Former prime minister Stephen Harper will be stepping down from his job as an MP before the fall session of Parliament kicks off.
Global News has confirmed that Harper intends to leave politics sometime over the summer.
He remained in office following the Conservative loss in last year’s federal election, and has attended a majority of votes in the House since then. Harper was replaced on an interim basis by Rona Ambrose, and the party is expected to select a new leader in spring 2017.
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Harper has not spoken in the House of Commons since he was prime minister, and has not granted any media interviews since the election. He typically enters and leaves Parliament Hill’s Centre Block through a back door.
Harper’s future could include work on a number of boards or he may set up his own institute, according to a Globe and Mail report. His priorities will reportedly be in areas like geopolitics and global free trade. That comes as no surprise to Harper’s former cabinet colleague and former president of the Treasury Board, Tony Clement.
“I always thought that Stephen Harper wouldn’t just be about corporate boards … he’s got an intellectual curiosity and depth that goes beyond those things,” Clement said, adding that Harper is very unlikely to meddle in domestic affairs.
“You’re not going to see him interfering with Canadian politics,” he said. “No one likes to see former prime ministers become the cranky uncles you want to hide away in the attic.”
Clement added that Harper’s decision to bow out within a year of the election is “entirely appropriate” and that he wishes his former leader well.
“I think he’s at peace with himself,” he said. “I believe, and I believe he that he believes, that history will treat his prime minister-ship well … We all knew that he was making plans to move on with his life.”
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Former Tory strategist Tim Powers said Harper’s departure is as much about the Conservative brand as it is about his personal career path.
“He knows that if Conservatives are going to turn the page, Canadians can’t be seeing his face day and night on television screens.”
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The role of “international agent provocateur” will likely appeal to the former PM, said Powers, and he may find himself modelling his future career on that of former British prime minister Tony Blair, pushing international policy and ideas.
As for how history will remember Harper, Powers said it’s far too early to say.
“I think you can’t define a prime minister’s legacy within a year of that prime minister leaving office,” he said. “History is viewed through windows of time.”
With files from Mike Lecouteur.