—even though the deficit is coming in lower than expected.

SH 2005: The what? I thought I was against those.

SH 2011: You don’t know it yet, but you are about to be confronted by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

SH 2005: You mean there’s going to be runaway inflation like in the ’50s?

SH 2011: No, inflation doesn’t really go up.

SH 2005: So interest rates will rocket even higher than when they hit 20 per cent in the ’80s?

SH 2011: Nope.

SH 2005: Then unemployment must soar way above the 12 per cent we saw in the early ’90s?

SH 2011: Not even close.

SH 2005: Then I don’t really get how—

SH 2011: WORST. SINCE. THE DEPRESSION. That’s what I keep saying, anyway. Bottom line is it gave us a chance to spend like crazy in every riding where we’ve got a shot at winning.

SH 2005: How on Earth were we able to get a self-serving plan like that through an elected Senate?

An awkward silence. Somewhere a coyote howls.

SH 2011: And it’s not just the spending—we’ve also used public funds on advertising to promote the spending. We’ve taken some flak for it, but it’s like I said to Canadians: spending millions on propaganda isn’t that much if you consider it in terms of me not caring what you think.

SH 2005: But shouldn’t we be cutting faster? I thought we were committed to being different from the Liberals. I thought I wanted to offer a truly conservative government.

SH 2011: I assure you: we’re buckling down and cutting every single bit of non-essential spending that isn’t a snowmobile club, curling team or very promising quilting circle.

SH 2005: I don’t even know us anymore.