Opinion: A student’s view on Stephen Harper’s legacy

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One year ago, on the 4th of November, Stephen Harper advised the Governor General of Canada to give the reigns of Parliament to Justin Trudeau. That was Harper’s last day as Prime Minister of Canada.

In August 2016, he resigned his seat as a MP from Calgary Heritage, and quit politics to continue his life as a member of a law firm, amongst other activities.

Whatever opinions someone may have of Harper and his time as Prime Minister, he did do some great things during his tenure.

Even before becoming Prime Minister, Harper showed great political acumen by not only becoming leader of the Canadian Alliance, but by uniting the two main right-wing political parties in Canada: the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. This resulted in the formation of the Conservative Party.

Harper was the most unlikely of Prime Ministers. The fact that he got elected to the lead the country remains one of the most radical happenings in Canadian political history. After all, unlike many past leaders, he was not a member of the Laurentian elite. Rather, his main support came from Western Canada, primarily from the Prairies.

Stephen Harper’s two minority governments (2006-2008, 2008-2011) have been the longest periods of time in Canadian history that a minority government has governed the nation.

Harper won the first conservative-leaning majority in twenty years in 2011, when he and his Conservatives won 166 seats. Although it was a small majority, it was just enough for people to take him and his Conservative party seriously. His majority government was looked forward to by right-wingers as a time of change and action. In some ways Harper satisfied their desires, yet in some ways he did not.

Harper’s majority government (2011-2015) passed some important legislation and measures: in 2014, his government passed an act which made the victims of crimes more important than the criminal. Additionally, he increased the number of seats in the House of Commons from 308 to 338. While some years his budgets resulted in deficits, others achieved modest surpluses.

He was certainly tough on crime and terrorism, but he attempted to put on a tough demeanor that certainly was not his. After all, introverts hardly ever make good extroverts.

Most right-wing politicians pledge themselves as nationalists; Harper, on the other hand, recognized the Québecois as a separate nation.

Harper’s near ten year government let in around 250,000 immigrants, the most a single government has in modern Canadian history.

His tenure was, essentially, a continuation of the Pierre Trudeau years: he kept up the Trudeau tradition of massive deficits, coupled with the practice of autocratic parliamentarian rule. He pledged himself to small government and frugal fiscal policies, yet intruded into people’s privacy with his anti-terrorist legislation and spent billions bailing out different industries.

All-in-all, Harper wasn’t as much a radical as most of the Liberal media has made him out to be. He was only a continuation of the same old, same old.