Albas: Harper was ‘misunderstood’

What I most admired about Harper was that he was he not afraid to make decisions that were necessary for Canada’s long-term prosperity.

Last week I was saddened to learn of the passing of former World War II veteran and retired MP Fred King of Kaleden, B.C.

Fred was a kind, caring man, who gave back greatly to his community in many different ways that extended well beyond his time in Ottawa.

While I considered Fred a close personal friend, he was also a mentor who offered support and sage advice on many issues around our region.

What I most admired about him was his sincere willingness to always help others, many who were complete strangers never asking anything in return only a desire to try and bring happiness and help to those who were in need.

It is a privilege to consider Fred King my friend and to recognize his contributions and his service for the betterment of others.

Another former MP I would like to pay tribute to is former prime minister, Stephen Harper, who has retired from Parliament.

From my own personal experience Harper was perhaps one of the most misunderstood elected officials I have yet met, who endured significant personal and public attacks that were at odds with my interactions with him during my time in the Ottawa.

In my experience Harper was someone who cared deeply about Canadian families and encouraged policies that promoted prosperity and employment.

As my colleague, MP Pierre Poilievre recently observed, under Harper the number of Canadians living in poverty declined to a record low of 4.2 per cent, while middle class incomes rose by 11 per cent and as we know Canadian middle class prosperity actually surpassed that of the U.S. for the first time in 2014. All that happened while managing to balance the budget in the final year of the previous parliament.

On a personal level, as prime minister, Harper eliminated—retroactively—a “gold-plated” pension perk that paid every former Canadian PM 66 per cent of his or her salary on retirement.

Eliminating this perk alone personally cost Harper (and saved taxpayers) between $1.5 million and $2 million in future retirement benefits.

Harper also brought fairness to the MP pension plan and to the public sector pension plan by ensuring those plans were funded equally on a 50-50 contribution rate. These changes are estimated to save Canadian taxpayers close to $2.6 billion over the next five years.

What I most admired about Harper was that he was he not afraid to make difficult and unpopular decisions that were necessary for Canada’s long-term prosperity.

It should also be noted that his electoral rivals tried to paint him as someone who would try to dismantle our health care system by cutting federal transfer payments to provinces.

But Harper consistently raised federal transfers each year and insisted that his ministers support these year over year increases while finding efficiencies in their departments and staying focused on growing the economy.

While I appreciate some may see my comments as partisan, I have met few people who believe raising federal funding for important priorities like health care, or forcing MPs to pay more into their own pension plan, are bad moves.

Ultimately leadership means taking principled positions and making at times difficult decisions and for that, I would like to recognize Harper’s service to Canadians.