The Man Who Changed Canada

As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper forged a legacy that neither his supporters nor detractors can forget.

By Peter Bjel.

On the last Friday of August, Stephen Harper, formerly Canada’s prime minister for nearly a decade, announced his resignation as a Member of Parliament. His place in Canadian history was assured, after leading a new and unified Conservative Party of Canada to power three times, outlasting all previous Conservative prime ministers but one, Canada’s very first, John A. MacDonald.

His resignation concluded a process that began in October of last year, when his government lost an election to Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party. Harper’s concession speech did not mourn; instead, he emphasized his government’s achievements. “And when the next time comes,” he said, “this party will offer Canada a strong and clear alternative, based on our Conservative values.”

Laudable though his accomplishments may be, Harper remains vexing and polarizing in ways not seen for some time in a Canadian prime minister. While most conservatives were more or less united behind his leadership and policies, his government was highly divisive and failed to pursue a truly pan-Canadian agenda. But, however uncelebrated, Stephen Harper left an enormous legacy by uniting the right, managing an economic crisis, and …

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