For four years, the Vancouver-based media satirists at SHD.com were a constant thorn in the side of the Stephen Harper–led government.
Through a series of pranks and videos that would have made The Daily Show proud, they revealed the brutality of the Conservative government, ridiculed its economic action plan, and showcased its contempt for the environment and democracy.
Initially called Shit Harper Did, the group later changed the name to SHD.com and operated through the Canadian Mobilization and Education Hub Society. And the organizers can claim credit for engaging more young people in federal politics, which was reflected in sharply higher turnout in the 2015 election.
One of our favourite stunts was getting the Conservative candidate in Vancouver Kingsway, Jojo Quimpo, to sign a pledge that he would not cheat during the 2015 federal campaign.
Here was the kicker: Quimpo promised not to do what "my counterparts have done...in the last three elections".
But it came at a personal price for the organizers. In an email to supporters, Shit Harper Did cofounder and Vancouver comedian Sean Devlin revealed that the group's nonprofit society was stung by a "false tax assessment" a few months before voting day in 2015.
"To put it simply: they said we owed them thousands of dollars that we in fact did not," Devlin wrote. "In response we had to go through an appeals process that absorbed a lot of our energy and time prior to, during and even after the election."
While this was "extremely stressful", Devlin noted that the group eventually won the appeal. But then, the Canada Revenue Agency "started cracking down on the personal taxes of various members of our team".
"On top of all that—in the aftermath of the election we had to participate in a drawn out mandatory auditing and reporting process," Devlin added. "We were subject to the same rules and regulations as political entities 10 times our size. We had to hire teams of professional accountants to help us and even they admitted that these 3rd party election laws were ridiculous and clearly designed to discourage grassroots efforts."
After Justin Trudeau became prime minister, the group created a clever video about the investor-state dispute-settlement mechanism under the Trans Pacific Partnership. It was broadcast in 16 30-second spots on CBC, according to Devlin.
But he noted that there isn't nearly as much of a public appetite for its confrontational tactics in the Trudeau era. And for this reason, the group has decided to disband and focus on solo projects.
"This doesn’t mean there won’t be a reunion when the public’s honeymoon phase with Trudeau fades, but for now we must go into indefinite hibernation," Devlin stated.