Andrea Horwath and Why Black Was Not the New Orange.

Every day during the 2014 Ontario election I checked the news first thing in the morning. And almost without a miss, there was some new whacky turn of events. From the get-go this election was a head-scratcher! Why on earth, most of us wondered, did the NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, choose to defeat a very progressive budget–one that most NDPers would have embraced? Why, we all mused, would she risk giving up her status of holding the balance of power in parliament? Strategically, it seems to make no sense, and most commentators have surmised that Horwath experienced some fit of hubris that led her to think she could somehow defeat this government and come out on top as some sort of populist. But that’s not what I witnessed. On the face of it, this episode seems a mystery. I certainly did not see a woman possessed with a hunger for power. Indeed, at every step she seemed bewildered and unsure of where exactly to pitch her party’s position. Occasionally, Horwath seemed self-possessed and eloquent, but mostly she appeared listless and to be making it up as she went along.

After the debate, I suggested in one of my posts that Horwath looked like she was dressed to attend a funeral. Horwath seems to favour dark colours in stark contrast to Kathleen Wynne who embraces bright colours and bold prints. If you see Wynne on the campaign trail or during a news story, I can guarantee you someone will ask me, Did you see what Wynne was wearing?! She’s by no means a fashionista, but she is a woman who loves colour and loves to reflect her personality through her clothing (although, I think her stylists failed her as well on debate night). I suspect that since Horwath isn’t a size 2 she’s fallen into the unfortunate group of women who believe they have to wear dark, solid colours in order to appear “slimmer”–or, indeed, she may not wish for people to be commenting on her clothing at all. Of course all of this is fair enough, but when politics is almost as much about personality and likability as they are about policy, a little bit of colour would have helped her an awful lot here. To me her choice of sombre attire almost everywhere she went was a sad foreshadowing of the election results ahead. She looked and sounded lacklustre, and it was uncomfortable to watch. But I still wonder whether more was going on than meets the eye.

There is no doubt that the choice to bring down government at this time was a curious one, and I actually did not expect it to come about over that particular budget. But if we view the situation more closely, it becomes more evident why Horwath felt she needed to make the move she did. I think we owe this past election to the strategists on Wynne’s Liberal team. If we think about it, Wynne had a very flimsy mandate to continues as premier. The party is wracked with those gas plant scandals; they were a minority government; and typically when a new leader takes over a party they seek a fresh mandate through an election. It’s obvious that Wynne could not be seen to be the one to trigger such an event–she carried too much baggage from the McGuinty government. But she really did seriously need to have a proper mandate, either by being whole-heartedly backed by the NDP or by winning a fresh election. Horwath’s back was against the wall, and she was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. How long could she get away with supporting a Liberal government and still be taken seriously? But how could she realistically vote down such a progressive budget? I have no idea what the inside scoop on this one is, but my guess is that her strategy team assumed that between Hudak’s unpopularity and Wynne’s scandal-ridden party, another minority government would be inevitable, and Horwath could reasonably still continue to hold the balance of power and still save face about propping up an almost-invalid Liberal government. It didn’t work out that way, but I’m not sure that she had a lot of choice in the matter.

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A brief moment of mourning for the lost art of the local candidates’ debate

There’s nothing that will burst your bubble more quickly ,when you’re practically obsessed with an election, than to attend a local all-candidates meeting. I spend A LOT of time on social media, following the local candidates and the provincial leaders, and I interact with all kinds of folk, from journalists to small-town, 0ne-issue activists online. I presently volunteer for my riding’s NDP incumbent candidate for the provincial election, Peter Tabuns–he is one super-well-loved guy! For fun, I sit around sipping wine with my friends over BBQ’d goodies, while we discuss the latest election news. So you could hardly be surprised that I kind of just assume that–well, if not exactly a majority– lots and lots and lots of people eat, think, and drink elections while they’re on.

I know they don’t. But I always fantasize I’ll find my ilk at the all-candidates meeting. But then you show up and there’s 10 people there, or more candidates than there are audience members. I actually didn’t even know about my local #TorDan meeting until two days ago. AND DID I MENTION I VOLUNTEER FOR THE INCUMBENT?! Something weird has happened over the past 20 years or so. People stopped being engaged, and everything, AND I MEAN EVERYTHING  has become about spin, marketing and the look. And hey, there’s no one person more interested in those things than me! But the very strength of the Westminster parliamentary system is that it is, in fact, quite democratic. It may not be the best system for today’s Canada, but it does have mechanisms in place for a very democratic process. Still it needs to be activated and participated in in order work properly.

