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Within the bubble of Canada's Twitter-addicted political scene, there are a handful of accounts that brighten up a politico's day: @HarperGoogles, @MulcairGoogles and @TrudeauGoogles.
The Twitter accounts present satirical caricatures of the three federal party leaders, by laying bare their imagined search histories.
For example, @TrudeauGoogles plays on the Liberal Leader's image as a young, charismatic politician by pretending he's searching things like "would mulcair consider broalition government," "is evan salmon more handsome than me" or "will parliament be pierogied."
The three accounts are the work of one author. The tweeter created them in 2012, near the end of a seven-year career in the public service that included stints at Canadian Heritage and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. He was laid off in the spring of 2013 and now works as a freelance writer, most recently for a current-affairs television show.
The Globe and Mail tracked down the man behind the tweets and interviewed him at a Toronto café. He wishes to remain anonymous for fear that his Twitter exploits could be perceived as partisan activity and hurt his professional life.
Of the three accounts, why is @TrudeauGoogles the most popular?
I think even the people who like Justin Trudeau have a lot of cynicism about him. And certainly people that hate him are very happy to make fun of him, for the kinds of shots I would take at him: young and inexperienced and vain. Even though I think it's obvious those are caricatures – he's not necessarily that person.
There's a lot of mean-spirited comedic Twitter accounts that I'm not big fans of – especially of Stephen Harper. There's just so many that are just not funny, so predictable and boring and mean.
Is Mr. Trudeau a better muse?
Yes. He is. Mainly because he's both new on the national scene and he's been here forever. Everyone thinks they know him and they don't.
Is this just a venue for comedy? Is there anything you're trying to "say"?
No. I describe myself as viciously anti-partisan. These accounts aren't designed to advance policy or start a revolution. They're just for fun.
Then why not take credit for the Twitter accounts?
If someone asks me if it's me, I say yes. But I don't publicize it. I think it's better if my name isn't linked to the account, just to keep the illusion alive that it could just be a bot that happens to be somewhere in Justin Trudeau's or Stephen Harper's phone. But the anonymity comes from when I was working for the federal government. They started while I was there, but I wasn't in a policy role then so it wouldn't have been a conflict to begin with. But when I was doing more policy stuff earlier in my career I couldn't have had these accounts.
I'm comfortable putting things out there and not having it come back to me. I do a lot of corporate fake accounts as well. I have about a dozen, but I would only admit to maybe six of them.
What do you think of Ottawa?
The political parties have, ideologically, never been closer together. These huge, colossal, mammoth battles are being waged about 4 per cent in the tax code. I'm not convinced a New Democratic government would be all that different from a Conservative government. I think it's tough to operate in an environment that makes it so easy to talk about politics but that has so little to talk about.
I'm one of the most political people I know, and you couldn't pay me to work on a campaign. There's too much uniformity within the parties, and there's too much uniformity in the political spectrum the parties are allowed to operate in. Like, "I'm a New Democrat and I'm a Conservative and we have nothing in common." When in reality, 80 per cent of it is off the table, right? Then there's this little 20 per cent that we're kind of tinkering with.
Comedy is a great way to poke at that hypocrisy.
What about politicians using social media?
Politicians are usually very bad. Part of that is that they're part of a generation that didn't grow up with it, for the most part. So I think that will change.
But Twitter works best when it's a conversation. And a lot of the bile that comes back at them is not worth having a conversation with. I can certainly imagine a scenario where, I'm a 20-year MP, I've just been asked by the party to join Twitter, and I just get yelled at – not on substance – and just never turned it on again. It's tough out there for a politician on Twitter.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Chris Hannay is The Globe's digital politics editor.