A low point in the Conservative Party’s troubled 2015 election campaign, seen by some pundits as the beginning of the end of Stephen Harper’s re-election chances.
Seeking to cash in on latent but nagging fears among many voters about terrorism and Islamic extremism (and to revive a moribund campaign), Conservative strategists trotted out two cabinet ministers to announce the establishment of a “Barbaric Cultural Practices Hotline,” which Canadians could call to inform authorities about disturbing rituals they may believe their neighbours to be indulging in.
Some observers wrung their hands over the ominous, police-state nature of the policy. But, more broadly, the announcement was greeted with derision and–perhaps more lethally–general hilarity.
Wits coast-to-coast were quickly topping each other with examples of “barbaric cultural practices,” including things like wearing socks with sandals. Satirists from the homegrown This Hour Has 22 Minutes to imports like John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight had a field day.
Amid the laughter could be heard the faint protests of the RCMP, who had not been consulted on such a program. In campaign postmortems, “sources” were at pains to claim that Stephen Harper, a notorious political micromanager, had no advance knowledge of the announcement: a sure sign of how damaging it was.
Before the campaign was even over, the “Barbaric Cultural Practices Hotline” had entered the Canadian Political Hall of Shame alongside stalwarts “Beer and Popcorn”, “Is This a Prime Minister?” and “I Had No Option” as timeless examples of a catastrophic, self-inflicted campaign wound.