Should last night’s leaders debate be turned into a play? Probably not. But could it be turned into a play? Absolutely!
Election Fever is now proud to present the blogosphere premiere of Much Ado About Nothing In Ottawa, starring Stephen Harper, Elizabeth May, Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe.
Act 1: The Economy
[Four men and one woman are assembled around an irregular-shaped table. They look nervous, tired but determined to connect with “voters.” First, they must discuss the nation’s financial situation.]
May: “Canada’s economic health needs to be buttressed quickly.”
Dion: “We have an action plan that I released yesterday.”
Harper: “Last night, Stéphane, you panicked. You came on the set and announced a whole new economic plan in the middle of a national debate.”
Layton: “We need some action.”
Duceppe: “Harper believes in the invisible hand.”
[Just then, a visible hand – glowing with poll-based envy – prompts everyone to gang up on Harper.]
May: “Where’s your platform?”
Layton: “Either you don’t care or you’re incompetent, which is it?”
Dion: “Doing nothing is not an option!”
May: “Mr. Harper, you are so out of touch with people.”
Layton: “I don’t know who you get your advice from, whether they’re all CEOs from Bay Street or Mr. Howard or Mr. Bush.”
[Harper smiles wanly, his lipstick glimmering under the hot lights. Duceppe, who has yet to blink or exhale, raises his voice an octave.]
Duceppe: “Reimbursable? Reimbursable tax credits? Are you telling me that? I’m asking you a question!”
[Now in a treetop, away from the others, Layton shakes his head and peels a banana. He turns to Dion, who is licking a piece of bark.]
Layton: “I don’t know why you kept him in power so long if you disagree with him so much.”
[As the curtain falls, Layton’s voice can be heard, echoing from the treetop.]
Layton: “You say you’ve got a plan, where is it? Where’s your platform? Under the sweater?”
Act 2: Taxation
[Now inside a concrete bunker, the leaders crouch forward in their bamboo chairs, squinting at a massive video screen. On it, an average Canadian asks something about taxes and the environment.]
Dion: “You are asking one of the key questions of the century!”
Layton: “What we should be doing is making those big polluters pay.”
Duceppe: “Those who pollute have to pay.”
May: “As former president Bill Clinton puts it, ‘The climate crisis represents the single biggest economic opportunity in the history of humanity.”
[Soon, the leaders are outside, dwarfed by thousands of industrial chimneys that dot the horizon like gravestones. Plumes of black smoke hang above their heads. The leaders are now coughing and spitting up bile. Well, not Harper. He laughs. Then he dances maniacally atop a thick document known as “The Green Shift.”]
Harper: “I encourage viewers to look at the actual table in the Liberal plan which makes clear that the tax increases are twice the size of the tax reductions. That’s why the package would be a tax increase.”
Dion: “Mr. Harper, it’s a lie!”
Harper: “You have 40 billion dollars in carbon taxes and 26 billion dollars in cuts – ”
Dion: “—Not at all!”
Harper: “And you have—”
Dion: “Why are you saying that"
[Later, Duceppe sits down and picks up a glass of water.]
Duceppe: “Let’s say this is an oil barrel...”
Act 3: Health Care
[The sun has vanished. A chill fills the air. But let’s be clear, Stephen Harper really likes the phrase “Let’s be clear.” Under a full moon, an owl can be heard. It whispers: “Jack, don’t forget to mention Tommy Douglas at least twice.”]
Harper: “Let me just be very quick on this. I use the public health care system. My family uses the public health care system. In fact, in the last federal election campaign at one point it turned out I was the only national leader actually who had used exclusively the public health care system.”
Disembodied Voice: “That sounded like a shot. What is that a reference to?”
Harper: “Well, my understanding is that other leaders have used private clinics. I’ve never used a private clinic.”
[Confusion abounds. What is he saying? Who uses a private clinic? The leaders scramble to produce their provincial health cards.]
Layton (scowling): “It’s a cheap shot.”
Act 4: The Arts
[The leaders are now shown individually, in silhouette, sitting around their respective kitchen tables and doodling stick figures on napkins.]
Duceppe: “My father was a well known comedian.”
May: “Arts and culture are an essential part of a democracy.”
Dion: “First, it’s fun!”
Harper: “I enjoy the arts immensely. I play a little bit of piano.”
Layton: “Well, the arts is very important to Olivia and I. She’s a sculptor. I’m not particularly talented in any of these fields but I enjoy the arts and they’re part of our soul.”
[Across the nation, sculptors can be seen bawling into their tattered sleeves.]
Act 5: The Rate of Violent Crime
[Bang! Bang! Bang! The thought of American-style gun violence suddenly forces all the leaders to run for rhetorical cover!]
