Rick Mercer searches for Canadas Next Great Prime Minister

CanWest News Service
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Rick Mercer is not out to rock the vote. Seriously. Seriousness may not be his stock in trade, but he is serious about one thing: Canadas Next Great Prime Minister, the reality-TV competition he hosts is not an exercise in partisan politics, or a seminar in the art of the backroom deal. No one will be able to watch Canadas Next Great Prime Minister and accuse it of having a Liberal or Conservative lean, Mercer says - be they Grit, Tory, NDP or Rhino.

Rick Mercer is not out to rock the vote. Seriously. Seriousness may not be his stock in trade, but he is serious about one thing: Canadas Next Great Prime Minister, the reality-TV competition he hosts is not an exercise in partisan politics, or a seminar in the art of the backroom deal. No one will be able to watch Canadas Next Great Prime Minister and accuse it of having a Liberal or Conservative lean, Mercer says - be they Grit, Tory, NDP or Rhino.

If, on the other hand, Canadas next prime minister should one day emerge from the group of candidates vying for this years title - and the $50,000 that goes with it - no one would be happier than Mercer.

Leadership ability - the real deal, and not an ability to work a TV sound bite - is a vanishing commodity, Mercer said. The finalists in this weekends Canadas Next Great Prime Minister will be grilled on their grasp of current affairs, their poise under pressure, their capacity to come up with creative solutions for the pressing problems of the day, and their ability to hold an audiences attention, whether through oratory or an aptitude for the give-and-take of Q&A sessions.

At the end of the program, the in-studio audience will vote for the candidate they think is best qualified for the job.

The age range of this years candidates is 17-24 - a pretty wide spectrum, Mercer says - and slightly older than the candidates in last years inaugural edition.

Age and maturity make a difference, Mercer insists.

I thought they were great contestants last year, Mercer said, on the phone from his home in Toronto. But you really had the feeling that these were young people who some day could make great members of Parliament, but maybe werent quite there yet. Whereas, with this group, you think, Gee, I wish they were my Member of Parliament; theyre better than the one I have now.

Ba-dum-bump.

But seriously.

This years group of leadership candidates for Canadas Next Great Prime Minister is accomplished to a fault, Mercer says - and, as far as he knows, scandal-free.

One is a lawyer who was valedictorian of his graduating class at New York University. Another is a fully qualified medical doctor. Taken together, Mercer says, theyre bright, articulate and unencumbered by party affiliations.

The judges, too, are a little different this time around.

The panel of former prime ministers once again includes Paul Martin, John Turner and Kim Campbell. This time, though, the 400-pound gorilla in the room - the 181-kilogram gorilla, if you prefer - is Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams.

Its former prime ministers and a sitting premier, whos certainly no stranger to controversy, Mercer said. And certainly no stranger to putting prime ministers on the hot seat.

Canadas Next Great Prime Minister airs Sunday, March 23 on CBC at 7 ET/PT.



Organizations: New York University, CBC

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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