Stephen Harper recently added the gift of a Fender Stratocaster to a growing collection of electric guitars, the sixth he’s received as prime minister.
Harper, a keyboardist, has a public passion for rock music and Beatles tunes, but his apparent interest in guitar collecting is little known, even in the local Ottawa music scene.
Among the choice instruments he’s declared as gifts over the last five years are guitars signed by Carlos Santana and Gene Simmons, of KISS, as well as a Gibson Robot self-tuning guitar and a handcrafted Canadian electric guitar.
All are listed in Harper’s gift-disclosure declarations to Canada’s ethics commissioner, required under parliamentary rules for public office holders and recently reviewed by CBC News.
The latest acquisition is a custom-made Stratocaster built at the Fender Custom shop in Corona, Calif., in Riverside County. A county official sent the guitar to Harper in November, saying it was meant to honour Canada, the area’s biggest trading partner.
The model includes a maple leaf emblem on the pickguard that lights up in red whenever the volume control is pressed.
“Please be assured that this iconic instrument will find a special place close to my piano,” Harper said in a thank-you note quoted in a local paper last month.
The prime minister’s son Ben is the family guitarist. And although his father made the gift declaration, Ben was the intended recipient of two guitars from Nickelback – a bass guitar and the Gibson Robot – in April 2010.
The Santana-signed guitar was a gift from the president of Mexico at the Toluca, Mexico, three amigos summit, though it was built by Paul Reed Smith of Maryland.
Another choice specimen is a handcrafted electric guitar built by the Wild Honey Guitar Co. of Mississauga, Ont., made and presented by a couple from Thunder Bay, Ont. The registry puts its value at $1,200, the only guitar declaration with a dollar value attached.