Manitoba

'History is going to be kind to Stephen Harper,' former Manitoba MP says

Manitoba MLA Steven Fletcher, a former Conservative MP, says he believes history will be kind to his old boss Stephen Harper, who is resigning as a member of Parliament today.

MLA Steven Fletcher credits former federal Conservative leader with bringing Canadians together

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper (background) is shown with Winnipeg Conservative MP Steven Fletcher (foreground) during a campaign stop in Winnipeg on Dec. 2, 2005. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Manitoba MLA Steven Fletcher, a former Conservative MP, says he believes history will be kind to his old boss Stephen Harper, who is resigning as a member of Parliament today.

Harper posted a video statement on Facebook on Friday morning, 10 months after he lost the federal election and resigned as Conservative leader, to say he is stepping down as the MP for Calgary-Heritage.

Fletcher, who served as an MP, a parliamentary secretary and a minister of state in Harper's government, credited the former leader with pulling the country together.

"Canada, in my lifetime, has never been more united than it had been under Stephen Harper. There's no 'the West wants in.' The Quebec separatism evaporated," he told CBC News.

"It's an end of an era in Canadian politics. I think history is going to be kind to Stephen Harper."

Harper was first elected as a Reform MP in 1993 and went on to become the first leader of the modern-day Conservative Party in 2003.

Steven Fletcher is sworn in as minister of state (democratic reform) by clerk of the privy council Kevin Lynch, as Stephen Harper looks on, during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Oct. 30, 2008. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

He did what no one else had been able to do for a while — united a fractured federal Conservative movement under one banner, Fletcher said.

"He was able to … bring together the Canadian Alliance and United Alternative, which was a bit of a gong show. He brought the Conservative Party movement together, merging with the Progressive Conservative Party," he said.

Fletcher added that had it not been for Harper, the Conservative Party would not have been able to attract "a sizeable chunk of people from Quebec, which pundits were saying would be impossible forever."

Tough decisions

While some Conservative government decisions polarized voters, Fletcher said Harper did the best he could given the circumstances, especially during the global recession.

"Tough decisions had to be made, particularly in '08-'09. That's when I entered cabinet federally on the Treasury Board, and oh my gosh, it was a scary time," he said.

"Some days you didn't know which way was up, but you're just trying to make the best decisions possible, and he did."

Fletcher described Harper as "a self-made man" who "came from an average family — no money, no fame, no power" and "worked his way up through the political ladder."

He also remembers the former leader's humour.

"I wish people could see his sense of humour," Fletcher said. "He is a funny guy. But he's also very professional; he expects results."

Fletcher turned to provincial politics after losing his federal seat in 2015 and is currently the Progressive Conservative MLA for Assiniboia.

With files from The Canadian Press

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