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A metaphysical interview with Thomas Mulcair

Last on my list of interviews was Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the New Democrats. It took a while to get hold of him, because when I called his campaign office a recording said the line had been disconnected. Eventually I tracked down his campaign manager, who turned out to be crashing on a buddy’s couch for just a week or two until he got some things straightened out.

I was supposed to meet Mulcair in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart on the south side. I stood there wondering why he would choose this place, until I was distracted by the sound of an engine sputtering. An ancient Winnebago came down the road, painted bright orange, with Air Mulcair emblazoned on the side. The motor stalled every time the camper turned left, but it managed to coast almost all the way to me.

Thomas Mulcair got out, his face plastered with a smile that looked like a cross between a game-show host and rigor mortis. He sauntered over and shook my hand energetically, rather like the Cat in the Hat might.

“Mr. Mulcair,” I said. “It seems that your proposed budget, which makes only small changes to the tax structure and social spending, has failed to impress leftists. Was this a strategic calculation to win over centrist voters in Ontario, or are you taking a principled stance against sacrificing fiscal responsibility for redistribution?”

With his teeth bared and his cheeks scrunched up in a massive grin, his reply went like this, “pollscannotbetrustedanywaybreakthroughin905upcomingtookmoralhighroadasalwayscanadasnextgovernment.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “It kind of looks like you smiled so much your face got stuck that way.”

photoopneedbaby,” said Mulcair. “zhuli!getmebaby!” He waved his fist at the Winnebago. “BAAAABY!

A staffer ran out of the camper, carrying a nonplussed-looking baby. She handed it to Mulcair, who cooed at it and kissed it as well as he could without breaking his rictus grin.

“Sorry,” the staffer whispered. “If it’s time for a photo op and he doesn’t have a baby to kiss, he sometimes loses his temper.” She surreptitiously wiped some spittle from Mulcair’s beard. “It’s been a long campaign.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

A metaphysical interview with Justin Trudeau

After my unsatisfying interview with the Prime Minister, I met with Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party. That didn’t go much better.

To start with, he wanted to meet me on a beach in Cuba. When I got there he was lying on his side in the sand, wearing nothing but a red Speedo, long curls hanging over his face. His jaw didn’t so much look chiseled as like it had been carved out of granite to be a Pharaoh’s tomb.

“Mr. Trudeau,” I began.

“Call me” – he brushed some sand off his abs – “Justin.”

“Okay, Justin. The Liberals have proposed a loosely Keynesian budget, trying to soften the oncoming downturn with deficit-funded spending on infrastructure. Do you think this country is really that desperately in need of infrastructure? One might argue that we’re in pretty good shape already, and that increasing spending might lead to a lot of unnecessary and wasteful projects. Like that train line to Pearson Airport that no one ever uses.”

“That’s an interesting question,” he said, “and I love answering interesting questions because of my intelligence and experience.” He pointed to the book on the sand next to him, which was titled Advanced Vector Calculus. “Just some light reading, to rest my brain. Given that it’s an election, I would read something on economics or political science, but, you know, I read them all already. All the books.” He stretched languidly. “Yep, I’m that smart.”

“Sure, okay,” I said. “I wasn’t questioning that, since the perception you’re inexperienced is basically just the product of Conservative attack ads.”

“Oh, I’m” – he gave me a sort of come-hither look – “experienced.”

“But you didn’t actually answer my question.”

“Didn’t I?” He winked. “I don’t know how I forgot, because I love talking about my erection.” There was a really dumbfoundingly long pause before he finally added, “of infrastructure.”

A metaphysical interview with Stephen Harper

So it’s been a long time since I posted anything here, despite the obvious fact that there is a national election going on and everyone is in a tizzy. I’ve been busy, mostly working on a new book, which is turning out to be six billion times more complicated than I’d thought. Writing is, like, hard and stuff.

Anyway, I did manage to find some time for metaphysical interviews with the major candidates. I’ve been trying to interview the incumbent, Stephen Harper, for weeks. But his staffers refused. I explained to them that a metaphysical interview is not a real interview, because instead of talking to the person you speculate about what they might say. They still wouldn’t do it. “The Prime Minister doesn’t do imaginary interviews,” they said. “You’re not even allowed to pretend you talked to him.”
Then I got a call out of blue. “The Prime Minister is willing to speak to you, to help get his message out to Canadians.” And I was asked to meet Harper at his home in Calgary.
Harper’s home was a black tower looming over what was otherwise a pleasant suburban neighbourhood. Thunder rumbled in the clouds overhead and a chill wind shook the dead branches of the trees. The yard was decorated with severed heads on spikes – Nigel Wright, Michael Sona, a bunch more I didn’t recognize.

