Marg Delahunty, the character made famous by actress Mary Walsh on “22 Minutes,” has experienced her share of political controversy. She was accused of ambushing former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, and she’s interrupted a Jean Chrétien news conference or two in her time.
But now Walsh’s Newfoundland warrior has set her sights on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, with her Marg Brings Change campaign. The campaign asks voters to “Save Steve” by voting for any party but the Conservatives on Oct. 19, raising money for Syrian refugee relief at the same time.
The idea for the campaign came about because of Harper’s apparent affection for the country’s decommissioned penny.
“I just happened upon this piece about how Stephen Harper had said he was sad to see that we were losing the penny,” Walsh tells Yahoo Canada News. “It just seemed so odd that he would want to protect the penny when he has spent so much time not protecting anything else.”
She cited government actions under Harper like changes to the immigration act, the proposed tip line under the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, and the dead-cat policies restricting the niqab. Thinking about cents and sense, and her hope for a change in the coming election, the campaign began to take shape.
On the website, visitors can click an image of a penny to donate a virtual cent to the campaign, and share the link on Facebook or Twitter for two more chances to add to the pile of change. All those virtual pennies will be matched by Walsh, who plans to take the campaign literal and dump a pile of actual change on Parliament Hill or in front of Harper’s Calgary constituency office.
Of course, that means finding tens of thousands of pennies — the campaign has already gone past 40,000.
“The pennies didn’t just all get melted down, did they?” Walsh asks. “There’s a cache of pennies somewhere, and we’re finding them.”
Marg’s history with Harper goes all the way back to 2006, when she greeted him during his first Conservative leadership race and kissed him on the lips. She can’t imagine ever getting that close to him today.
”Not even real journalists can get close to him,” she says, adding the original meeting wasn’t as affectionate as it may have looked at the time.
Walsh’s lack of affection for the prime minister isn’t an outlier in her home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where the Conservatives are likely to be shut out of federal seats on Oct. 19. Former premier Danny Williams recently advised Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to stay away from the polls if they couldn’t force themselves to vote for a party other than the Conservatives.
For her part, Walsh thinks that the province’s long-standing animosity towards the Conservative leader comes from the fact that its residents have already dealt with the consequences of both an environmental collapse, in the moratorium on the cod fishery, and a broken Harper promise, when Williams accused him of reneging on arrangements made around the province’s oil revenues.
“It seems to me that Newfoundland has always been a bit of a canary in the coal mine,” Walsh says.
Whether that canary proves prophetic later this month remains to be seen when Canadians cast their votes. In the meantime, Walsh suggests that getting upset about her character referring to Harper as “Herr Harper” or “Stasi Steve” is an over reaction.
“No matter how much they do or how much scandal they create or how much soul-sucking evil work they’re up to, they are still so sensitive. They’ve got to toughen up or stop doing bad things,” Walsh says.