Posted by Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
BRAMPTON – Prime Minister Stephen Harper popped out of his campaign bubble, linked arms with a movie star and went pitching for South Asian votes in a movie theatre Friday.
The reviews won’t be out until May 2, but the Conservative leader appears to have done himself some favours by showing up for the premier of Bollywood star Akshay Kumar’s latest film, Thank You, a comedy about adulterous spouses.
Kumar and Harper pulled up to the event in the riding of Liberal incumbent Ruby Dhalla on the Tory campaign bus, which played Indian music through loudspeakers. Harper had just released his platform, entitled “Here for Canada.” But it appeared the crowed was here for Kumar, who splits his time between India and Canada.
“We weren’t sure what was really going on,” said one woman seated inside the theatre.
Still, Harper may have done his party some good for showing up.
“I think it’s a great way to get the local community. And it’s smart, especially in an ethnic area, using (Kumar),” said her friend, who noted she would be voting Conservative in the election even if the Prime Minister hadn’t shown up.
In a short address to the crowd just before the movie started, Harper was recognized for building better relations between Canada and India and for signing a film co-production treaty between the two countries.
Some even credited the Tories for bringing the India Film Awards, the Bollywood equivalent of the Oscars, to Toronto this summer, even though the Ontario government is hosting the event.
Vicky Sharma and Del Smadder heard Kumar was coming to the premiere a few days ago on the radio and rushed out to get advance tickets. Harper’s presence was a big surprise.
Sharma says her election support is “still up in the air.” Smadder’s mind was made up for him Friday.
“Since (Harper’s) here, my vote goes to him now,” he said.
That could be the deciding factor for quite a few of the movie fans who turned out Friday.
“The fact that they saw him walking beside Akshay Kumar, that changes everything,” Smadder said.
Harper toned down his political rhetoric for the event, leaving behind his stump speech about the Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois plot to overthrow any election result. Instead, he noted that both he and the film star met their wives in Alberta, and said that in a job filled with great responsibility and great perks, this would be among the greatest.
“This is the first time in my life I’ve got to do one of the things I like doing most, which is to … sit and watch a movie with the start of the movie, one of the biggest stars in the world.”
The crowd went wild with applause, Laureen Harper did a little dance with Kumar at the front of the theatre and the movie began.
A few minutes later, the Conservative leader’s bus pulled out of the Brampton parking lot, bound for his next stop on the road to re-election.