A year ago at this time, the very idea would have been laughable. But as a federal election lurks, the newly unified, harmonized Conservative Party is looking to make big gains, possibly even taking over as the next government of our great country. Earlier this week, Dave McGraw, who's quickly making a name for himself as our country's leading interviewer of public figures, sat down with the leader of the Conservative Party and the Official Opposition, Stephen Harper to discuss…stuff. Contrary to Mr. Harper's reputation as a stiff, wooden, policy wonk, Dave only fell asleep four times while interviewing him-a new Canadian record for reporters. Enjoy:

Dave McGraw: Mr. Harper, thank you for joining me. Hopefully, this coming together of you and me will be an easier merger than that last one you were involved in. HA HA HA!

Stephen Harper: Huh?

DM: Mr. Harper, is the Conservative Party ready?

"OK, you be Julian, and I'll be Bubbles."
Dave and Steve re-enact their favourite scenes from Trailer Park Boys during a lighthearted moment.

SH: I think you're confused. I'm the leader of the Canadian Alliance.

DM: I believe you'll find that you're the leader of...

SH:...I mean, no, no…I always get mixed up. I have to keep reminding myself, I'm the leader of the Conservative Party now. Big difference. Big difference. Moderate. Appealing to Central Canada. Nice and pleasant. No more firewalls. Conservative Party. Yes. I've even written it down on my hand, to remind myself-see? (Mr. Harper then showed Dave the palm of his hand, which read, "I am the leader of the Conservative Party.")

DM: Do you really think that you can form the next government, and, if so, do you think I'll have any trouble immigrating to New Zealand?

SH: Oh yes. We're going to win. And then, I'll be Emperor-for-Life.

DM: Don't you mean Prime Minister?

SH: You'll see.

DM: In recent comments, Joe Clark said that he would vote for Paul Martin before he'd vote for you. He also referred to you as the "Prince of Darkness" and a "shameless yak breeder."

SH: Really? He said that?

DM: Yes, it uh, got left off the official transcript, apparently.

SH: Mr. Clark can say whatever he wants. He's entitled to his opinion. He has the right to be wrong. I prefer to take the high road. COUGH…chinless wonder…COUGH…traitorous Bolshevik…COUGH

DM: Sorry, what did you say?

SH: Nothing, nothing. Just getting over a case of laryngitis.

DM: Well, Mr. Harper, all of that hacked, er, said, about Mr. Clark's caustic comments: You have to expect that the Liberals are going to try to capitalize on this perception of you as some kind of Canada-hating extremist during the election campaign. For example, in an op-ed piece you wrote in the National Whipping Post in December 2000, you said, "Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status…"

SH:…before you carry on, that was a typo. The text read "Canada," but it was supposed to say "Paraguay." That was rectified in the following day's 'corrections' section.

COMING, BY THE END OF SOME WEEK! Hear more of Dave's interview with Stephen Harper on the Hammer News Network Audio File!

DM: OK, well be that as it may not, how do you refute the image some people have of you, deserved or not, as a radical who will shift the country radically to the right?

SH: By going to the streets and slapping Canadians around until they promise me their vote.

DM: Right. Very, very right.

SH: Sorry, sorry, I'm off message. What I meant to say was, by showing Canadians what a kind, compassionate person I am. I'm not some sort of rabid ideologue. I'm just like you. I like puppies. I like teddy bears. I listen to Anne Murray records.

DM: Do you like scotch? I like scotch.

SH: Sure I do. I'm a man of the people. I water plants around the office every Christmas. I don't yell at panhandlers and tell them to get a job, like some mean-spirited reactionary-I just ignore them.

DM: Well that's good, because according to a story I read in Reader's Digest, Canadians, especially central Canadians, (ONTARIO) tend to like their political parties to be centrist. Bland. Vanilla. Middle-hugging. How will you assure Canadians that the Conservative Party as a whole is a moderate party?

SH: Oh, we're moderate. We are so moderate. We're so moderate, you'll hardly be able to tell the difference between us and the Liberals.

DM: Examples?

SH: Once in power, we're going to hold public floggings every Sunday. We're going to throw all of the long-hairs in jail. Companies will have the freedom to pollute our useless lakes and rivers with impunity-also known as the 'Made in Canada' approach to environmental protection. Across-the-board tax cuts for the homeless…

DM:…If I may interrupt here, ah, at risk of making a value judgment, what you've just described doesn't sound very "moderate" to me.

SH: It all depends on perspective, I guess. Let me put it this way: the Conservative Party will set Canada back only 20 years. The Alliance would have set Canada back 40.

McGraw Falls asleep
STEPHEN HARPER: Much more exciting than Sesame Street's Bert.

DM: I guess if you look at it that way…but given the newness of your party, you haven't really had a chance to develop an official party policy platform. Will this cause problems during the campaign?

SH: Not true. I was able to devise a Conservative Party policy document on this cocktail napkin over the weekend. Here. Look.

DM: I can't seem to make out the line on same-sex marriage. The ink is all smeared.

SH: Basically, what it says, is that marriage is between a man and a woman. Tabs and slots. Bats and catchers mitts. It's as simple as that. In fact, to promote the traditional definition of marriage, when elected, we will establish government impregnation centers across the country, where married, heterosexual couples will be allowed to go to engage in joyless sexual congress, for reasons of procreation only. That is what marriage is all about.

DM: Yes, very…moderate.

SH: Personally, I have nothing against the gays myself. I've even shook hands with a couple of them in the past. They seem like decent people.

DM: How do you respond to those who say that this has been a takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party by the Canadian Alliance?

SH: I'm getting tired of this. Look, the Conservative Party is a coalition of social conservatives and…other social conservatives, and religious conservatives...but I'm pretty sure there are a couple of Red Tories out there somewhere too who haven't jumped ship. I'm almost positive. You can be sure that when I find one, I'll parade him or her around until the cows come home.

DM: Now, it's time for the meaty stuff. The sponsorship scandal…

SH:…before you finish your question, I would just like to say that the federal sponsorship scandal is the most horrible thing ever to happen in the history of our country. Ever.

DM: Worse than…the Halifax explosion of 1917?

SH: Much worse.

DM: Worse than…Peter Gzowski's TV talk show from the 70's?

SH: Oooh…that's a tough one.

DM: Why don't you recycle some of the things you've said in the past about this? Get yourself all worked into a froth…show Canadians what a passionate man you are.

SH: Let me put on my angry face. There.

DM: Wow, that is one angry face. So Mr. Harper, can you assure the people of Canada that a Conservative government will be as pure as the driven snow in its awarding of contracts?

SH: I can assure you, when we're in power, we won't use any communication firms friendly to our party for any business. As a matter of fact, we won't use any firms who even know who we are. We'll go knocking door-to-door asking strangers to do all of our outside work for us. It's the new way of doing business.

DM: Health care. Poles, and polls, consistently say that it's the most important issue for Canadians. Many people are worried that a Conservative government would usher in a privatized health care system, where people will be able to buy their way to the front of the eight-year waiting list.

SH: I've prepared a sign here, that says "No two-tier health care." Isn't that convincing enough? What more do I need to say?

DM: Mr. Harper, I realize you're a busy man, and I really need to go arrange the magazines in my office alphabetically, so, uhm, can I please leave now?

SH: Certainly. Guards, let this man leave.