So the local candidates’ meeting is where you get to have your voice heard. People say that politicians don’t care about them? Well that’s the point of our system. So that there’s someone there in the midst of the parliamentary chaos who can at least recognize your face. They exist to represent you, whether or not you voted for them. They are one step away from the leadership of the country or province–indeed, they are part of that leadership. But you do actually need to show up and let them know you even exist! We get so confused with so much American media that we can easily forget that we don’t vote for the leaders of our province or country; we vote for our local representative. I can’t argue that it’s the best system for today, but it’s actually really not so bad if you take advantage of it. Think about it. If you introduce yourself to your local candidate, you are only one degree of separation from the leader of the province or the country. That’s a pretty good deal.

Alrighty. So enough of that soap boxy stuff. Speaking of soap, as I said, my little bubble is appropriately burst. I went to my local all-candidates meeting tonight. I was a few minutes late, but I didn’t think it would matter, given all the thousands of people that would be packed into the gymnasium, who would possibly notice?! So there I was clop-clop-clopping in my awesome vegan Australian heels, while one of the candidates was answering a question. Everyone turned to look. I mean, there were maybe 25 people at best in attendance. I sat at the back feeling like a major jerk.

The Candidates were perched on uncomfortable-looking school-chairs up on one of those awesome mid-20th-century proscenium arch stages. I figured I couldn’t actually be all that late since only three of the candidates was actually on stage. But then I realised that the others just weren’t coming, including the Conservative Naomi Solomon and the Green candidate Rachel Power whose nomination form I signed because I so want a Green presence in the province. I was there to support my candidate Peter Tabuns, the NDP incumbent, and I was pleased to get to see the Liberal candidate Rob Newman, who is a terribly likable fellow. The third guy was from the Canadian’s Choice Party–they seem to think they’re American, and keep referring to themselves as the Independent party. Anyway, his name is John Richardson, and he is every bit a cowboy. I’m so glad I went to this meeting just for him!

Without getting back on my soapbox, let me just say that this was just the kind of theatre I love. Richardson answered every question lobbed his way by standing up, slumping to one side after hiking up his belt and heaving a great sigh. I can’t tell you how endearing I found this gentleman. He has a hint of John Wayne in his cadence, and of course, he came in knowing that anyone who would bother to show up for this type of a meeting is probably not going to vote for him anyway. But he answered the questions, with that heaving sigh, and the OBVIOUSNESS that such a true conservative was never going  to go for such and such or whatever. But hey, he wants to abolish post secondary tuition, which does cause me to prick up my ears. Of course, he is a conservative, so he’s thinking in ROI–and so other conservatives should really lend an ear here. Unfortunately, Richardson is a true fiscal conservative, so the cost of free tuition would be paid for by pretty much taking the state out of every social institution we tend to hold dear in Canada. For instance, he doesn’t feel that the state (or province) should be in any way involved with child care. You know this schtick. Richardson pretty much had the same approach. He just came shy of saying “Ditto” to every question. But he was a good sport. And I’m fond of him.

The Liberal candidate is an eminently likable fellow. He’s that guy when your BFF texts and says she’s met “the ONE” that you hope she’s talking about. He was decked out in some nice relaxed-fit jeans and a well-pressed, casual, button-down cotton shirt that appropriately mimicked the colour of a fresh-burst early-summer cherry. Rob Newman actually might give Peter Tabuns a run for his money. Unlike the affectation of boredom that Richardson sported, Newman has the energy of someone who really digs politics, and he does have a reasonable expectation of winning the riding. He really wants this gig for realz. And his enthusiasm was palpable in every answer he gave. He has an earnestness that I’m inclined to like. And he’s smart. I think he handled some of the questions tonight better than Wynne did during the Big Debate–but the stakes were lower for him, so I don’t want to overstate things. He did come up with a rather innovative idea over the course of the evening. I’m not sure where or if it will stick in a Liberal platform, but he floated the idea of a capital gains tax break for non-home-owners. It was a bit of sideways response to a concern about the lack of affordable housing in our riding, but he segued into the idea with some pretty awesome skill. I was, as usual, trying to tweet with my god-awful Samsung Galaxy Note 3, so I almost tuned out of this topic, since it had been covered earlier in the evening. But then, BAM! Rob drops the tax-break bomb. It’s an interesting idea that would take the rabid desire for home ownership out of the equation for a lot of people who are just trying to save for their old age. It is a rather ingenious fix to the overheated housing market–would that help affordable housing… that’s not so clear. But I am taken–although not convinced–by Newman’s desire to take some of the fervid obsession off of housing as a retirement savings plan.