Pierre Poilevre was waiting at the door, casually leaning an AK-47 against the shoulder of his blue suit. “The boss is expecting you,” he said by way of greeting.

In the living room, the television was playing the opening sequence of a Fox News show called When Niqabs Attack. “If their faces are covered,” said the voiceover, “how do you know they’re not hiding explosives in their cheeks?” The screen showed a picture of a chipmunk with Osama bin Laden’s beard photoshopped onto it.

The Prime Minister sat in a huge armchair stroking a cat, barking orders at a group of technicians as they worked on what I assumed was not a death ray, though it did kind of look like a death ray, and it did kind of say “DEATH RAY” on the side. Jenni Byrne was there on a laptop. I assume she was not looking up the GPS coordinates for Papineau. I also assume I misheard her say “Die, Liberals, die!” while cackling madly.

Behind Harper’s chair, half a dozen terrified people huddled against the wall, bound and gagged with duct tape. They were either hostages or Environment Canada scientists, it wasn’t clear.

When Harper saw me, he pulled off the eyepatch he was wearing and hid it behind his back. “You may speak,” he grunted.

“Mr. Prime Minister,” I said, “your campaign so far has been pretty short on accounts of what you’ll do if elected. You seem to be running primarily on your record and not promising anything besides more of the status quo.”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes,” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “But I was wondering about your plans. What do you see yourself doing in the next four years, if re-elected?”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes,” he said.

“I, um, actually, I was asking about your plans, not the Liberals.”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes.”

I sighed. “Let’s change the subject. You recently instituted a tip line where people can report ‘barbaric cultural practices’. Don’t you worry this might be a Charter violation?”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes.”

“That’s really not relevant here at all.”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes.”

“Uh, is this some kind of trick? Instead of the Prime Minister I get to interview a broken android lookalike?”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes.”

“Or maybe you have some previously-undiscovered form of Tourette’s?”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes.”

“This is like trying to have a conversation with the worst techno song ever.”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes.”

“Oh, I get it. You weren’t really willing to give me an interview. You just wanted me to write out your latest slogan on my blog eight hundred times.”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes.”

“So I heard,” I sighed. “By the way, were you going to explain that claim, or give some evidence for it? I seem to remember the Liberal platform was to raise taxes only on the very rich, and that the bulk of voters would get a cut, if anything.”

“Justin Trudeau will raise your taxes!” Harper leapt from his chair and started dancing in a circle, pulling money out of his pockets and throwing it on the floor. “This is your brain on Justin Trudeau! This is your brain on Justin Trudeau!”

When he started pouring lighter fluid on the money I decided it was time to leave. 

It’s election time in Alberta

It’s election time in Alberta – the premier heard the call on this blog, or maybe one of the four million other blogs in Alberta that are more widely read, and deigned to ask voters for a mandate. Much to his surprise, the voters counteroffered with a trip to the glue factory. Yes, it looks like we’re going to have a change of government. I know that for people in most democratic countries this is a regular occurrence, but around here it literally happens once every ten blue moons.

People in the fast-paced modern world are too busy to pay attention to boring things like elections, and so here is an objective and completely nonpartisan summary of the Albertan political landscape.

The Progressive Conservatives

OK, I admit it, the fish was only this big.
Leader: Jim Prentice
Motto: “Guys, C’mon – We Only Held This Vote So We Could Be Re-Elected”
The PCs have been the reigning champions for 44 years, and they’ve gotten as fat and ill-tempered as Robert DeNiro at the end of Raging Bull. They’re in third place in the polls, since at this point re-electing them would be like peasants re-electing their feudal lord. But the PCs don’t give up easy, and they’ve got the money to flood the province with attack ads in the hopes of luring us back to the devil we know. Their desperation is palpable: if things don’t turn around fast, they might have to go and get jobs.

