Strong, compelling message in Stephen Harper: The Musical

Low oil prices have Alberta in turmoil and the future as an oil and gas dependent province is uncertain. We can only hope to see prices rise in the near future, however it is a worthwhile endeavour to imagine what our future would look like should we choose to wean ourselves from the oil and gas addiction that not only our province but also our nation is clutching so tightly to.

This, among other things, was the topic of James Gordon’s visit to Red Deer College last week where he performed Stephen Harper: The Musical or How to Survive and Thrive in the Dying Days of the Empire of Oil.

Gordon, a city councillor in Guelph, Ontario, has been travelling across the nation performing his show which utilizes a Stephen Harper ventriloquist doll as well as 18 original songs to engage his audience in a number of topics ranging from Harper’s leadership, climate change, Canada’s war on terrorism, the nation’s unstable economy, the wealthy 1% of the population and much more.

Prior to viewing his performance my expectations were simply that the singer would be making fun of what he dubs our ‘Crime Minister’, however the show delved so much deeper into the deep-rooted political issues our nation faces.

He showed his audience how under Harper’s Conservative government, which began in 2006, the country has turned a national $16 billion surplus into a $56 billion deficit, while refusing to acknowledge and act on climate change and silencing scientists from speaking to the media, according to Gordon.

Harper has not only cut funding to women’s advocacy groups, loosened regulations to allow for more pesticide residues to be left on fruits and vegetables, but he also spent $1.9 billion building an artificial lake and $1 billion on security prior to the 2010 G20 summit where 1,105 arrests were made – the largest mass arrest in Canadian history.

Up next for Harper’s spending spree – the ‘Crime Minister’ hopes to spend $15 billion on 65 fighter jets which will ultimately ruin Canada’s reputation as peace keepers and move us closer to the vision of our militarized neighbours to the south, Gordon said.

What I didn’t expect from Gordon’s performance was the artist’s following statement; “If we get rid of him they’ll put another in his place. If you want to make a change find out who ‘they’ are.”

Following this statement Gordon explained the metaphor behind using a Harper puppet in his musical – stating that Harper is merely a puppet for big oil and that we as a nation shouldn’t ‘shoot’ the puppet, rather we need to ‘shoot’ the puppeteer.

What I took away most from Gordon’s performance was the fact that with a leader who denies climate change and hosts big oily hands in his back pockets, Canada is in for a bumpy next few years if individuals don’t step forward to enact change.

Having been born and raised in Alberta, with a father who works in the oilfield – I must admit I have a hard time bad mouthing the industry; that being said we are on the brink of a turning point in our province that must be dealt with accordingly.

Gordon’s performance included a letter written to the prime minister by Ingrid Ng, which described our situation as a nation. “I fear we are addicted to oil and I fear the consequences of this addiction if we don’t pause and ask ourselves what we really want. I fear we don’t know what to do without it (oil) and we keep wanting more of it. But the thing is it’s hurting us – our air, our water, our food, our bodies, our sense of stability and our planet,” she writes.

While there is no set solution to our addiction on oil, Gordon outlines the substance abuse our world and particularly our nation has become apart of. In his number titled Gotta Get Off The Oil, Gordon states we have ignored all of the warnings, one of which was the great BP oil spill of 2010. He said our world is in deep trouble if we don’t find a solution to the oil addiction and stop worshipping our, “Dear god of bitumen, lord of the richest men.”

While I can only dream of living in a nation where every soul could bare witness to the grand ideologies Gordon presented, as it would likely change the face of civilization as we know it, I encourage you to not only watch his YouTube videos at, but I also encourage you to research and reach out to your local chapter of the ‘Council of Canadians’ – a grassroots community action group who was responsible for bringing this show to Red Deer.

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