Stephen Harper

Thanks, but no Thanks

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I’d say that falls into the category of “Headlines Stephen Harper doesn’t want to see” (along with “Rob Anders to go on national speaking tour” and any headline with the words “Helena Guergis” in it).

And the Star’s choice of the sub headline “15,000 rally in Ottawa to praise Harper for picking up where George Bush left off” probably won’t be making its way into too many Conservative Party pamphlets either.

Of course, that’s not really what the rally was about – as the article explains, its main purpose was to urge the government to bring in legislation limiting abortions in Canada. Given Stephen Harper has consistently shown he’ll abandon anything he believes in to get re-elected, I wouldn’t hold me breath on those demands.

And, yeah, Harper probably doesn’t need to sweat a few bad Toronto Star headlines. To steal a line from Will Ferguson, they’d announce Harper discovering the cure for cancer as “Harper to Close Chemotherapy Clinics in Toronto“.

But to see this story staying in the news for so long has got to be extremely frustrating for him. Sure, it’s good for fundraising and for keeping the base happy, but it’s not the sort of thing he wants to see in newspapers or local news shows.

Christmas Letters: Stephen Harper

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It’s that time of the year again, when Christmas cards and year-end letters start arriving in the mail. I’ve managed to get my hands on the letters being sent out by all party leaders and will be posting them here over the next week. First off, the Prime Minister.

Greetings friends!

It’s been another great year despite these grave economic times, which we are only now coming out of thanks to Canada’s Economic Action Plan. I guess you could say, we all get by with a little help from our friends.

I was able to travel a lot this year, representing Canada internationally at the G8 summit in Italy, and learning more about the country I have lived in my entire life during visits to Iqualuit and the Tim Hortons Donut Innovation Centre. Some Canadian political leaders (and I won’t name names) have said they are ashamed to be from Canada, but not me – I’m always amazed at the great things Canadians can accomplish when we put our mind to it. For example, did you know there is now a triple chocolate donut?

As you’ve no doubt read in “Hot or Not”, Laureen has also been quite busy this year, feeding homeless kittens and supporting the arts community (que j’aime aussi!). In October, she arranged for me to play the piano with Yo Yo Ma, in a spontaneous and non-calculated show of my humanity (the video is available on most government of Canada websites if you haven’t seen it already).

As for Ben and Rachel, I’m quite proud of my offspring. Like his dad, and most suburban swing voters, Ben has a strong affinity for hockey. Which reminds me, I’m still hard at work writing my book on hockey history. (Fun fact: Did you know there used to be a team in Hartford?)

Finally, if you’re still looking for the perfect gift for that special someone of the opposite sex, may I suggest making a 50$ contribution to the Conservative Party of Canada. Your donation will help us fight the tactics of the un-elected an un-democratic Liberal Senators who are stalling my aggressive get tough on crime legislation. I’m not saying Canadians will die this Christmas because of these Liberal Senators, but can we really take that risk?

Merry Christmas!

Stephen, Laureen, Ben, and Rachel

Fourth Annual Politicians in Cowboy Hats

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There were no see-my-vest incidents this year but, thanks to a few news stories, a few e-mails, and Jim Prentice’s facebook page, I’m able to present the fourth annual Stampede Fashion Round-Up.

First up, the federal party leaders:

Elizabeth May, quite fairly, won “worst dressed” last year, but the experts turned it around and named her “best dressed” this time around.

Looking at the comparison below, she has obviously improved, but I think it’s probably a case of low expectations and a better picture being used this year, so I’m not quite prepared to crown her as the champ.

So while May earns a solid runner-up ribbon, I’m going to go with Jack Layton as my choice for “best dressed” among the party leaders. For a mustached socialist from Toronto, he pulls off western surprisingly well.

In this picture, Harper tells a local farmer about anti-Stampede comments Michael Ignatieff had made earlier in the day. Harper would later return and clarify that it was actually PETA which had made the comments.

