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Canadian Politics Rich Material for Satirist


The Canadian election has provided ample fodder for political satirist Rick Mercer. He hosts the weekly Rick Mercer Report on CBC Television. Here's how his show re-imagined that liberal party ad attacking Conservative candidate Stephen Harper.


W: Stephen Harper has plans for Canada, scary plans. Scary, evil plans. We can't make this up, we're not allowed to. Stephen Harper owns a dragon. He keeps it in a shed. Seriously. Stephen Harper drinks his own blood. We saw him. We're not allowed to make this up. The liberal party, let's see how badly we can lose this thing.

NORRIS: And Rick Mercer joins us from Toronto. Rick, that's pretty tough stuff.

RICK MERCER: Well, you know, the ads that it's satirizing to begin with were pretty tough stuff. I mean, this is basically a take off on a liberal ad. Now, the liberal party in Canada is the largest political dynasty, most successful political dynasty in the history of politics in Canada, and they have just made a gigantic (unintelligible) of this election. Now, we all know that negative ads work. Well, the liberals, they manage to make an ad so negative and so misleading that it actually completely backfired on them, and they probably blew the election right on that ad that I was satirizing right there.

BLOCK: Really? And the ad was making Stephen Harper, the Conservative candidate, look faintly evil, and you just magnified it?

MERCER: Oh, faintly evil? They had a photo where he looks like a vampire, and they keep zooming in on him. It is like a parody of a negative ad to begin with. And then they had this woman saying that Stephen Harper planned to put military on the streets of Canada's cities. Well, Stephen Harper has promised to open two small military bases of four or five hundred people each in some cities, one in Vancouver to deal with natural disasters. And the Liberals said, Stephen Harper wants soldiers with guns on the street. I mean, they made it sound like he was going to enact martial law the minute he got elected. And then they had this ridiculous tag, this is true, and it just went on and on and of course, the entire country just laughed.

BLOCK: If you're looking at the attack ads that are run, has Stephen Harper been able to paint Paul Martin in the Liberal Party in an equally forbidding, maybe sinister light?

MERCER: Yeah, well, what they did was they started out early with photos of Paul Martin. They turned them red to look like Satan. And you know, no one wants to be governed by Satan, no matter how well the economy is doing. It is perhaps unheard of that in Canada or the United States, that since, I guess, World War II anyway, that a government would be thrown out with a red-hot economy, and that's what we have. So, really, the argument the conservatives are putting forward is it's time for a change, and that's a very powerful argument, or it's resonating with the Canadian people anyway.

BLOCK: When you have the liberal party ad attacking the conservatives ending with, let's see how badly we can this thing, pretty badly, do you figure?

MERCER: You have to understand, like I say, this is the most successful political dynasty. The current prime minister, Paul Martin, when he took over this party 18 months ago, he was ranked as the most popular leader we had had in, you know, eons and eons. The party was way ahead in the polls. And the conservative leader was universally disliked, even by conservatives, and universally accepted that the guy is a stick in a mud, standoffish, doesn't like people, and actually would admit it that he doesn't like people, doesn't like to meet people.

The idea that this man would become Prime Minister was completely far fetched. And as we speak right now, there is not a pundit in the country that's predicting anything other than a conservative minority.

BLOCK: When you say you're going to say a conservative minority, explain that, because that would be a good thing for the conservatives.

MERCER: That would be. And I understand too. If I start trying to explain our political system to an American audience, I could be here for a week, because it sounds very strange to you. We have basically a British Parliamentary system, but we have 308 seats are up for grabs. Now, that means whoever gets 154, they control the show; they have a majority. They can do whatever they want in the House of Commons. But that is probably not going to happen. You have to factor in the fact the Province of Quebec, 75 seats. Chances are the block Quebec wall (sic) will sweep that province. They only run in Quebec, and they're devoted to destroying the country. So take them right out of the equation.

So what you have is a minority government. So, imagine if you will, that George Bush was the president of the United States, and he was free to enact his agenda as long as he had the support of Ralph Nader. That's what we might be looking at.

BLOCK: Well, political satirist, Rick Mercer. That's very much.

MERCER: Thank you. It's great to talk to you.

BLOCK: Rick Mercer hosts the Rick Mercer Report on CBC Television. And tonight he's hosting a special report during their election coverage and offering his unique take on all things political. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.