As I said, I’m volunteering for Peter Tabuns, so I can’t likely be as objective about him. I took a lot of time and talked to lots of people before I chose who to volunteer for. I didn’t take the choice lightly–in fact it was a sobering choice. I don’t see myself as a lifelong NDPer (although I normally tend to vote that way). So to me Peter is a statesman. When I met him, I felt like I was in the presence of someone who has seen a lot of the world. He has been in the trenches. His performance tonight was like a pro playing in an off-season tennis match. Genial and friendly, but truly out of the other guys’ leagues. Honestly, he was a little bit boring from a certain standpoint, but only because he understands the mechanisms of parliament and local politics so intimately that his answers to questions tended to be process and policy based.

On the other hand, I do keep hearing from people that they never see him or hear from him. I’m not sure how to remedy that. I do know that Rob, Naomi and Peter have been pounding the pavement pretty hard and that they all have campaign offices in the hood. So if they haven’t managed to get to you, then please do drop by their offices to get to know them. I’d be happy with any of the three as my MPP. I went for Peter for the reasons I’ve stated. I think Rob is a gem, and I hope we get to keep him around. Naomi is obviously a long shot, but is a really lovely person from what I can tell so far…. and I hope I’ll get to know her more.

I tried my best to live-tweet with my god-awful Samsung during the meeting. If you’re interested, check out the #TorDan on twitter. Please do comment below and I’ll do my best to answer questions.

 

 

 

 

In the Ontario Debate, it wasn’t the leaders’ stylists who won the day.

During the one and only candidates debate for the present Ontario provincial election, the twittterverse went a little wild. And since a broadcast debate is, for all intents and purposes, a visual platform, it didn’t take long for those of us watching to get right at critiquing how awful the thing looked.

Well, the set was lacklustre at best, but okay. Its designer used a monotonous tone of lavender and grey that the leaders’ stylists curiously at best chose to mimic, and in the NDP’s case, chose to completely ignore! The Toronto Star’s movie critic (huh? Oh well, everyone’s a critic!) said that” The set looked like it was dressed by the same colour-blind trolls who made the Coxwell subway station.” I don’t entirely agree. In fact, the palette would have worked well as a backdrop to each of the parties’ colours. I’m not sure it’s fair to blame the set, when it’s the stylists who failed to make use of what they were given. Kathleen Wynne looked like she was meant to fade into the background, so much so that all we could really see were her curiously flailing hands and those god-awful horn-rimmed glasses she insists on wearing (she desperately needs different frames! cf my first post.)

Someone joked on twitter that Hudak looked like he was auditioning for the role of an undertaker. Again. Don’t get where that dude was coming from. I took one look at Horwath and thought, Is she going to a funeral after this?! This set was practically screaming for the hipster-friendly colours of the NDP, and Horwath’s stylists sent her out in black? I’m utterly baffled by Horwath’s people’s choice. During the establishing shot, I almost thought the set had been designed in the NDP’s favour. I can’t understand why they didn’t optimize this opportunity. Costume–I mean, attire means a lot more than people seem to realise!

Not surprisingly, within nano-seconds of the debate’s moderator, Steve Paiken, announcing that this debate had been uncharacteristically light on time (!!), [and he followed up with the directive that we should all vote even if we choose to decline the ballot (whoa subtext!)], partisan tweeps were claiming that their candidate had “clearly” won the debate. The TV spin continued on the panels that followed the debate, so it was hard for an innocent bystander to get a sense of who might have “won”. I think maybe the consensus on this one is: “none of the above.” The suffered murmurs amongst my progressive friends was that Hudak had won. I’m not so sure that’s true. But he did do the least worst–or something to that nature. I think part of that sub-conscious win can be ascribed to his costume–erm, attire. There’s not a lot guys can really reasonably do in this situation, and Hudak’s team did… well, okay. He sported a dark suit and tie that almost matched the dominant lavender of the set. This is an effective use of colour. Where Wynne faded into the set, and Horwath just blatantly rejected all colour, practically screaming, “I’m no fun!”, Hudak complemented it. The use of colour created a subconscious sense that he “belonged” or was an essential element of the evening, connected naturally to his surroundings. Costume designers pull this trick all the time in theatre and film design. It’s not an accident, and the je ne sais quoi sense about Hudak winning the debate has something to do with this.

