Harper will be remembered for uniting Conservatives: Political scientist

As former prime minister Stephen Harper prepares to leave public life, the comparisons and analysis have begun.

Mount Royal political scientist Duane Bratt says Harper wasn’t interested in sitting on the back benches with the title of “former prime minister,” but wanted to make a graceful exit.

“No previous prime minister would do that, with the exception of John Diefenbaker, who hung around for another decade, and in fact had to die in office before he left,” Bratt said.

He adds, Harper didn’t want to pull a move similar to Alberta’s former premier Jim Prentice and resign on election night.

“The elections were in October, it’s now August. You’ve done your duty to your constituents, now you call for a by-election.”

In terms of Harper’s legacy, Bratt says no one piece of legislation will define the former Conservative leader.

“What I think you do see is a whole series of small Conservative steps that have gradually changed the face of the country.”

Bratt says Harper’s ability to unite Conservatives will have a lasting impression.

“The irony of that is he was an instrumental role in splitting the party when he was with the reform party,” he said.

When it comes to how people will remember Harper, it’s too early to say, but Bratt points out, everyone hated Brian Mulroney when he left office, and it wasn’t much better for Jean Chretien. However, most tend to highlight the positives for both of these former prime ministers.

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