Understanding the Canadian 2015 Federal Election (for Canadians): politics as seen through The Littlest Hobo

So if you have friends on social media who are following the Canadian federal election, with one month to go, you may have seen this adorable little Photoshop pop up on your feed:

It's adorable, at least, until you realize that even a *dog* gets acknowledged the election debate before Elizabeth May does. Seriously, boys. This is the 21st century. Open up your little clubhouse.
It’s so adorable…at least, until you realize that even a dog gets acknowledged in the election debate before Elizabeth May does. Seriously, boys. This is the 21st century. Open up the clubhouse.

Notwithstanding the pretty-offensive implied erasure & replacement of Elizabeth May with an adventuring dog, this piece brought a huge smile to my face. He’s not just any dog, after all: if you’re anywhere close to my age, and grew up in Canada, you’ll have some fond memories of The Littlest Hobo, the most beloved dog in Canadian TV history.

Somehow, the sight of these four together kindled a complete episode of the show in my head that explains so much of the electoral situation in a way I think most Canadians would understand.

I’ve just spent way too long (5500+ words) explaining our shameful political landscape to non-Canadians, and as you can imagine, talking for that long about Stephen Harper is heartbreaking and sickening. I needed a palate cleanser–something to clear my head and remember just what a great country Canada really is, and how proud I am to be a part of it. And so, I wrote for you, dear Canadians, this little one-page episode treatment–the kind of thing people writing spec scripts for TV turn out all the time. I hope I’ve somehow captured the spirit of this election, and of The Littlest Hobo, all at the same time.

The Littlest Hobo

Episode 3F01: “Thicker Than Water”

Tom is a surly, plaid-clad forester working in the BC interior. His estranged son Justin has become a slick young lawyer for the logging company owned by a vile developer named Steve. The two sides of the land dispute are reflected in the father-son rivalry.

At first, when Tom finds Hobo in the wilderness, he’s in a bad mood. There’s something wrong with the water and he can’t figure out what’s killing the plants. He’s angry and just tries to shoo the dog away, but begrudgingly accepts him around the camp.

Justin visits the camp to shut it down and serve his old man with some kind of eviction notice. There are terse words between father and son who just can’t see eye-to-eye. Justin comes off as all levels of alpha-douche, but he bends down to pet the dog before he leaves, which is how we know he has a good heart in spite of it all. Maybe he always wanted a dog, and his father never let him have one, and that’s why he’s evil now. 1980s TV is like that. Anyway, he pets the dog and rides off in his slick black sportscar–the colour of oil. Meanwhile, Tom lifts another dead bird into the back of Jack, his rusty old orange pickup truck. He’s worried. Hobo whines with concern.

[act 1 commercial]

After the break comes Developer Steve’s big scene, where he calls Justin into his office, expresses his slimy pride in the boy, and gives him some Evil Paperwork to sign. He chews the scenery a little and establishes himself as the kind of petty, small-minded, generically corrupt villain-of-the-week we always get on the show. After Justin leaves, shaking off his misgivings and resolved to see the deal through, Steve pulls out the Evil Contract he hid even from Justin, and slips it into the hidden wall-safe in his closet, on top of a suspiciously large pile of money.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, Hobo comes across Steve’s illegal drilling machines hidden in the woods, and alerts angry Tom that one of them has sprung a dangerous oil leak and is killing off the plants downstream. Tom drives the old pickup to town to warn Justin about Steve’s illegal drilling, but Justin’s infatuated with Steve’s promises of money and power and refuses to listen. Undaunted, Tom goes back to the woods to dismantle the illegal machines himself, smashing them with his trusty hockey stick; but with more heart than foresight he unwittingly breaks an electrical controller and the resulting sparks ignite the oil. Tom is trapped coughing behind a sheet of flame as the forest fire begins to spread. He’s too proud to even ask Hobo for help, but as he succumbs to the smoke the dog leaps over a very small, controlled special-effect fire. He races to town — but is he too late?

[act 2 commercial]

Hobo reaches the town but can’t get through to any of the townsfolk. Finally he climbs some conveniently-placed boxes and leaps through an open window into Justin’s office, where he’s just about to sign the Evil Paperwork. Luckily, we’ve established that Justin, having a good heart, speaks fluent dog. He realizes immediately what’s happened, and rushes out to rally the backwater town’s volunteer fire department.

Justin races to the scene, somehow ahead of the whole fire department. He careens through the bushes, trashing the slick finish of his car in the process, and waves his tailored suit-jacket ineffectually at the smoke as the firefighters get to work fighting the blaze. With Hobo’s help, Justin finds a half-conscious Tom trapped under a flaming log and pulls him out of the smoke just in the nick of time. He realizes that family, cooperation, and the beauty of nature are more important than money and power, and there’s a tearful reconciliation between father and son. But after one heartwarming hug, a miraculously-recovered Tom sets his bearded jaw angrily. There’s still work to do.

Back in his office, Developer Steve is back in the closet. He’s emptying a hidden safe full of cash into a Calgary Flames gym bag and planning to make a run for it. Tom and Justin show up with the plucky volunteer fire chief, Elizabeth, and the town’s only cop, an unnamed but dangerous-looking French Canadian, just in the nick of time and arrest Steve on some made-up TV charge that he’s probably genuinely broken in real life. The town is saved, father and son are reunited, and the future looks bright.

“We’re always looking for a new firehouse dog,” says Elizabeth — the only speaking line she’s given in the whole show. “Where’d he go?”

But Hobo’s gone again, prancing off down the highway toward his next big adventure. We hear this song as the credits roll.


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