As Stephen Harper prepares to exit federal politics, the former prime minister's high profile and global collection of contacts will attract an array of employment offers for his post-political life.
As reported in The Globe and Mail, Mr. Harper will resign before Parliament resumes in the fall, as he pursues new interests on corporate boards and the establishment of a foreign policy institute. A friend who recently met with the Conservative MP for Calgary Heritage said Mr. Harper has received multiple offers in the private sector, but is not publicly divulging his plans.
"At the appropriate time, he'll make that known," the friend said. "But he's got lots of really incredible opportunities – and some really exciting ones, too."
"I think both him and Laureen [Harper] are really looking forward to this next stage of life."
Mr. Harper has kept a low profile since the Conservative party's defeat in last fall's federal election – a defeat that some laid on the shoulders of Mr. Harper himself. But behind the scenes, he has been catching up with friends and contacts, as he actually now has time to lunch. He's "relaxed, in a great mood" as he contemplates his next steps, according to the friend.
Former world leaders are incredibly valuable to the corporate world.
Those who have held the highest political office in the land are often able to shake off the political baggage of their tenure and shift easily into roles focused on the pursuit of commerce. For instance, Brian Mulroney, who was unpopular when he left the prime minister's office in 1993, has since sat on a number of boards and is a senior partner at Norton Rose Fulbright.
A contact with status like Mr. Harper can open doors for companies with international operations by making introductions to key leaders, providing insight into how governments function and even improving the brand of a company, said Brad Kelly, a Toronto-based partner with Global Governance Advisors, who focuses on corporate governance and compensation.
Mr. Harper will have "no problem" finding board or advisory roles, he said. And the remuneration attached to those roles will be a big improvement for Mr. Harper, who has spent much of his life employed in politics.
"The opportunity lies ahead for him, because especially here in Canada, you're not going to retire as a wealthy individual as the prime minister of our country," Mr. Kelly said.
"But now he has an opportunity to sit on many boards that may pay quite well."
Even though Mr. Harper isn't a lawyer, that doesn't preclude him doing work for law firms either, Mr. Kelly noted. For instance, Bennett Jones LLP hired former foreign minister John Baird as a senior adviser last year. But Mr. Harper has made at least an initial attempt to strike out on his own, incorporating Harper and Associates Consulting Inc. late last year.
"I could see him doing a lot in support of the Canadian oil industry. He has a lot of connections in his Calgary community," Mr. Kelly said.
Unlike former prime ministers such as Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin – who left politics in their late 60s – Mr. Harper is still relatively young, said economist Jack Mintz, who counts Mr. Harper as a personal acquaintance. The 57-year-old Mr. Harper still has time for another significant career accomplishment, said Dr. Mintz, who serves as the President's Fellow of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.
"He certainly could play a role in advising corporations dealing with international risks and international issues," said Dr. Mintz, who believes Mr. Harper will stay away from domestic politics but will some day write a book about his experiences as prime minister.
"It's a big world out there, and he did get to be well known in a lot of countries."