This is the second in a two-part post.
If you want to skip the blah-blah-blah… scroll down straight to the video.
Yesterday, in post 1, I informed you that Prime Minister Harper was playing political “catch-up” in Québec against the other party leaders.
He could see how other leaders’ consistent appearances on Québec’s talk TV and TV variety circuit were serving them well.
It was helping to tear down the walls between the political beast and the the human face behind the political role, and obviously Harper’s political team said “We want some of that too!!”
With the Liberals rising in the poles in Québec (rather quickly, within just a matter of a week or two), and with only a fraction of the campaign left in which the Conservatives could try to stop the Liberal rise, Harper did what he has never done before (and what he has always resolved to never do)…
Last night he appeared on Salvail en mode, Québec’s equivalent of Jimmy Fallon.
Eric Salvail said the entire thing was organized within 24 hours at the request of the Prime Minister’s office (translation: they felt they might actually lose the election, and desperate times call for desperate measures).
I got home last night just in time to watch it at 10pm.
Considering his level of French, I asked myself how the heck this interview was going to fly (Harper’s French level is similar to former Prime Minister Chrétien’s level of English, but perhaps a bit worse than Chrétien),
- The crowd cheered his entry.
- During the first few minutes, I thought he actually was doing quite well, and that he seemed relaxed while both the Éric Salvail and Harper joked with each other.
- Salvail put him on the spot with some questions many of us wanted to know. Salvail asked him what was going on in head as he made certain decisions regarding strategy and other topics reporters never have the opportunity to ask him (other reporters have to get straight to the point when they ask him questions because Harper never allows time for the “flowery and secondary” stuff). But… thanks to this interview, we now we know that his hair is real and not a toupee, but that there is someone usually standing by to give him a fresh cut.
- Then came the “sideline” questions.
- At one point Salvail noted the announcement of one of Laureen Harper’s pregnancies was made in Québec. Salvail asked Harper if that meant that Harper and Laureen had sex in Québec, and if his child was “Made in Québec”. That’s when the awkwardness seemed to begin (at least for Harper). I had the feeling it set the tone for the rest of the interview.
- At another point in the interview, Harper said he was always at home in Québec. Therefore Salvail pulled out a “Two Solitudes question” (HA!!!) and asked him if he knew who Marie-Mai is (she is Québec’s equivalent of Justin Bieber, and one of the best known people in Québec, especially for under 40s). Harper didn’t seem to know who she was – and out came the editing job (the joys of pre-recording). It was quite obvious they cut out follow-up questions (and continued awkwardness).
- They threw in a few awkward photos of Harper and the Bonnehomme de carnival in strange positions.
- They dragged out a photo of Harper from his first campaign when he was known as “Steve Harper”, and when he looked like he was a kid from the Adams family.
- He was asked why he’s so frigid and won’t appear on camera, and they give him “loooong silence” which forced him to a longer answer.
- He was told that he always says “erection” in French when he means to say “election”. He was given the opportunity to show the world he can actually say the word “election” – and the crowd cheered and applauded when he said the word correctly.
- He was asked if he would work better with Conservative-supporter Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto (who very publicly just gave Harper a very big dose of support), or Liberal support Denis Coderre (the very popular mayor of Montréal and former cabinet minister in the Chrétien government). Well, can you say awkward? But Harper’s answer was very good… He would only work with Denis Coderre because he only works with “current” mayors, but he said he currently has disagreements with Coderre.
Then came the
monkey-show highlight of the evening: Harper played the piano and sang for the audience, Québec, and all of French Canada, in both English and French. I don’t know why it looked and felt strange, but it sure was different. Yet Harper seemed in his element.
The final dig from the host was left to the very end.
Salvail said how great it was for Harper to finally appear on variety TV and to give Québec a live performance. Salvail told Harper that it was because of such beautiful moments that Harper should not cut the culture budgets in Québec. Harper, caught of guard, let out a laugh and shrugged it off with a brush of the hand. (HA!!!)
All-in-all, I wish we saw more of these types of things from our politicians, and it is unfortunate that Harper never let his guard down like this in the past.
Yes Harper’s appearance felt awkward on more than one occasion in this interview, but… yes he held his own and he navigated through it. I thought the Prime Minister actually did OK.
Nothing incriminating came out of it, and I’m sure he would get better at these sorts of interviews and appearances if he were to have done them more frequently (all politicians do get better at these… unless you’re Sarah Palin of Jean Chrétien).
This interview will be front-page news and talk of the town all day today in Québec, and likely through the weekend, right up to Monday evening. It is a thunder-stealer (that’s what people in political circles call “s-t-r-a-t-e-g-y”).
It will remain to be seen if having Harper’s “performance” front-and-centre in everyone’s mind’s (eclipsing last week’s platform talk on the part of the other leaders) will make a difference at voting time.
Who knows – it might. The Liberal climb and the NDP drop-off in the polls were quite sudden, so there is no way to know what other sudden changes may occur.
But we will only know at
erection… er… election time.
Here is the
circus interview (click the image below):
Oh, and one more thing…
If you were hoping that Harper would also dance, no fat chance.
He leaves that to his wife and Canada’s “first lady”, Laureen (filmed yesterday in Brampton, ON — It’s worth watching — I think it’s great)…
Isn’t campaign season
awkward fun !?