The Wildrose

We’re not lost! We just have to keep making right turns until we find civilization.
Leader: Brian Jean
Motto: “The World Was Better Before Gay Was Invented”
The Wildrose are the party of grumpy old white guys, angry about the decline of traditional social values, angry about taxes, angry about the kids spending all their time on the Face Book, angry about the tornader that done ripped up the fields when the taters was fixin to come in. They’re led by Grumpy-White-Guy-in-Chief Brian Jean, who became leader after Danielle Smith’s defection – which she must really regret now. The Wildrose are a close second in the latest polls and stand a good chance of winning. They have an advantage, because in Alberta electoral districts are based not just on population but on geographic area, meaning that rural areas with more canola fields than people have a hell of a lot of seats.

Their campaign centres on a promise to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes or cutting services, purely by reducing the size of the government that provides those services. They’re like a fitness instructor who says that when you lift weights, you have to lift your own muscle mass too, so clearly the way to lift more weight is to have smaller muscles, right?
The Wildrose are working hard to shed their image as bigoted and old-fashioned. They rejected the candidate who railed about “gay activists”, and fired the one who wanted “brown people” in the front of the crowd where the cameras could see them, and reprimanded the one who asked supporters to “bring your wife’s pie” to a fundraiser. Their problem, of course, is that they even had to.

The Liberals

Think of all the poor children who don’t even have pens!

Interim Leader: Dr. David Swann
Motto: “TBA”
The Liberals were apparently in the shower when the election was called. They hadn’t gotten around to choosing a new leader after the obnoxious Raj Sherman resigned, so they went into the campaign with interim head David Swann. Then they could only wrangle up enough candidates for about half the ridings. Swann insisted that this was because they emphasized quality of candidates over quantity, which I think makes the Alberta Liberals the world’s first boutique political party.

I have an urge to vote for them because I feel they stand for people like me – serial procrastinators who never get anything done.

The Alberta Party

You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.
Leader: Greg Clark
Motto: “Not at all like the Liberals. For Instance, Our Signs Are a Different Colour”
A few years back, the Alberta Party had the idea that the reason the centre-left was doing so badly in this province was because the Liberals have a tarnished brand. So the route to government, they thought, was a party exactly like the Liberals, but with a different name. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work. Though the tarnished brand couldn’t even get ten percent of the vote in 2012, that was still eight times as much as the party no one had heard of before.

The Alberta Party represents the radical centre. They believe in pragmatism and good sense on every issue except supporting someone who might win more than one seat.

The Greens

We’re doing the picture here because my backyard is party headquarters.
Leader: Janet Keeping
Motto: “Power Corrupts, So We’d Rather Not Have Any”
With their candour, clear moral stance, and button-down appearance, the Greens have a lock on several key constituencies in this election: organic grocery store owners, ethics professors, and university students who will get stoned Tuesday afternoon and forget to vote. But, you know, it’s not about winning, it’s about doing right by your conscience and bringing attention to your cause. Even if when the media report the results, they list you as “Other”.

The New Democrats

Who’s the third party now, Jim?
Leader: Rachel Notley
Motto: “If Elected, We Will Probably Go on Strike”
With its roots in organized labour, the NDP has developed into the most effective of Alberta’s many left-wing parties. They have a centrist platform focused on reducing government dependence on unpredictable resource revenues and shoring up public services, which they plan to pay for with some newfangled socialist thing called a progressive income tax. According to the latest polls they are in the lead, due to a stellar debate performance by the intelligent and capable Rachel Notley.

I’m not pulling off the nonpartisan act anymore, am I? Fine. You should all go out and vote NDP. I am too impressed with Notley and the party’s policies to make fun of them.

Besides, imagine the look on Stephen Harper’s face if they win.

Perspectives on genocide

Today is the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide, when as many as 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Ottoman government. Using the word “genocide” here is a bit controversial, and by “controversial” I mean that it pisses offTurkish nationalists.

The Hürriyet Daily News ran a columnarguing that the Turkish nationalist perspective on the “Armenian issue” should not be ignored, and so I’m only going to talk about that. The Council of Turkish Canadians ran a chilling ad in this morning’s Globe and Mail. Here is an excerpt of a news release from their website that has almost the same text:

Reconciliation – Not Hatred, Fairness – Not Insult

This year, once again we remember and respect the memory of victims of the Ottoman-Armenian conflict during the First World War. The conflict started with  well-documented armed revolt of Armenian nationalist groups (Dashnaks and Hunchaks) against the empire. They committed high treason by collaborating and joining the invading Russian forces. This resulted in their relocation from the war zone. The relocation was a military measure in self-defense, and also to protect all civilians of eastern Anatolia from commencing inter-communal retaliations. Most of the deaths during the relocation resulted from famine of war era, spread of diseases, attacks by bandits, and breakdown of authority in poor war conditions. Both sides committed massacres, both sides suffered tremendously, Armenians and non-Armenians alike. It was a tragic war that has engulfed every corner of the world, including Anatolia!

