Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

By Devan Scott

What would you do if your Prime Minister sang out of tune?

Hand him a majority government, it seems. But first, before ruining it with analysis and innuendo, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how damned heartwarming Stephen Harper’s little performance last Saturday was. There he was, our soulless Prime Minister, ostensibly the most boring man in Ottawa, on stage with Yo-Yo Ma singing one of the most beloved songs by one of the most beloved bands of all time. And, it must be admitted, I did feel a little warm and fuzzy after watching it.

Grand gestures like this are always at risk of being labeled as crassly political acts, but old uncle Harper’s done an absolutely masterful job of covering his tactical tracks with this one; it wasn’t a political strategist or image consultant who arranged this coup. It was, according to Harper, his own wife. And, in a brilliant move, no attempt was made to build up to this event or publicize it, stripping the event of all the obvious signs of a political photo-op in the grand old tradition of politicians kissing babies for the cameras. As Harper realized, the appearance didn’t need it; in this age of Youtube and Twitter, it had all the publicity it needed without intervention from his political machine.

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And the result? Harper, the man who cut $45 million from arts funding last year and characterized artists as “at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers, claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough”, is now a patron of he arts. He’s no longer a schemer whose only goal is the destruction of his political foes; as far as the public's concerned, he’s cool. And the polls show it. Practically overnight, his approval rating shot up 3.7% and is now hovering at around 40%. He’s gone from being the squarest man in Parliament to a big, soft teddy bear.

In addition to solving his remaining public image problems, Harper’s enemies seem to be conveniently shooting themselves in the foot over his little act. Michael Ignatieff, in a continuation of his apparent efforts to annihilate all public good will towards him, went on the offensive and dismissed Harper’s appearance with “It’s too late… this was a Prime Minister who, a year ago, was trying to make you embarrassed if you like Opera.” He’s right, of course; however, what he doesn’t seem to realize is that nobody really cares that this is a calculated, grossly hypocritical move. Right now, ol' Iggy looks like a party pooper, trying to take away the Prime Minister’s, and by extension the nation’s, fun.

Which is exactly what Harper was banking on. Neither Harper nor Ignatieff have had much luck with appearing warm and genial in the past, and now, suddenly Harper is lovable while Ignatieff is in serious danger of falling into late-period George W. Bush levels of public distrust. And, as a result, the Conservative party is within spitting distance of winning a majority of the seats in Parliament in the event of an election for the first time in its relatively short lifespan.

All this from a guy sitting down at a piano and playing a 40-year-old song in front of a crowd. By doing it, Harper managed to win over the hearts of Canadians everywhere while convincing the rest of us that he is, in fact, a far more clever politician than we ever gave him credit for. CBC pundit Rex Murphy said it better than I could ever hope to: “Thus it is that an old Beatles hit has accomplished what a whole army of tone-deaf spin-doctors could not.”

The scary thing is he's not that bad of a singer.


Anonymous said...

Old uncle Harper? Is there something that you are trying to tell us?

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