I’ve got more on the debate in progress. Please stand by….

 

Transparency: When Politicians Get Nekkid! (part 1)

I recently quoted outgoing cabinet minister Steven Fletcher’s tweet, where he opined “I am a Conservative. I am a Traditionalist. I wish I left Cabinet in the traditional way—with a sex scandal!” Of course, in Canada politicians almost never get in trouble over sex scandals. Sure, there was the little brouhaha over Maxime Bernier’s dalliance with Julie Couillard who had known ties to The Hells Angels. But then you kinda have to reach back to the ’60s when the Munsinger Affair happened. There’s even some old joke about if American scandals involve a politician’s hand up a skirt, a Canadian scandal will involve a politician’s hand in the till.

And certainly, this seems to have proved true in Canada’s senate lately. By the look of things, more than one senator has had his or her hand in the cookie jar, and there appears to have been even more shenanigans going on with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and Conservative Senator Mike Duffy. It’s not looking good for the government nor the senate at the moment.

Transparency has been the political theme of the day recently in Canada, so in that light, I thought I’d talk about a couple of politicians who literally bared all.

Kim Campbell, Canada’s first and only (so far) female Prime Minister, was a bit of a maverick politician. With roots in the wacky Social Credit party from BC, Campbell went on to be recruited to run as a Progressive Conservative for Vancouver Centre. She was a cabinet minister for Indian Affairs and Northern Development and then was Attorney General of Canada. She’s a lawyer and was a lecturer in poli-sci at UBC before all of that. So there’s no arguing that she’s a plucky outspoken upstart. She always speaks her mind, which in recent years, is something I’ve come to admire in her. I haven’t shared her political views, but as a woman political leader and role model, I think she’s someone to remember.

If you follow this blog, you know that I’m particularly interested in how women are treated about their image in the media, and Ms. Campbell, certainly created something of a controversy when a portrait of her (taken by Barbara Woodley) was released in 1992. The photo was actually taken in 1990, by Woodley, for a book on prominent women. Campbell had just picked up her Queen’s Counsel robes when Woodley arrived to take the photo. They were trying to figure out what Campbell should wear, when they both decided perhaps she could have her shoulders bare and just hold up her new robes.

By ’92, though, the landscape had changed, and then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was rumoured to be stepping down and Campbell was a likely candidate to run for the PC leadership. The photo also happened to be exhibited that year in the National Art Centre, and it  eventually appeared on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen. That’s when the minor controversy exploded. I remember it well. I thought the photo was quite attractive and artistic, but Campbell’s bare shoulders were quickly sexualised and she was accused of being an attention monger. She was and has always been an outspoken person, and she certainly walks to the beat of her own drum. But somehow showing a bit of feminine skin was seen as somehow degrading to her office and her authority.

Campbell is one of those politicians that I bemoaned about in my previous post. She has a tone and timbre that allows her to play in the boys’ club, and it’s an ability that I always felt disallowed me from ever thinking of entering that ring. So as a very young woman, I appreciated that she could both be feminine and a strong woman who could lead a country. It was dismaying at the time that the reaction to the photo ended up being so negative–even from the NDP, as Campbell recalls in this video interview for the CBC.

I wondered then and now how a male politician would have been treated. Even the thought of a bare-shouldered male politician holding up his robes makes me giggle, so I’m as bad as everyone else. My next post will look a bit closer at that topic.

Cowboy Hats and Pancakes: the sine qua non of Canadian political style

A few weeks ago, I was using a “Western” theme for one of my posts, so I went in search of some images online. You may think there’s only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes; but I’d beg to differ. If you’re going to be a Canadian politician, it’s probably a good idea to get fitted with a Stetson, coz you’re likely gonna need it.

English: 1920s Stetson carlsbad cowboy hat

English: 1920s Stetson carlsbad cowboy hat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a tradition that goes as far back as RB Bennett (according to the Calgary Grit), and it’s been a necessary accessory for Canadian politicians to this day.

The summer of 2013 has been a tough one in Canada and the flooding in Alberta was one of the top newsmakers. But Calgarians swore of their annual Calgary Stampede that the show would go on, come Hell or (literal) high water. And it did. And then, as usual, the media duly trotted out the pictures of “Politicians in Cowboy Hats,” a term which, by the way, is highly “Googleable.”

