Stephen Harper, 22nd Prime Minister of Canada

Stephen Harper, 22nd Prime Minister of Canada


[MUSIC].
[APPLAUSE]. Prime Minister Harper, thank you so
much for joining us today.>>Well, thanks for having me.>>Before we begin, could I please get a quick show of hands
from all the Canadians in the audience? Raise your hands?>>Wow.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>An all Canadian campus here, who would have known?>>You’ve clearly got some pull
around here, Mr. Prime Minister.>>[LAUGH]
>>Yeah.>>We have many topics to discuss today, from your views on key policy issues to
moments of leadership on the world stage. Before we start though, I wanted to
start with a very simple question. Is it true that, despite writing
a book about Canadian hockey, you don’t have a favorite hockey team?>>No, that’s not true.>>[LAUGH]
>>I never was very clear in public as to what my favorite team was
because I always felt that I could lose more votes on answering that question-
>>[LAUGH]>>Than any serious issue of policy. We actually have two favorite teams in
our household, the Toronto Maple Leafs. I grew up in Toronto,
my father was a Maple Leafs fan. And then of course, as an adult, I’ve
resided most of my adult life in Calgary. So we have the Toronto Maple Leafs in the
east and the Calgary Flames in the west, but since Canada hasn’t won
the Stanley Cup since 1993, I will take any one of them.>>[LAUGH]
>>Any one of them, I’m desperate at this point.>>[LAUGH]
>>Clearly judging by this year’s performances at the Olympics, there is
a lot to admire about Canadian sport. So I’ll take that. Now I wanted to shift to your
beginnings as a politician, back when you were still in university. What originally drew you to politics?>>Well it’s a long question,
it’s a long answer. First of all, I never in my university
days, I never intended to be a politician, that was not the plan, to the extent
I had a plan that was not the plan. I was interested in politics because
as a very, it started as a kid. From the time I was about nine years old,
my parents expected me to read the front page of the newspaper and
to be conversant in public issues at the dinner table, so
I kind of started that interest early. In university, I was studying economics,
I became very interested in public policy, and my interest, then, and my first
job in politics was as a researcher. And that was kind of how I saw myself,
was essentially a research assistant, and I had longer term plans
to become an economist and to be involved in public policy and
academia. So that was really the beginning of it, and it’s a lot of steps
that led me to where I was.>>And
I’d love to get to some of those steps.>>Yeah.
>>We talk a lot about entrepreneurship here at the GSB. And your political career shows many
signs of being very entrepreneurial, especially when you united the different
right-leaning parties within Canada under one banner in 2003. Could you talk a little bit about how you
managed to pull off that difficult task, and why you were the right person for
the job?>>But let me maybe just go
through how I ended up in the job, because I have the most unusual
path to the Prime Ministership of anyone in Canadian history, the only
one to come up through a third party. So, I went to Ottawa in 1985
as a research assistant, an economics graduate, to assist
the government on its program of deficit reduction, and market reforms, and some
of the other things that we believed in. Left that job after a year, I’d only intended to be there two years
maximum, but left after one year, fairly disillusioned with what the
government was not doing on these matters. I was convinced that we’d
never balance a budget, in fact, that turned out to be the case. So I actually not only left the job,
I actually left the party, went back to university
to get a graduate degree. And in the course of the graduate degree,
people heard me talking about my experiences, and a number of professors,
who had similar thinking hooked me up with a fellow named Preston Manning,
who was forming a new political party to push some of these issues much harder,
eventually called the Reform Party. So I got involved in that in 1987 I became
the first policy chief of the party. I did it, this is actually true,
I remember say to the then-president, who became eventually
a colleague in parliament, a ministerial colleague, I remember saying
to her, she asked my why I was doing this. I said, well, I sort of like what they’re
doing here, and this is a fun hobby, it’s not going to take much of my time.>>[LAUGH]
>>Anyway, one thing led to another, and the first time we ran for election,
the election was suddenly upon us, we had almost no candidates,
so I became a candidate. Obviously didn’t win, we didn’t win any
seats, but I did surprisingly well. And then the next time around, I decided
to run again when we had a much better shot, and I ran and got elected in 1993. By the end of my first term,
look, I say there’s no plan here. By the end of my first term,
I could also see that the reform party, as I had envisioned it,
was kind of stalled, and once again, I decided it was time for
me to do something different, I went and headed a essentially conservative
political action committee in Canada. So I left, I did not run for re-election. And I did that for three or four years,
and I was about to depart that job into a true private sector job, when the party
that I’d left, the Reform Party, which had converted itself into something
called the Reform Conservative Alliance, when it had a massive civil war
in the party around leadership. And it was so bad that the party sunk
to the low single digits in support, was almost ready to drop off the map, and virtually everybody of some note in the
party was discredited by the civil war. And since I was not there,
I was the only person of any stature in the party who wasn’t
tainted by the civil war, and a lot of the MPs approached me,
would you come and lead us? And we just paid off
the mortgage on our home. And I said to my wife, if I do this? It wasn’t what I was thinking of, if I
do this, I’m going to become leader of the opposition without trying,
like I will win this race, if I get in. So I got in, she agreed,
I got in, I won the race. And then the other conservative
party had a massive civil war. And it wasn’t going well,