May: “We need to ban semi-automatic weapons.”
Dion: “Behind each crime is a human tragedy.”
Layton: “There’s no reason for a handgun on the street of a city except in the hands of a law enforcement officer.”
[Ironically, a few minutes later, violence nearly erupts between Layton and Dion after the latter suggests the former helped Harper do a drive-by shooting on the Kelowna Accord.]
Layton: “It’s simply not true!
Dion: “Yes, it’s what you did!”
Layton: “And you’ve supported Mr. Harper 43 times… If you can’t do your job as leader of the opposition, I don’t know what you are doing running for prime minister.”
[Layton leans forward, practically shoving his moustache into Dion’s furrowed brow. Harper tries but fails to stifle a giggle.]
Act 6: Afghanistan
[The leaders are now seen on a mountaintop, not far from Kabul. Each has a pair of binoculars dangling around their neck. They are also carrying a canteen and a flag. Some of these flags are emblazoned with a skull and bones; others are plain white.]
Layton: “Canada’s voice should be a voice for peace!”
May: “The NATO mission isn’t working!”
Harper: “If we never leave will the job ever get done?”
Dion: “I want my Canada back.”
Act 7: If I Was Prime Minister…
[In flashback, as children, the leaders sprint through an open field with grass as green as an emerald. They are laughing and singing and wondering what it would be like to lead Canada. Suddenly, the sky gets dark. A fierce and angry rain pelts the children, who are screaming on the inside.]
Duceppe: “Well, I know I won’t be prime minister. And three of you won’t be prime minister, neither. Some of you know it, but you don’t say it.”
Act 8: Voter Apathy
[Now back around the irregular-shaped table, another average Canadian appears on a screen. She says she doesn’t vote anymore. Too many broken promises. Too many reasons to distrust the leaders.]
Duceepe: “I understand those people.”
May: “I’m a former lawyer who has become a politician and I somehow wonder if I’ve dropped down to a level where I’m just slightly above the paparazzi in terms of public esteem.”
Harper: “I travel around the world and there are so many places where elections do not happen at all or they do not happen democratically.”
[Suddenly, the visible hand reappears. It is joined by a visible mouth that once belonged to Paul Martin. The mouth speaks: “This is your last chance! You must destroy Harper before he destroys you!”]
Harper: “Take a look at our platform”
May: “Where is it?”
Layton: “The sweater is nice but they’d like to know what your plans are.”
May: “You decide that if a law is something you don’t like, or a contract is something you don’t like, you just sweep it across the table, don’t you? You just decide it doesn’t matter because your word is law. That’s no way for a prime minister to behave.”
[The moderator, one Steve Paikin, appears like an apparition. He is wearing a cape and, for some reason, he has five eyes. Hoping to defuse the situation, he begins to perform some stand-up material.]
Paikin: “That’s our time. And you know what? This was way better than Biden and Palin, I’m sure of it. I’m absolutely sure of it.”
[The leaders rise and launch into a spirited rendtion of O Canada. They link arms and high-kick to and fro as the curtain falls.]
A Canadian Press story today suggests the number of young people expected to vote Oct. 14 could drop off dramatically.
The poll, conducted by Innovative Research Group for the Dominion Institute, “found that the number of young voters who said they were definitely going to vote is down seven per cent from the last election.”
And how many 18-24 year olds voted in 2006? Less than 44 per cent.
So how can we inspire disengaged Canadian youth to embrace democracy? Here are 10 humble suggestions:
|SHAMELESS PANDERING IMAGE|
|Hey, Young Canadians! If Jessica Alba can play the violin, you can vote!|
Good morning! How are you? What did you do last night? No way! That sounds like fun. Me? Oh, not much. I just polled 1,000 Canadians.
Actually, that's a lie. A market research firm did the polling. I merely came up with the questions.
Now, undoubtedly, there are
killjoys people out there who will say these questions are – what's the word? – "idiotic." But you know what? These questions are the exact opposite of idiotic!
Do idiotic questions slice into our collective consciousness? No! Do idiotic questions gauge popular opinion and provide an accurate reading on what people feel deep inside their voting hearts? Hell no!
These questions are a mirror into our soul, Canada. So stop fogging it up and ask yourself this: "Which leader would make the best circus clown?"
Without further ado, the historic partnership between Election Fever and Asking Canadians is proud to present Five Shockingly Brilliant Questions That Really Make You Think:
1. Which leader would make the best travel partner?
Jack Layton 35 (percentage)
Stephen Harper 28
Elizabeth May 20
Stéphane Dion 10
Gilles Duceppe 7
Analysis: Layton winning this is not surprising. After all, he has great energy, which is what you need for sightseeing and getting lost on foreign adventures. He could also arrange some decent hotel deals by simply guilting the owner. But Harper is No. 2? Really? Somehow, I can't imagine him thumbing through a Fodor’s Travel Guide and posing in front of this thing.
