Stephen Harper resigned his seat in parliament. After keeping a low profile in the House of Commons since losing last fall’s election, the former prime minister, 57, resigned on August 26, 2016.
In a tweet he made yesterday morning he stated, “Thank you to Calgarians and Canadians for having given me the honour of serving the best country in the world.”
Despite the success of the late Pierre Trudeau and John Diefenbaker or other popular prime ministers like Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien, Stephen Harper stands out with a terrific record of strong leadership, prudent management and dedicated service. After becoming leader of the united “right,” he defied the odds and proved he could garner enough right-of-centre votes to form a majority with little or no support from Quebec.
The former prime minister’s Conservative Party is decades younger than the Liberal party and the NDP, yet it grew—in no small part due to Harper’s skill—from a modest prairie movement (the Reform Party) in the mid-eighties to the governing party of Canada, which threatened to replace, some believe, the Liberals as Canada’s natural governing party.
Harper led our country through some of the most trying economic times of the last half-century, and nearly a decade of war. He initiated a program to rebuild our armed forces—Canada now has the finest small army in the world—and under his leadership Canada assumed a prominent position among mid-size nations.
In the May 2, 2011 election, Stephen Harper led his party to a majority victory and initiated a transformative agenda, especially in the areas of international trade, immigration reform and criminal justice. Under Harper, Canada’s economic record and international profile exceeded most other countries of similar population size. Through tumultuous and uncertain economic times, Harper’s prudent management kept Canada hitting well above its weight.
Leading up to the election, the Globe and Mail—an openly Liberal newspaper—endorsed the Conservative Party. It wrote:
He [Harper] has built the Conservatives into arguably the only truly national party, and during his five years in office has demonstrated strength of character, resolve and a desire to reform. Canadians take Mr. Harper’s successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.
The two blemishes I saw on an otherwise exemplary record were these.
Firstly, there were some very smart people on Harper’s team. On the other hand, no Canadian government in my memory was as ham-fisted when it came to defending missteps or when selling its agenda to the Canadian people. This style—or lack thereof—prompted the “boys in short pants” Parliament Hill nickname for those running the Prime Minister’s Office during the Harper era.
Secondly, the form of public communication the Harper Conservatives seemed to prefer were multi-million-dollar media ads that over-sold the pet project of the day, and were little more than cheesy public relations campaigns trying to boost popularity of the government.
Notwithstanding those negative perceptions, Stephen Harper gets my vote as best prime minister since Louis St. Laurent.
Thank you, Mr. Harper for your service and may you enjoy success and happiness in your new endeavours.