MacLean’s Magazine featured this article, and here’s one of Justin Trudeau looking dapper flipping pancakes and sporting his good guy Cowboy hat. Meanwhile, the Calgary Grit offers up a long history of Politicians in Cowboy Hats.

I think Tom Mulcair, the NDP leader, is the most dapper Stetson-wearer of the bunch this, year. What’s your opinion?

The politics of Manolo Blahniks in Politics

The thing about writing a blog on style in politics is that one’s mind surely goes to women’s fashion right off the bat. I was certainly well aware of the fact when I started talking about this blog to friends. I was pretty adamant that I wasn’t going to go down that path. And I purposely started this whole thing focusing on male politicians. There’s a vicious sort of past-time that’s grown up with social media–borne of those red-carpet attack-a-thons that surround celebrity awards shows–that makes the whole issue of style and famous people a bit of a sticky wicket if you want to keep things from spiralling quickly into bullying and crudeness.

But here’s the thing. Women’s fashion–in the normal world anyway–is typically more interesting than men’s. I remember when I was in high school and competing in the Sear’s Drama Festival, we used to make fun of the private school kids who could only express their personality through their shoes (this coming from the skinny little drama kids dressed in oversized men’s shirts and neon stockings, trying to channel Cyndi Lauper–sigh). For the most part (male) politicians pretty much have ties and shoes–although, younger politicians like Pierre Poilievre and Justin Trudeau are definitely introducing a bit of style in the HoC. I’ll return to Poilievre and Trudeau in the coming weeks.

English: Personal photo of Belinda Stronach ta...

English: Personal photo of Belinda Stronach taken at Golf Rocks charity event, Toronto, Sept 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My concern this week is how to go about talking about style and women in politics. And I don’t know the answer yet. I hope some people will weigh in and comment on this piece to help me out. I remember years ago reading with relish the articles about Belinda Stronach’s shoes and where she shopped for her snappy outfits. I admired this young woman, who, yes, is uber-privileged and whose politics I didn’t agree with. But she was a young woman, who wasn’t particularly media articulate yet, who had really fun fashion sense and she had stepped into the fray. Watching her, I thought that a political career was actually a possibility for a girl.

So I see myself as a feminist. Certainly educated and engaged in the political scene, but there was such a backlash from feminists about Stronach’s treatment by the mainstream media! I felt a bit ashamed of my interest in her gorgeous shoes and lot confused about just how we women should engage with fashion. So-called “third-wave” feminism, which blossomed in North America under Ally McBeal and Sex in the City allowed us feminists-who-like-shoes permission to claim the name and give up the Birkenstocks. I have nothing against Birkenstocks. But I really love designer shoes! And I really do think of myself as a feminist, in a time when a lot women refuse to do so. Not surprisingly, I suffered a little existential angst at the time. And traces of the malaise are obviously present in this post.

Recently Salon.com writer Irin Cameron argued that if White House counsel Kathryn Reummler “wanted to be taken seriously, she should have gone barefoot.” Cameron decries Reummler’s treatment in the Washington Post by Juliet Eilperin in this piece called A White House Counsel Known for Her Shoes.

Cameron also cites this study by the feminist political group nameitorchangeit.org. According to their study, any kind of media description of women’s fashion gives women politicians’ male opponents an edge, whether the coverage is positive or negative. Name It or Change It is dedicated to acting as a media watchdog on coverage of American women politicians. Their study is obviously biased, and I can’t assess how scientific it is from what’s posted on their website, but the study does suggest one thing: media coverage AND media consumers/audiences are sexist. Both sides hold women politicians up to a different style standard. And the group argues it affects how women fare in the political arena. Cameron’s suggestion is to put a moratorium on referring to women’s fashion sense until there is more equality in all levels of government.

Of course, Canada and the US are quite different in audience reception, expectations and reporting. But not so different that Name It or Change It can’t be relevant to a certain degree.

I can’t help wondering if this is a chicken-and-egg sort of thing. Before Stronach, I pretty much thought that women in politics had to be willing to play to an unwritten male code. She had to be tough and aggressive and certainly uninterested in fashion or style. Yes, women CAN be aggressive and strong. I am. I also like shoes… alot! And I’m soft-spoken. And I sometimes giggle when I’m nervous. Men don’t do those things typically, and maleness is the norm of politics. So when Hilary Clinton (who still gets attacked all the time about her looks) or Kim Campbell or Kathleen Wynne are successful in politics, women like me think, “Oh well, I can’t play that game. I’m out.” They play well in the boys’ sandbox.