2. Which leader would you not loan money to?
Stephen Harper 33
Stéphane Dion 28
Gilles Duceppe 22
Jack Layton 12
Elizabeth May 5
Analysis: Now this is very interesting. The Conservatives keep yammering on about fiscal responsibility, about how they're like the only ones who can manage the economy. But these results suggest few of us would spot Harper a 20 if he fell on hard times.
3. Which leader would you trust most as a house sitter?
Stephen Harper 29
Elizabeth May 29
Jack Layton 22
Stéphane Dion 14
Gilles Duceppe 7
Analysis: Okay, now I'm confused. We don't trust Harper with our hard-earned cash but we'd let him into our house when we're off vacationing with Layton? Also, why is May tied for No. 1? Can she really be trusted to water our plants more than, say, Dion? On the upside, she'd probably take it upon herself to replace all your inefficient light bulbs. On the downside, your neighbours would probably move while you were gone, thanks to her incessant, over-the-fence hectoring.
4. Which leader would make the best godparent?
Stephen Harper 29
Jack Layton 27
Elizabeth May 23
Stéphane Dion 13
Gilles Duceppe 9
Analysis: Shrug. I guess Harper would make a good godparent, even if he kept buying sweater vests as birthday presents. And Layton, yes, he'd also be good. As for Duceppe finishing last, well, think about it this way: Do you want little Timmy coming home each afternoon and yelling, "My classmates and I need to separate from the rest of school! They don't get us!"
5. Which leader would make the best circus clown?
Stéphane Dion 36
Gilles Duceppe 22
Stephen Harper 19
Jack Layton 18
Elizabeth May 6
Analysis: At long last! Dion finishes first in a poll! Ladies and gentleman, now under the big top, watch as the Prime Minister of Flaming Hoops gets catapulted out of this cannon in his giant red sneakers!
(A special thanks to Elliott Chun for facilitating all of this.)
|Stop kissing me, please. I have lions to tame.|
It's Day 23 and I simply must ask: Why are Egg McMuffins so damn addictive? Seriously. Why? Where do they get these eggs? Why am I unable to replicate this McDelicious in the comfort of my own kitchen? Actually, this one time I came close. The secret? Crumpets, lightly pan-toasted.
Give this some thought, will you, and let me know.
In the interim, let us now turn our attention to Deputy Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. This morning, he addressed well-heeled delegates at The Economic Club of Toronto. His speech was titled, "Are Tory Times Tough Times? Stephen Harper's Economic Legacy and the Liberal Alternative." It could have just as easily been titled, "Don't I Sound Way More Prime Ministerial Than Dion? Friends, This Situation Is Patently Ridiculous!"
Since I was busy enjoying my breakfast sandwich, I asked an Election Fever intern – Jake – to transcribe the speech.
"Sir, do I have to write down everything he says?" Jake asked.
I dabbed my mouth with a napkin and shot him a withering glance.
"Jake? Is this not the most important election since, like, last year? Is it not incumbent upon us, as bloggers, to document the proceedings and create a detailed record voters can consult before electing a leader during this epochal period in our history?”
Then we both started laughing and Jake begged for one of my hashbrowns.
Okay, so here are Seven Random Quotes from today's event:
[Applause. Fade Out]
Clear, articulate, hard-hitting and combative. I don't know who wrote the speech. But he or she should definitely freelance for Mr. Dion.
"I've been to many beautiful and wealthy places and to countries and neighbourhoods that are poor and dangerous beyond imagination. And it all only reinforces my belief in how fortunate we are as Canadians – the boundless promise of our country, a country with peace, prosperity and potential unlike anything humanity has ever known."
You see? He's not a scary monster with a hidden agenda. He's just an everyday dude who, as a quiet kid, played road hockey, studied hard and delivered the… Toronto Star? What? Do his Conservative pals know this? Good lord, now that is a biographical factoid he shall never live down.
Also this weekend, we ran a yearbook photo of Mr. Harper.
According to the accompanying blurb, young Steve was active in the "apathy movement" and his pet peeve was "reality."
Based strictly on the nerdtastic snap, young Steve also wasted hours playing Space Invaders while cranking ELO in his wood-paneled basement. Occasionally, friends would pop in and a spontaneous game of spin-the-bottle would erupt. During these moments, Steve would fiddle awkwardly with the giant collar on his polyester shirt. Then he would politely excuse himself and retreat to his bedroom where he would dance naked in front of a mirror while listening to ABBA and dreaming about bilateral trade agreements.