Stephen Harper’s (probably) final speech as MP

Harper uses stage at annual Stampede barbecue to pass the torch to Jason Kenney

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to attendees at the annual Calgary Conservative barbecue in Calgary, Saturday, July 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to attendees at the annual Calgary Conservative barbecue in Calgary, Saturday, July 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

If you went strictly by Stephen Harper’s spoken record, he never resigned as Conservative leader after last fall’s election defeat, and he’s got no plans to do anything but carry out his full four-year term as MP for Calgary Heritage.

At October’s election-night event, he let a press release make his announcement about his party leadership rather than give those darn media the “I step down” soundbite. His people let word slip out before the Conservative convention in May he’d leave as MP this summer, but made zero mention of it at his convention speech. Nor did he confirm his plans to constituents Saturday while wearing red, orange and black plaid with dark jeans at his annual Stampede barbecue fundraiser at Heritage Park in his southwest Calgary riding.

After all, doing so risked overwhelming the headline he wanted to make at this event, one where as speechifying prime minister he normally avoided making big news. (For the first time in more than a decade, he came here without the PMO to distribute prepared text of the speech; Maclean’s transcribed the short oratory, below.) He endorsed Jason Kenney and his multistep bid to take over the Alberta PC party, merge it with the Wildrose, and stampede Rachel Notley’s NDP out of the provincial legislature’s government offices. “To hear those words from him in what is his last political speech as an MP is actually, for me personally, very touching,” Kenney told reporters, coming as close as anybody would to affirming this was an era-ending speech by the former prime minister.

Perhaps it was selfless of Harper: where he could have focused the spotlight on himself, he instead beamed it on his most trusted senior soldier in the conservative cause. In the place where Harper, Preston Manning and Kenney first cried “the West wants in” in the 1980s and 1990s, the small-government right itself needs to get back in. As if the 700-person crowd wasn’t already buzzing with excitement about Kenney’s new push already, Harper ensured it not only outshone what are likely his own final public words before officially entering private life, but also interim leader Rona Ambrose’s first speech to the Stampede crowd, as well as federal Conservatives’ own leadership contenders; Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong and Maxime Bernier were all at the BBQ as well, but darned if they could command much oxygen.

For the record, here is Stephen Harper’s (probably) final speech in his 16 years as MP:

Thanks to Kevin (Sorenson, Crowfoot MP) for those kind words earlier; thanks to all of you for welcoming Laureen and me back to this, the great city of Calgary. And I want to thank all of you for being here tonight, to support our local Conservative riding associations. Let’s begin by giving a big hand to these here organizers and volunteers to show that at heart, this city of Calgary remains true blue.

Folks, we’ve been coming together for this barbecue for over a decade now. And I know each and every one of us walks away at the end feeling more energized, more optimistic and more encouraged about the values we share as Conservatives. This event has always symbolized our commitment to those holding a true, united grassroots movement. Not a party kept afloat by union money, by donations, by media hype or by extensive taxpayer subsidies.

No, friends, we come together year after year to demonstrate that our Conservative Party represents the vision of Canada shared by the millions of regular Canadian families who work hard to contribute to this country and make it a success. And it has been fitting that we come together here in Alberta, because this province is the beating heart of the Canadian conservative movement.

And friends, if you bear with me, before I get to our special headline speaker tonight, I do want to spend a little moment on Alberta. Because friends, in Alberta, when we were uniting the party — the Conservative movement federally — a unity that allowed us to form the longest-serving Conservative government since John A. Macdonald, while we were doing that, friends, that unity, that Conservative unity, has remained elusive here in Alberta. And with terrible consequences.

Workers losing their jobs. Businesses closing their doors. Taxes skyrocketing. Families without prospects. That must change, my friends.

My friends, I believe that the leadership and the membership of the Wildrose party want conservative unity and want positive change for this province. And my friends, someone has stepped forward to bring an agenda of conservative unity and positive change to the PC party, and that someone has been on my side for almost a decade and a half. He has demonstrated time and again that he is a principled, thoughtful and highly capable conservative.

And friends, I would ask you tonight, I would ask all Alberta members of the Conservative Party of Canada to join me and to work to elect as the next leader of the PC party of Alberta, the Honourable Jason Kenney.

Now friends, less than a year from now, the Conservative Party of Canada will also elect a new leader, the person who will also be trusted with taking our Conservative vision to all Canadians. And there is of course a lot of work needed to be done before that happens, but I have to say that there is nobody who has taken on that task with more skill and success than our interim leader, the honourable Rona Ambrose.

In nearly 10 months since Rona took on the role of Leader of the Opposition, she has charted a clear course forward for our Conservative movement. She has dedicated her efforts to reaching across this country, to show Canadians there remains a party in Ottawa dedicated to the real concerns of hard-working Canadian families and Canadian workers.

There is a reason Rona carried wide and growing responsibilities during the period of our national government. Her approach is a model for what want in our elected officials: accountable to her constituents, honest about our challenges, and focused on common-sense solutions that respect Canadian taxpayers. Rona and the Conservative caucus have presented the most effective opposition this country has seen in decades.

