Please Advise! Stephen Harper Is Doing What Now?

Our former PM is re-entering the workforce! Spin Doc Steve explains what he’s in for.

By Steve Burgess 13 Sep 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

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After an epic firing as PM of Canada, Stephen Harper is starting a new gig. Photo by Remy Steinegger, Creative Commons licensed.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

What the hell is Dentons?




Dear Perp,

Thank you for your odd question. Denton’s is a restaurant chain specializing in breakfast-style meals like eggs and bacon and pancakes, although it’s usually open 24 hours and you can get hot, delicious waffles any time of day and…

Hang on — Dr. Steve’s crack staff are now informing him that he has been confusing Dentons, an international law firm, with the famous restaurant chain known as Denny’s. And I must say that is both clarifying and reassuring. The idea that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper might be serving up breakfast platters was disturbing. He would be really bad at it. Just try to place an order for the Honey Jalapeño Bacon Slam without getting a speech about how this tasty international combo is only possible thanks to NAFTA and… I hope you folks aren’t too hungry.

But in fact the company that recently hired Mr. Harper is not a stubbornly atavistic retail paean to the culinary traditions of 1953, but a huge international law outfit — the largest law firm in the world if you judge by number of lawyers. Dentons’ 2013/14 company revenues were reported as $1.3 billion, almost as much money as Donald Trump pretends to have. It must be Elton John playing nightly in the company lounge.

Harper recently revealed that his own law firm Harper & Associates, of which he remains the boss, has entered into a strategic alliance with Dentons. Canny move. Harper would likely have started out fetching doughnuts and replacing ink cartridges in the photocopier if he had just walked in off the street. This way he gets to leapfrog over Schneider on the eighth floor, who is pretty pissed at the hotshot new guy right now. Watch your back, new guy.

Still, Harper is no shoo-in for a corner office. He’s not even the senior Canadian prime minister on staff. Dentons also employs the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien. (Mulroney is probably working across the street at the International House of Policy). Apparently Dentons is collecting ex-Canadian PMs, like porcelain figurines or Star Wars lunch boxes. It’s hard to imagine what you would need two of them for otherwise. Maybe you just want a spare in case one of them isn’t working, or the batteries go dead.

In addition to a Conservative and a Liberal PM, Dentons even boasts the services of Gary Doer, former Manitoba NDP premier. Attention Elizabeth May: I bet they’d pay top dollar to complete the set.

What will Harper be doing for Dentons? The official release said he will “provide clients with advice on market access, managing global geopolitical and economic risk, and maximize value in global markets.” Which is OK I suppose. But if you were at Dentons, wouldn’t you rather see him selling popcorn while dressed up like an organ grinder, or peddling a unicycle through the boardroom with a trained monkey?

I mean it. Market analysts are a dime a dozen — Ivy League schools turn them out like so many golf balls. Having a former world leader around the office gives you the chance to really show off. A powerful international firm needs to demonstrate its power. What better way to impress clients than to bring out a former G7 chief wearing a goofy hat? It could be the finale of every Dentons presentation: “That concludes our market analysis. Now I’d like you to meet Stephen Harper, former prime minister of Canada. Dance the Funky Chicken for our guests, Mr. Harper. Faster, Steve! Faster!”

And after that, maybe he would end up at Denny’s after all. He’d be the worst. Harper the Waiter would never let you order pancakes at 6 p.m. “There is a time for pancakes,” Steve, your Denny’s server, would say. “6 p.m. is not that time. Get out of your pajamas. Grow up. Have a hamburger.”

But contrary to what I initially reported, Mr. Harper has not been hired by Denny’s. He will not be forced to pull out his pad and attempt a friendly grimace while reciting, “OK, that’s one Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n Fruity, hold the Tooty.”

Hang on — interns are now informing Dr. Steve that the popular menu item known as Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n Fruity is actually at IHOP. Thanks, team, you’re the best. Someday I’ll pay you, I promise.  [Tyee]

Read more: Federal Politics

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