12/27/2017 06:28 EST | Updated 08/29/2018 11:06 EDT

Follow-Up Podcast: Favourite Unscripted Canadian Politics Moments In 2017

Things nerds notice and appreciate.

Stephanie Sannuto/HuffPost Canada
Conservative MP Michael Chong sits down with HuffPost Canada's Althia Raj in Toronto in March of 2017.

Before we launched our politics podcast "Follow-Up" earlier this year, we had no idea how much time it takes to put an episode of radio together. And what a ride it's been since our March launch.

Our Ottawa bureau chief and show host Althia Raj has interviewed MPs and everyday people across the country, collecting interview tape Canadians won't hear in hourly radio reports or on TV news.

We've got a regular slate of programming coming in 2018 so be sure to subscribe to stay up-to-date with the best (and worst) of Canadian politics.

For now here are some of our favourite moments, a mix notable to downright entertaining clips, from our first year of "Follow-Up."

Heckler calls CBC "fake news" and snubs HuffPost

For our first episode, we needed a cold open that was grabby and could set the tone for our new series. Althia uploaded a bunch of tape she collected and this clip of two men mistaking her for a CBC News reporter immediately stood out.

"Fake news corporation. You guys are going to be out of work soon. We're going to make sure you're out of work. Out, out on the street," they told her. I found the entire exchange both horrifying as someone who works in media, but also quite entertaining as a listener.

Especially after Althia revealed that she works for HuffPost. Which one of the men brushing off her credentials again: "The Huffington Post? Oh, another Liberal media station."

- Zi-Ann Lum, politics reporter/Follow-Up co-producer

Listen to the heckler starting at the 0:06 mark.

Michael Chong goes off on Kellie Leitch

In the same episode, then-Conservative leadership hopeful Michael Chong sat down with Raj in Toronto to answer the question: what's going on with the Conservative party?

At the time, a lot of coverage of the race was focused on Kellie Leitch's controversial proposal to screen newcomers to Canada for so-called "anti-Canadian values," an idea Chong blasted as dog-whistle, anti-Muslim politics.

At one point in the interview, Chong was asked about a populist surge in Canada and the campaign of fellow Tory MP Leitch. He didn't hold back.

"The language that she's used and the context in which that language has been used has clearly played to anti-immigrant sentiment," he said.

"She has framed this debate in terms of anti-Canadian values and suggested that immigrants coming to this country have anti-Canadian values. I think the proof's in the pudding. Two white supremacist groups in this country have come out publicly and endorsed her campaign for leadership."

- Ryan Maloney, senior politics editor/Follow-Up contributor

Listen to Chong's burn starting at the 23:21 mark.

Scott Reid's F-bomb

One of the most time-consuming, but worthwhile podcast tasks is identifying audio for soundscapes. Those are the series of clips, glued together from broadcast news or tape from committee hearings that the general public generally don't pay attention to.

Earlier this year, when opposition MPs declared "war" and staged a filibuster over the Liberals' proposed to changes to the standing orders—the rules that govern the House of Commons—the marathon hearings would sometimes have top-notch impromptu remarks.

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Opposition parties didn't respond well to Government House Leader Bardish Chagger tabling a proposal to make sweeping changes to the standing orders earlier this year. Chagger is pictured here in an Oct. 25, 2016 photo in the House of Commons.

For example, Tory MP Scott Reid's frustration level was so high that he dropped an f-bomb into a hot mike during a committee hearing, saying of the Liberals' proposed House changes: "It's an irrelevant idea when the Liberals in this committee are just ram through whatever the f*** they want—I withdraw that word."

At the end of the episode, we have this wonderful soundcloud that's basically an audio tapestry of filibustering MPs losing their minds into the late hours of the night. NDP MP David Christopherson sings, Garnett Genuis declines a Red Bull and Big Mac to please his physician wife, and one MP nicknames Government House Leader Bardish Chagger, "Big Brother."

- Zi-Ann Lum, politics reporter/Follow-Up co-producer

We had to bleep Reid's expletive for radio. Listen to it starting at the 0:06 mark.

Guy Caron on Bill 62

Guy Caron may have finished fourth in the NDP leadership contest but his stock rose enough that he is now Jagmeet Singh's pinch-hitter in Parliament.

That's what makes Caron's August chat with Follow-Up about Bill 62, a contentious piece of Quebec legislation seen by many as targeting Muslims, so interesting. Caron made his case that this is a debate Canada needs to let the province have if we are to recognize "Quebec as a nation within Canada."

And he was asked if Singhwho wears the religious symbols of a turban and kirpancan win the battleground province that is seen as so central to the NDP forming government. The veteran Quebec MP said his future leader is a "candidate with strengths and weaknesses like we all are."

- Ryan Maloney, senior politics editor/Follow-Up contributor

Listen to the discussion starting at the 19:08 mark.

