Someone on Stephen Harper’s security detail is clearly asleep on the job. The Prime Minister was pictured on Monday morning having breakfast with a vicious, cold-blooded killer. His cat Stanley, wearing the “who, me?” expression of experienced feline deceivers everywhere, sat on a chair beside Mr. Harper, licking his chops. I thought I saw a bit of Thomas Mulcair’s pant leg between Stanley’s claws, but it might have been Bev Oda’s. Hard to tell.
Mr. Harper may have been too busy to read the major study about cats that came out this week showing that, rather than being our intermittent best friends, they’re mass slaughterers of birds and rodents. Or maybe Stanley hid the paper that morning. We do know about the rest of the Prime Minister’s day, because he spent all of Jan. 28 – the first day of the new parliamentary session – tweeting about it, using the hashtag #dayinthelife.
There were pictures and videos from inside 24 Sussex Drive and Parliament Hill, meetings and phone calls and events that involved stacks of paper. I must admit I learned more about Mr. Harper in one day than in the previous 600 years he’s been prime minister. For one thing, he owns a chinchilla named Charlie. A chinchilla that likes dirt baths, which is perhaps just Mr. Harper’s way of bringing Question Period home with him.
Also, it seems that the RCMP officers who get him to work have magical powers: They not only can speed up time, they can remove all Tim Hortons detritus from the back of a car in the blink of an eye. I hope this service will soon be available to all taxpayers.
I know what some of you are thinking: A Day in the Life is a blatant attempt to humanize a politician who’s often seen as authoritarian and out of touch with voters, a gambit to draw our attention away from pressing issues of climate change, economic growth, the need for arm’s-length oversight of elected officials. To which I say – yeah, you’re absolutely right. And it totally worked. Any man who can maintain peace in the great Cat-Chinchilla War of 2013 is going to get my sympathy.
What we got, of course, was a sanitized day on Parliament Hill. It might have been nice to see another side of the Prime Minister – drawing a big red slash through any publicly commissioned scientific reports he didn’t enjoy, let’s say, or tearing bits of duct tape into mouth-sized pieces to use on wayward MPs.
Speaking of which, I’d personally have liked to see him visit his anti-abortion backbenchers in the padded cell where they’re usually kept under the House of Commons, but I think they must have been out on a day pass. By the way, Prime Minister, I think they stole some pens on the way out. You might want to check the stationery cupboard.
It was a particularly staid, modest – dare I say, Canadian – style of government on view. You might think, judging from Mr. Harper’s pictures, that this country is powered by the twin engines of file folders and Diet Coke. I kept waiting for the vices of a stressed leader to appear – David Cameron’s Fruit Ninja obsession, perhaps, or Margaret Thatcher’s tumbler of scotch, or Barack Obama’s sneaky smokes. Instead, we got the decadence of fruit salad.
Then I began to wonder what the tweet streams of other leaders, past and present, might look like, should they engage in such experiments. Would we get a glimpse of the man (or woman) behind the throne?
François Hollande: 11 a.m. Wake up. Baguette, espresso, Tums. 11:30. Check Paris Match to see if current wife and ex-wife have written vicious articles about each other, or me. 11:45. No articles by wives, Paris Match is full of that droning bore Gérard Depardieu. How to divert public attention? 11:50. Invade Mali.
Vladimir Putin: 6 a.m. Ice bath. 7 a.m. Wrestle tiger. 8 a.m. Wrestle bear. 9 a.m. Wrestle Pussy Riot. No! Remember rule about wrestling creatures in captivity. Wrestle Depardieu instead. 11 p.m. Pillow of nails. Bliss.
Richard Nixon: 8 a.m. Wake up. Cottage cheese and pineapple ring. 8:25. Demand list of enemies. 10:30. Demand list of Washington Post reporters. 11:30. Scream at Kissinger. 1:30 p.m. Bomb Laos. 2:45. Scream at Agnew. 4:30. Demand list of disloyal civil servants. 6 p.m. Dinner with Pat. 11:00. Johnny Carson.
Pierre Trudeau: 4 p.m. Paddle to the middle of the lake, listen to the loons and ponder what’s truly meant by “confederation.” Think about Wilfrid Laurier, and Barbra Streisand. 5:15 p.m. Decide that I should – wait, why am I telling you this? It’s none of your business. Get lost.