Now, even if this version of events were true – it ain’t – a monstrous crime would have been committed. The claim here is that because certain Armenian nationalist groups revolted, the civilian population was forced from their homes. This is the mass deportation of civilians as collective punishment – a war crime. And it’s acknowledged that the result was huge numbers of deaths – even the Turkish government says half a million – from famine, disease, banditry, and whatever “breakdown of authority” is supposed to mean.

If this was really all that happened, it would be unconscionable.

I guess what’s supposed to make this a defense of the Ottomans, not a condemnation, is the claim that this atrocity was committed out of “self-defense” and to “protect all citizens”. But you cannot claim that driving civilians out of their homes to die is self-defense. If someone tried to mug me at gunpoint and I shot him, I could claim it was self-defense. If someone mugged me, then ran off and I couldn’t catch him because no one in the neighbourhood would tell me where he was hiding so I drove the entire neighbourhood out of their homes – not self-defense.

As for forcibly relocating civilians to protect them – well, in hindsight, the strategy didn’t work too well, what with the bandit attacks and the starvation. And in foresight, it’d have been obvious the strategy would not work too well. The kind of obvious that makes someone legally and morally culpable for going through with it anyway.

And finally, there is the claim that both sides suffered terribly. I think this is supposed to be the centrepiece of the argument – mistakes were made, nobody’s perfect, lots of horrible things happened in World War I. It’s also specious. Even if Armenian groups had revolted and were committing massacres, massacring different members of the same ethnic group could not be justified.

So if the genocide deniers are right, the Ottoman Empire was guilty of horrible atrocities against the Armenian population. And that’s the best story the deniers can come up with. The truth, as we know, was worse. 


I write fantasy. I imagine that if I am ever published, my books will appear in the fantasy/science fiction section of the bookstore. Is that a bad thing? Is it something to be ashamed of? Is fantasy only childish, escapist make-believe? I think the an…

An Open Letter to Forty-Seven Members of the United States Senate

Mar. 12, 2015

An Open Letter to Forty-Seven Members of the United States Senate:

I have noticed from the way you have been acting lately that you may not fully understand what diplomacy is. I am writing to tell you all about it. Diplomacy is very important. While you are in the United States Senate, you should seriously consider trying it.

A dictionary is a book that explains what words mean. There is a good one on the Internet at It says “diplomacy” is a word that means:

1. the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries
2. skill in dealing with others without causing bad feelings

When you write a letter to the leaders of another country and you give them a basic lesson on the constitution as if they were children and you were a civics teacher, it is not good diplomacy. Let me explain why.

Eyes over here, everybody

A letter that makes someone think, “Who the [bad word] do these [bad worders] think they are?” is not good diplomacy. In diplomacy, it is important to be polite and nice to people, even if you don’t like them or you think they are bad. This is called “tact”.

When you do diplomacy, you try to convince people to do what you want. But if you talk to people like you think they are stupid, or they do not know how to google the U.S. Constitution, you are being “patronizing”. It makes people think you do not respect them. They might feel insulted. They might not want to do what you ask them to do. They might even think, “I should get some nuclear weapons just to prove you’re not the boss of me.”

I am sorry if you feel left out because President Obama is talking to Iran but you are not. That is because it is not your job. There are special people called “diplomats”, and their job is talking to leaders of other countries. You should not try to sabotage your own diplomats’ work. Doing that hurts the country’s “interests abroad”, which are things in the rest of the world that Americans want or maybe even need.

Also, if you are angry at President Obama, you should tell President Obama about your feelings, not the leaders of Iran. This is a lot like that time when Daddy was angry with Mommy but instead of having a discussion with Mommy he yelled at you for forgetting to put the milk back in the fridge. Remember how unfair you thought that was?

I hope that this letter teaches you some things that will help you be better senators.


Christopher Leapock