Photo Fail: 9 Cringeworthy Canadian Political Photo-Ops

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The political photo-op: sometimes it’s an enduring image that evokes the power, compassion and leadership you hope will convince the public to cast their vote your way. Other times it’s you attempting, and failing, to kick a football. That’s what happened to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who unsuccessfully “kicked off” the 1968 Grey Cup by booting the ball into a group of gathered media. 

Not every political photo op can be as cool as former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien wakeboarding at age 79. Sometimes they are dull or just don’t generate public interest. And sometimes, if they’re just silly enough, they end up on a list like this.

Pierre Trudeau’s All Tied Up (1968)

Someone please teach Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to tie a tie!

One of Canada’s most famous – or infamous, depending on your political bent – prime ministers, Trudeau never shied away from a silly photo-op. In his case they were most often playful and knowingly done before the cameras, such as this pic of the prime minister strangling himself with his own tie. According to the Canadian Press, the act came after Trudeau was made an honorary member of the National Press Club.

Jean Chrétien Rocks the Denim (1995)

The need Canadian prime ministers feel to “fit in” with the Calgary Stampede crowd almost always results in awkward photos of decidedly non-cowboy types trying to pull off the Wild West look. Case in point: Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his wife Aline, who look like rejected models from a French Canadian version of the American Gothic painting. Note the Prime Minister’s rolled up pants, meant to show off his boots. Perhaps Chrétien should have offered his wardrobe stylist a “Shawinigan Handshake” for putting together this ensemble.

Image courtesy Phil Nolan, Global News

The Shawinigan Handshake (1996)

Speaking of the Shawinigan Handshake, the incident in which Prime Minister Chrétien choked Bill Clennett, an anti-poverty activist, at a National Flag of Canada Day event in Hull, Que., became one of the most famous images of Chrétien’s time in office.

Stephen Harper Rocks the Leather Vest (2005)

Yes folks, this leather vest-wearing leader of the Conservative Party of Canada became Prime Minister a little over a year after this photo was taken.

We told you that Canadian politicos don’t know how to dress at the Calgary Stampede. Harper’s daughter Rachel, who was six at the time, looks adorable though and doesn’t seem to mind her dad’s attire. 

Party Poopers (2005)

This photo was taken a week before the ruling Liberals lost a confidence vote, triggering the 2006 election, and doesn’t quite inspire hope in the leadership of this nation.

We can only imagine what all the major party leaders from the time, photographed here, were thinking when this was taken. From left to right:

Jack Layton (NDP Leader): “Hey, isn’t that the guy who wore the leather vest at the Calgary Stampede?”

Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Quebecois Leader): “I declare my intention to separate … from this awkward meeting!”

Stephen Harper (Conservative Party of Canada Leader): “I’m so bored and sleepy. So this is how people feel when I give a speech.”

Paul Martin (Prime Minister of Canada): “Are … are they still there? Are they looking at me?”

Paul Martin: Guitar Hero (2006)

Okay, maybe the word “hero” is a bit of an overstatement. Martin doesn’t exactly conjure an image of Jimi Hendrix in this shot, and shortly after this photo was taken, in January, 2006, he lost the Federal election that saw Stephen Harper – you know, the guy with the leather vest – become Prime Minister. We can only assume Martin’s guitar gently wept as it all went down.

The Photo Op that Went Up in Smoke (2015)

On the surface this seems like a pretty good photo op – Prime Minister Stephen Harper chatting with firefighters who battled the wildfires raging in British Columbia in July.

However, the story this photo is attached to is one of the PM, “getting slammed on social media for having a group of front-line firefighters pulled out of the smoky hills near [Kelowna] so they could pose with him for a patriotic, pre-election picture.”

The caption for the image reads that Harper is actually trying to conduct the firefighters in a rendition of O Canada with him, but they wouldn’t sing. The story made the media rounds and proved a pre-election embarrassment for the prime minister.

And speaking of embarrassments …

Photo courtesy the Prime Minister’s Office

Buy a shirt, Bieber (2012)

For all of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leather vests and failed firefighter photo-ops, you have to admit that he was at least always dressed for the occasion. Pop star Justin Bieber, on the other hand, showed up looking like a reject from Howdy Doody, dressed in baggy overalls and a t-shirt to accept his Diamond Jubilee medal from the Prime Minister in 2012.