Stephen Harper may have left Parliament for last time
Former prime minister could return for U.S. President Barack Obama's parliamentary address next week
At the end of a long hallway in Parliament's centre block, one office is crowded with stacks of boxes, roll after roll of packing tape and a few of the souvenirs from a decades-long political career.
The MP for Calgary Heritage — better known as former prime minister Stephen Harper — may have cast his very last House of Commons vote (just over a week ago). Perhaps fittingly, according to the parliamentary website, it was to oppose the Liberal budget.
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As CBC News reported in May, Harper is expected to resign his seat before Parliament resumes next fall.
The former prime minister has remained all but silent since his Conservative party lost power in the last election, so the eventual announcement of his departure was never expected to come with much fanfare on Harper's part regardless.
'Final' Stampede event
Beyond the stacks of boxes, however, there is at least one more sign of his imminent exit.
For $200, friends and party faithful are invited to join Harper at his "final Calgary Conservative Stampede BBQ" in July.
The event is hosted by Harper's riding association. President Hal Anderson said the decision to identify it as final was a mutual agreement between Harper and the riding association.
"He might come [next time] as a ticket-paying participant," Anderson said with a laugh. "But this will be his last as MP, we expect."
Conservative interim Leader Rona Ambrose is a "special guest" at the event and Harper is expected to speak briefly to introduce her, Anderson said.
Compared to when Harper was in power, ticket sales are lagging, he added. "Usually there's a fight for tickets in the last 10 years or so."
Anderson noted that last year, Harper not only spoke but his band played a 45-minute set. He expects demand for tickets to pick up.
Back for Obama?
The former prime minister does have one opportunity to return to Parliament before the next session.
MPs will sit briefly next Wednesday for a rare address by U.S. President Barack Obama, but it's not clear whether the event would be of much interest to Harper.
If he decides to occupy his front row seat for Obama's address, he risks not only attention but comparisons.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Obama have both played into the idea of a cross-border "bromance" of sorts.
The two share many political priorities, including concerns about climate change. Obama even invited the Trudeaus to a state dinner at the White House. Trudeau joked this year that while he'll miss the American president when he leaves office, "I will not miss the wedgies."
Harper didn't seem to have as quite a jocular relationship with the U.S. president and was plagued by an inability to achieve success with the Keystone XL pipeline expansion.
Even in his last days as prime minister, Harper showed signs he wasn't particularly enthused about meeting with Obama. Canada was supposed to host both the Mexican and U.S. presidents in 2015, but Canada postponed the event and never rescheduled.