“So I remained silent and progressively felt more uncomfortable” – David Marler meets Stephen Harper (2006)

Hot off the Conservative wire (full text not yet available):


Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially unveiled his team of Conservative candidates for the Montreal region today at a rally in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, the riding of Conservative candidate Michael Fortier.

“These men and women are part of a new generation of Conservatives in Quebec and with your help, they will form part of a new Conservative government,” Mr. Harper said.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we, with David Marler, who was on stage when Stephen Harper introduced his 2006 Quebec team:

I had seen Mr. Harper, in fact shaken his hand, on a couple of occasions but these had been at typical glad-handing, meet the leader parties. On this occasion, he had come to our part of the world, the Eastern Townships, to meet the region’s candidates.
As I eventually became accustomed, “we” all got there on time and Mr. Harper arrived late. I guess this is thought to be good political management, if not the manners our parents taught us. We were the guests. We had been invited by him. No big deal. Don’t stress the small stuff.

However, when he did arrive there was no introduction. In fact there was no mingling with our boss. He seemed to be nervously standing off. A sense of unease started to pervade the room. It was the type of situation where I might have tried to set people at ease by making the introductions myself. Something like, in a voice sufficient to be heard: “Welcome to Sherbrooke Mr. Harper. Let me introduce you around.” But it certainly was not my place to do so. And anyway the only person I knew in the room was Peter. So I remained silent and progressively felt more uncomfortable. Eventually, a waiter told us all to sit down so that we could be served lunch. Mr. Harper, with his Ottawa clique, sat in a corner by themselves. “We” shifted for ourselves. It was all rather disappointing
and awkward.

After our sandwiches (had I been sixty years younger I would have said
“Mummy, can we go home now”) one of the guys in suits said that Mr. Harper wanted to meet the candidates only. We, all six of us, would go to another room. The rest, organizers and general political groupies should stay where they were and perhaps Mr. Harper would have time to come back briefly to say goodbye. However, no one had arranged for another room. So we milled about, the now important candidates with les autres, Mr. Harper standing apart, while the organizers, who I was to learn generally had no experience in organizing anything, scurried about in a fruitless search for a private place.

Eventually we went outside onto an adjacent shopping plaza. It was certainly private enough because it had started to rain. We huddled under two large umbrellas and tried not to get too wet as we discussed the future of the nation with the future Prime Minister. I correct myself. There was no discussion. We were told by Mr. Harper’s aide, Mme Josée Verner, a future cabinet minister, that he wanted to hear from each of us in turn what we considered to be the primary political issues of our region. Well, for an unrehearsed question put to a group of aspiring politicians, none having ever been one, Mr. Harper got precisely what I expected he would. Gobbledy-gook. One person said “jobs, jobs, jobs”. Another said something about his local school commission, a provincial jurisdiction if ever there was one.

For my part, I congratulated Mr. Harper on the clarity of his speeches but
suggested that he should lay-off disparaging the Bloc as being an “impotent culde-sac”, to use his words. I said that Quebecers know their politics and why they vote for whom they vote. It was, I suggested, counter-productive to instruct them for whom they should not vote and particularly not the Bloc which is many Quebecers’ default party when the federalist option is, for whatever reason,considered unattractive. I suggested he should rather accentuate the positive aspects of the party’s platform. Mr. Harper offered no comment to any one of us and if he thanked us for our time I don’t recall. It was time for him to go and he
left without having time to go back to see “les autres” who by that time had left anyway. In subsequent weeks and months Mr. Harper continued to slam the Bloc with ever increasing vigour and vitriol.

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