Stephen Harper on Populism & Conservative Party


Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper talks populism, Canada’s conservative party and the evolution of the conservative movement. Harper is promoting his new book Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption on the Ben Shapiro Sunday Special. Harper talks about everything from the disastrous National Energy Program implemented by Pierre Trudeau to the future of the conservative party.

The host wastes no time, asking Harper to clarify populism’s role in conservatism. Harper responds,

“I would argue that real conservatism is actually populist conservatism. It is non-theoretical, and it is targeted towards the interest of ordinary people and their concerns.”

When asked about the similarities between Canadian and American conservatism, Harper contends concerning Canada,

“It is more communitarian, less individualist.”

And that,

“If you see conservatism as a balance of liberty and order. It’s more on the order side than the liberty side.”

Furthermore,

“Conservatism in Canada, historically and presently, means support for the institution of the Crown. Which of course, in the United States, conservatism is based on opposition to the Crown.”

Canada's conservative party

Harper’s Conservative Party and the Role of Immigration

Harper explains,

“The Conservative Party of Canada is one of the few right of center parties of the world, that gets a large percentage and sometimes an outright majority of the immigrant vote. So, we’re very distinct that way.”

He goes on to explain,

“One of the things that have made Canada and the United States and our society successful is that we embrace newcomers. Who, frankly, are often conservatives. They’re entrepreneurial, they’re ambitious, they’re aspirational, they believe in family, they believe in faith, they’re opposed to crime, etc. So, I think, properly done, immigrants should be a really great base for a conservative party. But first and foremost, immigration has to be legal.”

Harper and Shapiro Talk Trade

On China and the trading relationship with the U.S. and Canada, Harper cites “massive imbalances” and “grossly unequal access” to markets. He concludes that the “consequence has been, the outflow of millions of jobs, from the United States, from Canada to China, with no discernible benefits to our working population.”

Let’s look quickly at Canada’s trade deficit, which in itself is a shock given our reputation as a trading nation and exporter of natural resources.

Since the Great Recession of 2008, Canada continues to dance back and forth between surplus and deficit. However, the trend of trade deficits is intact. Canada trade deficit narrowed to just $0.42 billion in September of 2018. But, market expectations of a CAD 0.15 billion surplus. Canada’s Conservative Party is keenling aware of current trade deficits. With 2019 an election year in Canada, one can bet trade policy will be front and center as campaigning begins.

Canada's balance of trade