I join countless others in thanking my friend, the Rt Hon Stephen Harper for his devotion to Canada, his leadership, and his profound spirit of public service.
I have known Stephen for twenty-five years. During part of that time, he and I were leaders in the extra-Parliamentary conservative movement, at the National Citizens Coalition and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation respectively. We both served in the Reform Party caucus, and in time worked toward the goal of reuniting conservatives at the national level. And for a decade I was proud to work under his leadership as a Minister in the Conservative government that achieved so much for Canada.
Stephen’s brilliant leadership led to a renaissance of the conservative movement and Conservative Party in Canada. He took over the leadership of the Canadian Alliance when it was close to single digits in the polls, and conservatives were divided into three factions in Parliament. Through force of character, great wisdom, and endless work he managed to reunite conservative Canadians and fellow travellers to create a coalition that formed the longest-serving Conservative national government since Sir John A Macdonald in the nineteenth century.
The achievements of that government were remarkable:
- giving Canadians the lowest federal tax burden in six decades;
- bringing us through the global economic crisis more strongly than any peer country;
- balancing the federal budget during trying times while increasing support for priorities from health care to infrastructure;
- strengthening national unity by diminishing both western alienation and separatist sentiment in Quebec to their lowest level in recent history;
- articulating a robust, principled foreign policy that stood by besieged allies such as Ukraine and Israel;
- aiding the most vulnerable through the Child and Maternal Health Initiative, and the defence of persecuted religious minorities;
- renewing a proud, historically-grounded sense of Canadian identity;
- strengthening our national security to cope with the threat of global terrorism;
- welcoming 2.6 million new Canadians, while reforming the immigration system to make it work better for Canada and for newcomers.
- Enormous support or Canadian families, expanding their choices and economic freedom.
These and other achievements resulted in average Canadian families having the highest standard of living and disposable incomes in the world, for the first time ever. As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper never focussed on building monuments to himself or his legacy, but on the practical needs and concerns of regular Canadians.
Personally, I thank Stephen for the opportunity to serve Canadians in several roles as a Minister, and for giving me the support to pursue bold reforms in areas like immigration and integration.
All Canadians, regardless of their political views, should also be grateful to Laureen, Ben, and Rachel Harper for the huge personal sacrifices they made to support Stephen over these past two decades. I wish all of them great joy as they now enter private life.
Hon Jason Kenney PC, MP