Help for my friend Mr. Harper

Dear Mr. Harper,

We don’t know one another, and I expect you’ve never heard of me. I’m sadly aware of my limited audience, and I suspect I don’t even make a dent in the blogospheric radar of your lesser spin doctors.

But I’m writing you as a friend. Yes, really. Though some assume I’m a liberal, because I’m a creative type, I think that’s rude and assumptive and possibly a bit dirty. I really am a genuine believer in the democratic process, however flawed, that elected you, sir. I’ve got great respect for the office you hold and do my best to be level-headed whenever I’m dealing with your actions. Honest I do.

So, while I’ve criticized you recently for your spokesman’s comments condemning the play “Homegrown” without, apparently, having seen it, I’ve also been quite positive in the past. I praised your piano-playing, for example, and chortled over your rendition of The Beatles tune you did at the National Arts Centre – you know, the one with the infamous line, “I get high with a little help from my friends?”

I thought I’d be a friend and offer you a little help. Not to get high for real, of course. I don’t expect you do that and it wouldn’t impress me much if you did. I don’t like Parliament Hill stoners. I’d like the leader of the country to be as sober as possible as often as possible. But I feel like what I have to say could help you get a little higher in the polls, at least.

So here’s my advice, and it’s pretty much encapsulated in this caricature of you, which I am grateful our laws give me the right to publish without fear of reprisal. We probably share that belief. I hope so.


Look at this picture. I know the caption’s silly. That’s the joke that makes it a political cartoon, hence protected by law. Your head’s too big, but that’s inherently funny. Look at Elmer Fudd. Look at Bobble-Heads. That’s just a thing.

But look deeper. Look where you are, and what you’re doing. You’re talking to people, a fairly diverse bunch of them, chilled out on a grassy hillside on a sunny Sunday somewhere in the great outdoors. We’d like to see you there.

We kind of feel like you never talk to us. Not even to the journalists whose job it is to get the stories to us, so we can be lazy instead of really paying attention and doing the hard work of staying informed ourselves.

I mean, you’ve answered FOUR questions in THIRTY-ONE DAYS. Well, that’s what Rick Mercer says. He’s a professional goof and he probably exaggerates. But still.

It’s not just about talking, to the press or to the people. It’s being comfortable, expressive, slightly silly even. I’m worried you have some kind of social condition. Part of what I like about this picture is it shows you having gotten over that.

In this picture you’re wearing a tutu because you’ve been marching in a children’s parade, which is a sort of a comedia-del-arte affair where anything goes. Whimsy is freeing, and people just naturally take to those who express themselves that way. I’d love to see you getting the benefits of that instinct.

You’re wearing your infamous sweater. I wish you’d wear it more. The angry left teased you about it and you stopped. What a bunch of bullies, especially Jack Layton! For a guy with a moustache like that to be pointing fingers is just pathetic.

Part of my advice to you, my friend Mr. Harper, is to wear the sweater you love and to hell with them if they don’t like it. You’ll be happiest in the clothes you like best. I know this; you should see what I’m wearing. It’s terrible.

This picture was taken at a folk festival. I wish you’d go to folk festivals. They’re not like Woodstock, man. Did you know Mariposa just turned 50? The one that introduced Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan… It’s one of our great cultural institutions!

Anyway you’d like a folk festival if you went. It’s just Canadians camped in the woods, practicing leaving a small footprint, singing around the campfire, making crafts, and listening to music. A huge number of them are grandparents who just love that old-time music. There are gospel sessions on Sunday mornings. One of them is happening just to the right of this picture, for real.

It doesn’t HAVE to be a folk festival; it could be a heavy metal festival or lobster boil or something, but it would be good to see you out there, doing stuff the people do. Like when my buddy saw you at the hockey game and got his picture taken with you. It’s his freakin’ Facebook profile pic now!


He liked you better after that, and so did I. It’s part of why we’re friends now, you and me.

I think it’s especially important that you get out there and hang out like this, with the people who are not so much like you. The ones who didn’t vote for you, which is most of us, statistically speaking. I’m not saying which way I voted; I find that vulgar. I’m just saying those are the numbers.

Like that G20 thing, I know Toronto didn’t exactly do you any favours in the last election, but dumping that crap on us was just mean. And then you didn’t even hang out with us when you were in town, knocking back a beer on a patio or whatever.

That’s no way to treat your friends.

I think maybe if you did more stuff like that, hung out with people, showed a little less restraint, loosened up, and especially, because it’s on my mind this week, if you made a point of supporting artistic expression, whatever its merits and however poorly conceived…. you know, like this awful stupid juvenile picture of a dude in a papier-mache head at a folk festival making fun of you for no apparent reason… well, we might like you more, and not be so quick to judge you.

Anyway, it’s easy for me to say. I’m a ukulele-player and a blogger, and you’re the boss of the country. But still, I mean it. I think you could chill out a bit, open up to us, and enjoy life a little more. And I promise you, I’d cut you a lot more slack if you did. I’m that kind of guy. I’m easy going. It’s my nature. Hell, it’s the Canadian way.

Tell us you’re gonna try, will you? With a little help from the people of Canada…


Your friend.


Papier-mache Prime Minister photo by David Newland with caption by Kerrin McNamara. Photo at Hockey game by someone from the entourage I think. Photo of me at Shelter Valley Folk Festival by David Sheffield.

2 comments on “Help for my friend Mr. Harper

  1. One important point: he’s not the boss of the country, he was just hired by the country to look after it for a little while. :-)

  2. Michael Griffin

    August 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Only one word of caution: I had a strong NIMBY response when you suggested we wanted Mr.Harper to attend a folk festival. I really don’t want him at my folk festival, I frankly don’t want him in my parliament buildings either, but my franchise is not quite as omnipotent there. Let him attend a folk festival in Canmore. They are used to him.

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