One-man show pokes fun at Harper and oil

Perry Bergson
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James Gordon brings his one-man show Harper: The Musical to Prince Albert on Feb 10 at 7 p.m. at the John M. Cuelenaere Library.

James Gordon is suddenly seeing the political process from the inside.

The newly elected city councillor from Guelph, Ont., brings his one-man show Harper: The Musical to Prince Albert on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at the John M. Cuelenaere Library.

“We’re talking one politician to another in the show now,” he chuckles.

The veteran singer-songwriter has been performing the show for about a year. He’ll be touring in Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories in February, while in March he heads to B.C.

He has written musical plays before, but this is his first one-man show.

The two-hour presentation includes a large Stephen Harper ventriloquist dummy, songs, an interactive discussion with the audience, film, slides and backing tracks

“It’s a little more than just a guy on stage,” he says of the show, which is subtitled How To Survive and Thrive in The Dying Days of the Empire of Oil.

Gordon says his hope is that people will take what they learn from his show and think about it some more when they get home.

“If we’re looking at Harper’s record, it’s one thing to say that I agree or disagree but it’s another to shine a light on it because we have very short political memories in this country,” he says. “It’s easy to forget what happened a year ago; things are happening pretty fast.”

Gordon admits that at many of his shows he’s preaching to the converted, but he says there are people who are more complacent about what’s going on. He says a bit about proportional representation has been particularly effective in sparking people into action.

Some people who have attended the show thought it was a tribute to Harper, which Gordon emphatically declares it’s not.

“They haven’t had a hostile reaction,” he says. “It raises questions for them as well.”

The Council of Canadians is sponsoring the local show. Gordon performs it as a fundraiser for different social justice or environmental groups.

Gordon’s musical career includes more than 30 releases as a solo artist and with the Canadian folk act Tamarack, which he co-founded in the 1970s.

He has had songs recorded by the Cowboy Junkies and Melanie Doane.

When it comes to poking fun, Gordon suggests that if you want to be listened to, the approach really matters.

“If you’re just pointing fingers and shouting things, no one wants to hear it,” he says, noting that he grew up in the age of the protest songs of the ’60s. “It had its day and they were effective. Times have changed and what you would call protest has to have a different tone to it, and be more interactive.”

Gordon says that he targets himself in the show as well, adding the addiction to oil doesn’t just exist in the political classes.

“I’m going to be burning an awful lot of carbon getting to Prince Albert,” he chuckles. “We need to look at ourselves so I can poke fun at myself too.”

It won’t be his first trip to the city; he has been through Prince Albert a couple of times as a singer-songwriter.

Gordon was elected to Guelph city council in October. His new part-time job means Gordon now attends weekly meetings on Mondays. He also has committee and constituent work to do.

He makes his living as a touring musician, so he’s had to change his usual pattern of heading on the road for two or three weeks at a time, although he notes some of the constituent work can be handled from afar.

Gordon says it has involved a steep learning curve but has been worth it.

“I’m finding it an interesting experience to be on both sides of things politically, inside and outside,” he says.

He had previously run provincially for the NDP in Ontario in 2011 and 2014, losing twice to Liberal Liz Sandals.

He hopes that people who attend his show on Feb. 10 bring their opinions. He always asks the crowd for their thoughts on where we are at as a country and where we need to be to survive.

“I’m always interested in each community to see what that brings,” he says. “I would love it if people brought their perspectives with them.”

Tickets are $20 and are available via email at or by calling Rick Sawa at 306-922-3851.

Organizations: Prince Albert, John M. Cuelenaere Library, Cowboy Junkies Guelph city council NDP

Geographic location: Guelph, Saskatchewan, Alberta Northwest Territories Ontario

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