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Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at his Langevin office in Ottawa, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at his Langevin office in Ottawa, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Politics

Stephen Harper resigns as MP to pursue consultancy career Add to ...

Stephen Harper has a new economic action plan, as the former prime minister tries to leverage his time as a G7 leader into a successful career in the world of international business consultants.

Releasing a video on his Facebook page Friday morning, Mr. Harper announced his resignation as a member of Parliament 10 months after his government was defeated in a general election, laying out his key accomplishments as prime minister from 2006 to 2015.

Simultaneously, some of his closest former advisers started to promote the launch of Harper & Associates, a company that is set to have its headquarters in Calgary and a client list around the world. The firm will aim to help its clients to conquer new markets, but also to deal with “geopolitical risks” wherever they do business.

The firm will cater mainly to the corporate sector, but will seek to serve foreign governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well.

“Clients will be able to count on the strategic perspectives, analytical capacity and network of a former G7 leader. Mr. Harper will be travelling extensively as the firm’s business interests are primarily outside of Canada,” one of Mr. Harper’s former advisers said in a statement.

Rachel Curran, who is now working for Harper & Associates, said earlier this year that Mr. Harper will be able to tout his experience on free trade, building on his success in negotiating deals with South Korea and the European Union, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“He spent tremendous time and energy really concluding these trade agreements and opening up trade corridors,” said Mr. Harper’s former policy director. “He has got a really recognized expertise and a lot of respect internationally in terms of his kind of knowledge.”

The core group at Harper & Associates is made up of three former advisers to the prime minister, namely Ray Novak, Jeremy Hunt and Ms. Curran. Mr. Harper is also set to announce a partnership with a law firm in coming weeks, in addition to entering the international speakers circuit.

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird, who is now working as a business adviser at law firm Bennett Jones LLP, said Mr. Harper brings an extensive network to his new job, but, more importantly, the experience of dealing with complex files.

“Working at a very high level in foreign policy and international trade, there is just a huge amount of relevant experience that can bring a lot of high value to organizations in Canada and other parts of the world,” Mr. Baird said. “It’s a different world [in the private sector], you get to tackle a whole different set of challenges, but I think he’ll thrive in it.”

Jason MacDonald, a former director of communications in the Prime Minister’s Office, said Mr. Harper is remembered around the world for his key role during the 2008 financial crisis.

“He brings a lot of insight in terms of helping people to understand the geopolitical dynamics that are at play, how things get done at a government level, and all of that is very useful to companies trying to make their way in a global economy,” said Mr. MacDonald, who now works at Hill + Knowlton.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Mr. Harper and his entire family for their dedication to public service.

“I wish them all a very happy, productive and successful number of years away from the political spotlight,” Mr. Trudeau said after a caucus meeting.

In the video in which he announced his political retirement, the 57-year-old Mr. Harper tried to cement his legacy as a politician who stuck to his principles in tough times.

“We cut taxes, made critical investments and balanced the national budget. We got tough on crime and put families first. We managed our G7 economy through the worst global recession since the Great Depression, and came out in the strongest position of them all,” Mr. Harper said, adding he “took principled decisions in a complex and dangerous world.”

Mr. Harper stepped down as leader after his Conservative Party lost its majority at the hands of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

However, he stayed on as an MP, at the same time as he started planning his move into the private sector. Mr. Harper started to meet with potential clients this summer, with the pace set to accelerate in the coming weeks.

Mr. Harper’s successor at the helm of the Conservative Party will be chosen next May.

“Our country must continue to serve as a model of prosperity and freedom,” Mr. Harper said. “Pursue the principles we have stood for at home and abroad, and our children, and children’s children will inherit the Canada we know and love so dearly.”

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

John Ibbitson on three things Canadians will not miss about Stephen Harper (The Globe and Mail)

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