Ever since leather vest-gate, Harper has put in solid, but not spectacular, performances. This year is no different – he seems to have settled on the checkered shirt and dark cowboy hat as his go-to outfit. He even decided to shop for richardson baseball hats to upgrade his look.

So Harper went with the red shirt, and the rookie Ignatieff went blue. While Ignatieff didn’t embarrass himself, he played it safe, and deserves a 4th place finish. I know Ignatieff’s an academic and a bit out of his element, but if Stephane Dion can pull off a cowboy hat, anyone can.

A surprise appearance by Gilles Duceppe! He does go with a hat, so I may have to slot him in ahead of Iggy in the rankings.

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier poses with Lisa Raitt. Raitt sported a black cowboy hat until she misplaced it by the pancake tray.

This brings us to Stampede superstar Jim Prentice. Sure, past environment ministers have turned in their SUVs for hybrids, but Prentice one-ups them by going horse back.

Prentice poses with the Tory caucus.

Like Prentice, Harry Chase is a Stampede superstar…the man is a cowboy, and could stare down Wyatt Earp. However, I must once again point out that the “Harry Chase MLA” apron is absolutely ridiculous.

While Chase always looks the part, provincial politicians often struggle at the Stampede. Ed Stelmach and David Swann are both nice people but both were clearly outdone by a bunch of city-slickers from Ottawa. I mean, for crying out loud, the tree-hugging Green Party leader had a better Stampede outfit than Alberta’s Premier and leader of the opposition!

Third Annual Politicians in Cowboy Hats

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2006 Politicians in Cowboy Hats
2007 Politicians in Cowboy Hats

A big thanks to everyone who sent in pictures or posted them on their own blogs. Let’s begin the photo round-up with the CP wire story’s winner and loser:

And with good reviews from the Alberta media scarce during his time there, who can fault the LPC from pouncing on this and making it the top story on their weekly e-brief:

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion attended the Calgary Stampede last weekend, where he was named the best dressed political cowboy. Wearing boots, blue jeans, a fitted plaid shirt, topped off by a broad-brimmed cowboy hat, Mr. Dion looked like a true cowboy as he walked the grounds of the stampede, meeting with Albertans.

Dion also gets top tough guy Clint Eastwood points for walking into a wild west town, knowing that everyone was gunning for him. So I’ll second the consensus and name him “best dressed” for Stampede 2008, taking the title from last year’s winner, Harry Chase.

As for the green party leader? Mayday mayday! Call in the fashionistas! Since Liz has gotten a lot of flack for the above picture, I will post a slightly more flattering one of her from Sunday. May also gets Clint Eastwood points for wearing the Canada-USA pin, something no other party leader in Canada would ever be gutsy enough to do:
So what about the Village Person? Well, his psychic may have dropped the ball on giving him the Maxime Bernier heads up, but she’s earning her paycheck in the fashion advisor role. Unlike the nerdy Quebec professor, who benefits from low cowboy expectations, Albertans expect a lot of their local PM and ever since leathervestgate, Harper has actually done a good job at looking presentable during the 15 minutes of public appearances he puts in every Stampede. In this picture, Steve gets into the spirit of things by giving a handshake so friendly to a little girl, you’d think she was his daughter.
Another Albertan on the hot-seat following his “Alberta Stampede” comments last year was Ed Stelmach. Now, after winning 72 seats in March, Stelmach could show up wearing nothing but a belt buckle and it probably wouldn’t matter much. Come to think of it, wearing nothing but a belt buckle might have been better than this random mish-mash of clothing:
So what about those trying to replace Ed as Alberta’s top cowboy? Well, politics are always at play during the stampede and with the ALP leadership race on, this year was no different. Saturday morning saw David Swann’s breakfast go head-to-head against the federal Liberal one. For the first time in a while, Liberal MLAs visited the federal breakfast, with Dave Taylor, Darshan Kang, and Kent Hehr eating pancakes with Dion. Meanwhile, the Swann breakfast drew 2000 hungry Calgarians, among them Harry Chase. Still, in our fashion review, we must give Taylor the win over Swann:

Last year’s winner of “worst dressed” for a bizarre animal sweater vest, Carolyn Bennett was much improved this year. I’ll give her credit – she stampedes every year and appears to have an extensive western wear wardrobe, which isn’t bad for a Toronto gal. She’s pictured bellow with newly elected MLA Kent Hehr:
Finally, the Liberal candidate looking to replace Myron Thompson in Wild Rose, Jen Turcott, sports a stylish cowgirl outfit. A good try, but how could anyone look better than Myron in western wear?

