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Panda Love Master: Canada’s Prime Minister Promises Double the Pandas If Re-Elected

Yes, Stephen Harper did actually make this election campaign promise. He's well on his way to delivering on it, since the Toronto Zoo announced its female panda on loan from China is pregnant with twins.

by Justin Ling
Sep 30 2015, 10:15pm

Photo via Conservative Party of Canada

In what could be one of Canada's strangest — or cheekiest — election promises in recent history, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is vowing to multiply Canada's giant panda population by a factor of two.

"Doubling Canada's panda population is an ambitious goal," Harper said in a press release on Wednesday, where he committed to increasing Canada's panda supply by 2016.

The announcement by the governing Conservative Party isn't much of a promise, however, as Canada's contingent of pandas is already projected to double.

In 2013, Harper secured Er Shun and Da Mao on a trip to China. The couple were loaned to Ottawa by the Communist government in Beijing as part of, in the words of the Chinese ambassador, a 'VIP' program — "Very Important Pandas."

  1. Earlier on Wednesday, news broke that Er Shun was pregnant — with twins.

Meaning that Harper's panda pledge is, barring complications, already on track. 

Even so, Harper's election opponents have yet to respond to any firm commitment on panda numbers.

It's not clear whether Harper's pledge is to merely see Er Shun carry her babies to term, or whether he expects Er Shun and Da Mao to get back to the work of replenishing the giant panda population. The announcement didn't specify whether the party wants eight pandas, or whether four is enough.

Nature may also confound Harper's plan. Giant pandas, an endangered species, have a mortality rate of between 20 to 26 percent in their first year of life, meaning the campaign promise is hardly a sure-thing.

As the pandas are technically China's, after the little pandas pop out, they'll still be on loan — meaning Canada's panda population will go back down to zero in eight years, unless Ottawa can secure more of the Asiatic bears.

In reality, the press release was an expert piece of panda-ering.

"The prime minister also noted that his low-tax, balanced-budget plan to protect Canada's economy would ensure a consistent supply of bamboo and other treats for Er-Shun and Da Mao," the release reads, pumping well-trodden lines from Harper's campaign stock stump speech.

But it also belies an aggressive marketing campaign the Conservatives are making into the Chinese-Canadian community.

Roughly 4.5 percent of Canadians list their ethnic origin as Chinese — nearly 1.5 million people — and make up sizeable voting blocks in numerous swing constituencies across the country.

Telling of the Conservatives plan to win the Chinese vote, the party's website is available in three languages — English, French, and Mandarin.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling

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