A dash of Scheer confidence

For those paying attention, Andrew Scheer was always a solid contender to win the Conservative leadership race. A so-called consensus candidate, Scheer was seen as someone who would do enough to satiate different parts of the Tory coalition.

Though Scheer is sometimes framed as bashful and aw-shucks nice, he seemed to always believe he could catch the more flashy front-runner Maxime Bernier. That's what makes it fun to listen again to a brief exchange that opened Scheer's sit-down with Raj in the final stretch of the race.

"You think I'm going to win?" he asked Althia, off-the-cuff, in a May episode.

"I think you have a chance of winning," she replied.

"I think I have a good chance of winning," he said back.

- Ryan Maloney, senior politics editor/Follow-Up contributor

Listen to Scheer make his case starting at the 0.07 mark.

When Jagmeet Singh clarified his fart quip "for the record"

When Althia dumps interview tape that she's collected into our shared folder, sometimes the candid side of polished politicians unexpectedly come out.

One example is Jagmeet Singh while he was still an NDP leadership candidate. He opened a bottled drink while the microphone was recording before the start of the interview.

A gassy "pfft" is heard on tape and Althia jokes, "Yeah, don't worry. It didn't sound like you were farting. It's just some water."

After some muted laughter, Singh responds: "It's very unlady-like for you to point out that, huh." There was a short silence before he continued: "I'm just joking. I don't prescribe to gendered notions of what is appropriate behaviour or not, for the record."

Listen to Singh's joke and clarification starting at the 5:41 mark.

The first part of the comment was so unexpected, given Singh's polished progressive image up to that part of the campaign. It was like in that moment, right after he joke about traditional gender stereotypes, he realized he was vying to become the leader of a federal party and immediately backtracked his comment.

I laughed when I heard the exchange and immediately shared it with Ryan to gauge his reaction. He laughed, which was my cue to write it into that episode's script. Beyond the obvious juvenile humour, what I liked about that Singh's candid response was how natural it was—which is an impression that's can be hard to come by under hot camera lights.

- Zi-Ann Lum, politics reporter/Follow-Up co-producer

When Roger Cuzner got self-conscious

Politicians are people too. And sometimes, albeit rarely, an MP will get self-conscious about what they've just said into a journalist's microphone.

Althia spoke to Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner on our fifteenth episode, and at the end of their chat, he checks if his words are "just for print anyway." When he's told no, it's for radio, you can almost feel his cold sweat break out before he says, "I wouldn't have sucked so bad."

"No, you were good," she responds.

"I wouldn't have sucked so bad," he repeats.

Maybe this exchange stuck out for me because I watch too many question periods and politician scrums. MPs are usually media trained to be on message, strongly encouraged to stick to talking points. It's rare to hear a politician, from any party, beat themselves up before pundits or the opposition get to them first.

- Zi-Ann Lum, politics reporter/Follow-Up co-producer

Listen to the moment Cuzner realized his comments were for radio starting at the 36:12 mark.

Chats with the people behind the people

Two of my favourite episodes were the ones that quickly came together (largely thanks to the hustle of Zi, Althia and producer Stephanie Werner) after the Conservatives and New Democrats elected new leaders to take on the Liberals in 2019.

Not long after the results were read at the Conservative leadership convention in May, we sat down with Jenni Byrne, a former adviser to prime minister Stephen Harper, and Hamish Marshall, Scheer's campaign manager. (Of course, at the time, we did not yet know about Marshall's links to Rebel Media that would end up becoming its own story).

The biggest takeaway for me was that both Byrne and Marshall saw Scheer's victory as evidence that the party didn't need to pivot away much from the Stephen Harper legacy. A big bet, perhaps, when you consider that contenders like Bernier and Chong were proposing some significant breaks from the way Tories did things in government.

"Our operating assumption when I wrote the campaign plan was that there is what I call a silent Harperite majority within the party... that your average long-term Conservative member was somebody who was pretty happy with the way things had gone for the decade that we were in power and wanted a leader that at least respected that and was compatible with that in some way," Marshall told us.

Listen to that conversation at the 9:27 mark:

Athia spoke with Singh after he won the NDP leadership on the first ballot in October. Yet we also got a chance to discuss the race with his campaign manager Michal Hay and field director Nuvi Sidhu.

Sidhu, in particular, shared her thoughts about how it feels to have played a role in helping Singh become the first non-white leader of a major political party in Canada.

"It hits me in waves. There's moments where it's fine, and moments where I'm a mess. I don't think it's fully, completely hit me," she said. "I think about what it means to a lot of young people of colour out there, especially in this world, Trump's America. It's inspiring."

Listen to that chat at the 41:25 mark:

- Ryan Maloney, senior politics editor/Follow-Up contributor

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Althia Raj gave bottles of water to Jagmeet Singh prior to the interview. In fact, Singh brought his own drink and opened it himself.

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