Maybe we need to change the toys in and the parameters around the sandbox? Elizabeth May is one who comes to mind, and I’ll talk about her soon. But let me know. What do you think about women, femininity and participating in the official political realm? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A Spectacular Spectacle of Spectacles

This whole Canadian political couture thing began for me some time during 2010. It was then that Stephen Harper started sporting his frameless eyeglasses almost exclusively. Anyone who follows these sorts of things will note that there is something sort of wooden about Harper. He’s most likely an introvert who doesn’t particularly like the spotlight. Like him or not, though, this says something about a man who is so committed to his ideology that he is willing to take on that spotlight no matter how uncomfortable it makes him. But being uncomfortable in public does not win votes nor popularity. And so, as we may all uncomfortably recall, his handlers set about showing the hapless man in fuzzy blue sweaters. At the time, a lot of us wondered, What were those handlers thinking?! Did it have something to do with Bill Cosby?! Most people like and trust Cosby, and he is famous for sweaters. Maybe sweaters are the key to likeability! Or not.

Thankfully, the blue sweaters were dropped quite quickly after an awful lot of mocking that Harper may never live down.

During the 2008 election, though, a minority of Canadians (who bothered to vote) trusted Harper. He managed to squeak out another minority government that was only slightly larger than his previous 2006 government (which was the smallest minority in Canadian history). By March 2011 a non-confidence vote in the House of Parliament brought down his government and an election was called. I’ll talk in other posts about this fascinating election, but for Harper lots had changed–not the least of which, most likely, was the 2008 stock market crash and the onslaught of the Great Recession.

English: Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

English: Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the ...

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Commander’s Palace restaurant Monday evening, April 21, 2008, after attending the North American Leaders’ Summit dinner in New Orleans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surprisingly, somehow or another, Stephen Harper not only managed to live down a non-confidence vote and heading a government that was found in contempt of parliament to boot, he actually came out of the election with a majority government. Clearly, something significant had shifted for Canadian voters. The message Harper hammered home, of course, was his ability to steer Canada through the treacherous waters of the flailing world economy. Though I don’t want to be too precious with this eye-wear thing, I do think those frames played a small but crucial role.

Like I said, during 2010, I started noticing that Harper was wearing those non-glare frameless lenses more often–and he does now almost exclusively. And I also noticed that I, on some unconscious level, found the man more likeable! When I started poring over photos of Harper, I realised that he happens to be one of those contact-lens-wearers whose eyes seem to grow cold in photographs or under high lighting conditions like those required for video ops. There’s something about his eye-wear that subtly softens Harper’s look. Those frameless lenses somehow make him more approachable and trustworthy, and it ‘s hard to believe that the blue-sweater posse (or whoever replaced them) didn’t play some sort of a role in the image makeover.

Preston Manning (former leader of the Reform P...

Preston Manning (former leader of the Reform Party of Canada) at British Columbia Universities’ Model Parliament – Victoria, BC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, when it comes to makeovers in Canadian politics, most people will automatically think of Preston Manning, the original makeover King. Remember Manning before the makeover? His oversized eyeglasses seemed laughable and made him appear to be some sort of parochial backwoods wannabe. In 1992, John Cruickshank, in The Christian Science Monitor, suggested that though Manning was a “straight shooter,” his glasses gave him “the look of a perpetually startled owl.” Then came the haircut and the laser eye surgery. And today, Manning is respected as a Canadian statesman.

Former interim Liberal leader, Bob Rae has also eschewed wearing his eyeglasses, except to read. If the geeky professorial look gained purchase in the early 1990’s, clearly something has changed. In Rae’s case, as in Manning’s, the owlish eye-glasses detracted from his general likeability. The Conservative Party were certainly aware of the spectacle of spectacles when they released this attack ad against Rae last year:

YouTube mocksters, Almost Politics, picked up on the focus on Rae’s geeky glasses during his tenure as Ontario’s Premiere in this satirical response to the Conservative attack ad, with a whining narrator pointing out that “Rae wore hipster glasses unironically!” So what do you think? Harper’s roots are in the Reform Party of Canada, which was lead by the mac-daddy of Canadian makeovers. Do Reformers have a fetish about spectacles?!