And folks, I know she has a lot more to say about this so without further ado, I’m pleased to welcome to the stage here at the Calgary Stampede, le chef de l’opposition officielle, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Rona Ambrose.


Stephen Harper’s (probably) final speech as MP

  1. I beg to differ that the 700 were abuzz as to Jason Kenney’s unite the right. They were there to see Harper, iconic to all and to bid a final farewell. Definitely, Harper’s endorsement of Kenney’s initiative is great but it underlines the fact that.. no where in Canadian conservatism is there an equal to Stephen Harper. This is a man that kept the Harris Conservatives, Socons and Progressive Conservatives in “his” tent for better than a decade. I have to think that his narrow and hard rule was more to do with keeping these forces in line than governing a country. No where, not even today, do the MPs make move on his former leadership. As long as he sat as an MP, at the end of the front row, near the Speaker of the House, the hundred or so MPs all knew that they were ..his MPs.. and all knew they would not be there without him.
    Without a wholesale change in policy, attitude and appeal, the Conservative Party will never be able to replace him. He leaves the Party with, “..you’re nothing without me!!”

    • “This is a man that kept the Harris Conservatives, Socons and Progressive Conservatives in “his” tent for better than a decade.”

      Nonsense. Harper promised to create a party that kept in the progressives but after stabbing David Orchard in the back on that promise he proceeded to turn it into a staunchly reform alliance party filled with social conservatives who showed nothing but blind loyalty to the man for nine years. Kenney is even further to the right than Harper.

    • Jason Kenny is an extension of Harpers alter ego(Minnie me), he is not a leader material, he is a follower. Kenny has a better chance of becoming straight before he becomes any kind of leader in this country.

      • When you called him Harper’s “Minnie me” and said he ‘has a better chance of becoming straight before he becomes any kind of leader in this country”, I believed you were talking about our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. The guy hasn’t been in power a year and he has broken more promises and been almost as big of a despot as Trudeau. Of course, he always does it with a smile on his face and he apologizes for getting caught acting just like Harper. As for the straight part, Sophie does make a great beard and he and Obama have shared some real moments….just before Obama kicked his a** on the lagging NATO contributions so now we don’t have Steve’s loud rhetoric about Putin, we have troops in Ukraine. Not to mention those useless CF-18 fighter jets that are on their last leg and supposedly can’t be kept up their air…although they could spare two to fly over the Calgary Stampede. Amazing recovery.

        • Oops I meant Trudeau has become almost as big of a despot as Harper.

  2. Thanks for your honourable service and leadership to this great country Mr Harper.

  3. Harper has shown effective, thoughtful leadership in uniting the federal conservative movement. As prime minister, he not only led with a steady hand, but demonstrated a level of classiness rarely seen before by Canadian leaders, or since. Even though he now amply deserves to be able to look to the needs of his own family, I hope he still finds a way to continue to serve in public life.

  4. First Kenney and now Mr. Peepers (Tony Clement) step up to the plate. It is true that “old politicians never die, they (should) just graciously fade away”.

    Harper will be remembered even more unfavourably than Mulroney and who would have thought that possible. He was a divisive character, secretive and unaccountable to the electorate. To give anyone his political endorsement is the kiss of death for that person.

    On the brighter side, it’s nice to see that he isn’t wearing that hilariously too small black leather vest at Calgary’s annual “let’s hope no horses are killed this year” event.

    • I, for one, will be eternally grateful we had all those steady and peaceful years with Stephen Harper. I shudder to think where the country will be going next with Mr. Selfie.

  5. It looks a though the US may do what Canada did so recently and that is to elect someone who will bring shame to an entire country the way that Harper did. In the end Harper will be remembered for nothing at all.

    • I guess this is a barbque.that will be last hosting a large group of losers.starting with harper ,including Kenny ,and also headling by ms nipples. and big ones too,,the current leader,like someone said oldtime losers……past political has beans,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  6. Thank you to Rona Ambrose for appropriating Donald Trump’s campaign slogan and proving conclusively that hardcore Canadian Conservatives are as thick as fence posts.

    “Let’s Make Alberta Great Again”, she howled. Indeed.

    Help Me Rona, Help Help Me Rona … said the Beach Boys. Sort of.

  7. Well if you guys would keep this stuff confined to Alberta the rest of us wouldn’t mind.

    • Well,

      If Gerald Butts has his way, they will at least keep Alberta’s resources confined to the province. Once the NDP is gone, this will be felt by the rest of Canada; particularly when they are asked to cough up the blood money to keep Quebec happy.

      • Ahhh I see you’re back, and as confused as ever.

  8. Kenny was at the Stampede , wearing his Priministerial blazer – it masks the sweat. But he’ll need a level 4 makeover before he looks able to exercise ‘harpergovermint’ chops – jeez the ladies motorcycle wing of the party would eat him alive!

    So the Steverino is stepping down – don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out. Your pension should catch up to you in whatever board rooms you sit.

  9. I hope this will be Stephen Harper’s last speech. Finally, he can have some peace with his family instead of having all you trolls and the biased media to follow him around and criticize his every action. To Stephen Harper – you were a great, great Prime Minister. Thank goodness for those years with you, and may you now have a normal life.

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