There’s a particularly virulent strain of the Canadian inferiority complex that makes its citizens believe that you’re no one until the rest of the world—particularly the United States—notices you.
If we’re to go by these standards, then, Canada’s current Prime Minister Stephen Harper has finally made it, albeit for all of the worst possible reasons. After almost a decade of increasingly questionable decisions as the leader of the country, in which Harper consistently shown his disregard for indigenous people, women, the environment, and science, among other things, he has the gall to run for office again.
The rest of the world is finally starting to see the man for the Emperor Palpatine-like figure that he is, though. Many international media outlets have publicly criticized Harper for manipulative campaign tactics and race-baiting techniques. In fact, his current re-election campaign that has devolved into xenophobic pandering and even consorting with Toronto’s disgraced former mayor Rob Ford..
Meanwhile the Canadian arts community (never big fans of Harper to begin with) has become increasingly vocal in its opposition to the Prime Minister and his government, speaking out publicly, organizing rallies and shows, and encouraging voters to consider Anyone But Harper in the election. And, in the great tradition of politically-minded Canadian artists like Neil Young, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Bruce Cockburn, everyone from angry grandmothers to Environment Canada scientists to some of the country’s most beloved musical acts have started writing anti-Harper protest songs.
So as Canadians prepare to head to the polls today on this October 19, 2015, let’s take a listen to 10 of those tunes.
Legendary Vancouver punks D.O.A. were so displeased with the Prime Minister that they rewrote their seething anti-Preseident Ronald Reagan song, “Fucked Up Ronnie,” in his dishonor. Now they play “Fucked Up Harper” at their shows.
Incensed by Harper’s less-than-transparent government, Montreal-born singer and sitar player Christian Tatonetti rewrote the lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s most covered song and submitted them to his local newspaper. When they didn’t print it, he decided to follow in Cohen’s footsteps and sing his tale of broken parliamentary promises and prime ministerial greed instead.
Maybe it’s stretching it to call this 28-second ditty a protest song, but it does feature children’s entertainer Raffi—the man behind sweet little songs like “Baby Baluga,” “Bananaphone”—urging Canadians to vote in the forthcoming election in order to save Canada for its current regime. For a more detailed look at his anti-Harper sentiments, check out the singer’s prolific Twitter profile.
Nova Scotia singer/songwriter Cathy Cook sang the Harper-related blues from the perspectives of many of his favorite targets, including indigenous people, poor people, veterans and scientists in “Stephen Harper Hates Me.” When other embattled Canadians reached out to her with their stories, she wrote, “Stephen Harper Hates Me, Too,” a sequel that adds debt-ridden students, immigrants, and the environment, and a reference to the embarrassing Mike Duffy senatorial scandal to the mix.
Elder Canadian alt-country/rock statesmen Blue Rodeo are, for the most part, an apolitical band, but they felt so strongly about Harper’s abysmal record that they decided to record and release this modern day protest song. “Blue Rodeo does not always speak with one voice. However we feel collectively that the current administration in Canada has taken us down the wrong path. We do not seem to be the compassionate and environmentally conscious nation we once were. As respectful as we are of the variety of opinions held by our audience, we felt it was time to speak up and add our voice to the conversation,” singer Jim Cuddy declared in an almost stereotypically polite statement on the band’s site. The accompanying video includes an onslaught of damning facts about Harper’s government.
The Raging Grannies are a loose-knit collective of musically and politically minded seniors with chapters across Canada and the U.S. They started popping up in the late ‘80s after a group of older women got fed up with the ageism and sexism that they found in other activist groups and launched their own peaceful protest against U.S. Navy warships in Victoria, B.C. Many of the Canadian chapters have taken on Harper during his reign, taking him to task for pension-related concerns, his cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), terrible environmental record, and generally sinister behavior. In “Harper’s Agenda,” the Ottawa Grannies take on the incumbent Prime Minister’s particularly poor behavior during the 2011 federal election.
On August 6, just before the first debate of the current Canadian electoral campaign went to air, Toronto singer, producer, visual artist and Grimes associate Petra Glynt uploaded this scathing dance attack on Harper to her Soundcloud with the following open letter attached: “Dear, Mr. prime minister Stephen Harper, As we are nearing the end of your 10-year tenure, I can’t tell you how many times I have felt the range of emotions between severe disappointment and rage, how many times I wanted to shake your reality so that you could witness the lives you are allowing to be crushed by your economic gains. We don’t care about economic gains. We do not want the wealth of temporal money. I hope that once you have stepped far away from your current position, you will see the damage you have done and what wealth could alternatively mean.”
Maritime rapper The Caravan tackles everything from the goofy (accusing Harper of listening to Creed and joking about romancing his wife Lorraine) to the deadly serious (CBC cuts, Bill C-45’s attack on indigenous rights, the risk of health care privatization, and so much more) in his 2013 track about the Canadian leader.
Inspired by a social justice newsletter, folk singer and environmental consultant Tony Turner wrote and recorded this song about the Harper government’s corrupt, proroguing, and dissent-muzzling ways in June. He was subsequently suspended from public service for promoting the video. Turner retired from his position at Environment Canada earlier this month, but has no plans to stop singing and protesting any time soon. He’ll be performing a very special version of “Harperman” on Canada’s Parliament Hill the day before the election.
In an effort to encourage young Canadians to “vote to avoid another tragic Harper government,” indie acts Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde teamed up to release this protest song. It touches upon Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women, environmental issues, and muzzled scientists and urges citizens to “fight for the land you love.”