Second Annual "Politicians in Cowboy Hats" Blog Post

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Everyone seemed to enjoy last summer’s Stampede fashion review so, after hitting all the major breakfasts on the first weekend, I’m pleased to present my recap of how the big names fared this year. For some historical perspective, the Globe & Mail offers up Stampede pictures throughout the ages.

Ever since the disaster of 2005, the nation’s eyes turn to Stephen Harper every Stampede. Last year, Harper hoped in and out of the Hays breakfast in under 20 minutes, wanting to avoid human interaction at all costs. To his credit, this year the PM stayed and posed for pictures for double that time. As for the outfit, Harper looked about as good in western wear as it’s possible for Stephen Harper to look in western wear. Clearly his psychic stylist is earning her money, although it might be time for a taxpayer funded nutritionist.

I caught Prentice at BBQs Saturday and Sunday, and he wore the same outfit on both occasions. It’s also the same thing he’s worn every single day of the Stampede since, one imagines, his 12th birthday. It’s a good look but it might be time for Jim to mix it up a little bit.

I can’t make fun of Carolyn Bennett for her wild pink outfit since the Stampede has been running a “tough enough to wear pink” promotion to raise awareness for breast cancer. It’s a shame since it would have been really easy to poke fun at her pink shirt, bizarre sweater vest, and green Dion scarf.
Kevin Taft has been everywhere this week – the Stampede parade Friday, a series of breakfasts Saturday, and the Hays breakfast Sunday. The pink worked well on Friday, but Kevin’s wife pulled off Western a lot better than him at the Hays breakfast Sunday. The jacket? Definitely a no-no. Still, at least Kevin is aware that it’s the Calgary Stampede.
Actual conversation with Jason Kenney:
Me: Hey Jason, you’re in MP – I was hoping to get a picture with you.
Jason: Are you Young Liberals or Young Conservatives?
Me: Young Liberals.
Jason: I won’t hold it against you. I used to be a Young Liberal too.
Me: Yeah, in Goodale’s office. Just wanted the picture because I’ve got a collection of pictures of myself with Tory MPs…I got one with me and Anders last year.
Jason: Ha Ha. Well I’m not as bad as Rob, eh?

And, with that, Jason Kennedy went up about 200% in my books. Admittedly, he was starting pretty low so a 200% increase isn’t a lot, but he’s climbing.

Speaking of which…

Craig Cheffins, new to elected politics, obviously has yet to learn the “never dance when there’s a camera around” rule.

Stephane Dion looked almost the same as he did last year. For a French University professor, he always presents himself surprisingly well at Stampede.

Peter Miliken, a frequent visitor to the Hays breakfast flashes his sheriff badge. If only he could lay down the law in the House of Commons and keep the children in order…

Harry Chase is probably the only politician in Canada who can wear a coat like that and pull it off. The man looks like he’s straight out of a Western and probably deserves “best dressed 2007″ for that. That said, it’s never a good sign when you need to identify yourself as an MLA on your apron.

There were also a bunch of other politicians at the Hays breakfast I wasn’t able to track down. Lawrence Cannon was out and about espousing the values of Quebec nationhood to the Calgary faithful (which means he must have felt a bit like Jason Jones in those Molson Canadian commercials). Bill Casey was also shaking hands. Carol Skelton may have been around but since no one alive knows what she looks like, I don’t have a picture (unless she accidentally wandered into one of the other shots).

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