we were all looking at oblivion. And one thing led to another, both our
parties were ready to do a merger, we both understood that
if we stayed separate, our chances of, not just winning,
our chances of survival were limited. So people really did it, in some ways out
of desperation, the timing was just right. Partly because my background was
a mixed partisan background, I was kind of a good person
to lead that effort, had a good partner on the other
side named Peter McKay. And we united the parties, and then
the next thing that happened was the then governing liberal party was so certain
that it couldn’t possibly lose an election that it engaged in it’s own civil war. And I ended up leading in the next two
elections the party that was united, and they led the party that was divided, and
in politics the guy united usually wins.>>It sounds like it pays to
be the last man standing.>>Yeah, yeah. I do have an interesting story on that,
it’s funny. After the last election,
I had two or three colleagues, I’d stayed in Parliament a while, and
some former colleagues visited me. And I did point out to them, I remember
saying, first time it surprised me, but I tried it again. I said, I am the only member of parliament
from the great revolution of 1993. The only one of the class of 93 still in
parliament, and I’m the last man standing. Who would have believed that? And everyone of them said to me, we
always thought that was going to happen. So they saw it before I did.>>Well, it’s good that to be
a rock in the storm if you will.>>Yeah.>>You were also known within Canada for
positioning yourself as a progressive conservative when
you ran for election in 2006. What I wanted to ask you next was, how did you decide which sacrifices
you would make in order to govern, and which principles you
would not compromise?>>Yeah look, I would not have described
myself as a progressive conservative. Part of the issue in Canada is that is the
name of one of the two founding parties. So that would have identified you
with one party rather than the other. Look, I consider myself
a straight conservative. I’m conservative on most issues. I’m conservative probably more in the
temperamental than the ideological sense. And I’m a strong believer, I get this
is where people consider it moderate. I’m a strong believer In
incrementalism in policy. And I think some describe my government
as kind of a series of what they call this incrementalism in terms of the steps
we took across ranges of public policy. Partly because, and not that sometimes
you have to do radical departures, but generally speaking I’m distrustful of
frankly, smart people like ourselves, with great blueprints that we’re going to
kind of invent the solutions to the world. I actually think you have
to see how things work, what unintended consequences are, whether something is turning out as you
expect before you move to the next step. So I tend to be someone that
wants to gather data and see what the experience is
until I take the next step.>>So when it comes to gathering data,
incrementalism, and dealing with very weighty policy issues,
one that’s very relevant today and where Canada gets a lot of
acclaim is immigration. And President Trump has cited Canada as
an example that the US should potentially follow, and you’ve been known to
support skilled immigration to Canada. What lessons, incremental or otherwise, could US policy makers
learn from Canada’s example?>>Well, look, I’d say two things, and I’d say this not to just American
audiences, but audiences everywhere else. What I think was most remarkable for other political leaders about
our immigration policy was not, for the most part they were successful
policies in the policy sense. It’s that we had overwhelming public
support behind our immigration policy, behind a large scale immigration policy. How do you do that? First of all, on the success side, we were
progressively moving our system towards being based on labor market needs,
on responding to labor market needs. There’s always been a significant portion
of the Canadian, unlike the United States, always a significant portion of Canadian
immigration policy that was admitted on the basis of skills and
labor force considerations. We vastly increased that over
time from 40% to two-thirds. We started by making, it was really
a simple change, but it worked wonders was allowing university students to find work
in their areas while they were in Canada, which would often encourage those
students to stay once they graduated. A really simple change made
a big difference in policy. So I’m a strong, strong believer that immigration policy in the modern age
must be based to be beneficial for an economy, must be based on labor
force needs and requirements. Doesn’t mean you can’t have humanitarian
and family reunification streams, but that is not in my mind the central
benefit of an immigration policy for one’s own country. The second thing, and let me say this
because I’m in the United States. I’m often asked in the United States or
Europe, how can we make our current
immigration system more popular? Why is it so unpopular? Well, I’ll tell you this right now. If Canada had a huge percentage of as
you do in the United States or Europe, a huge percentage of its immigrant
population was here illegally or irregularly outside the law,
it would not be popular. Illegal immigration is not popular
anywhere in the world at any time. And if you want to sustain public support
for an immigration system, this has to be a decision the society takes
through its laws and enforces the law. And unless you can fix that problem, and I think that is the big
problem in the United States. Without a solution to that problem, people’s resistance to legal
immigration has gone through the roof. And my quick comment on the United States, the big problem you have is it’s way too
difficult for someone to become a legal immigrant, and way too easy for
them to become an illegal immigrant.>>There seems to be also a flip side to
what you’re saying when it comes to public support. Which is in addition to upholding the law,
there is this embrace of multiculturalism in Canada that seems very unique and
distinctly Canadian. And so I what I wanted to follow
up with is in an age of rising nationalism in Canada,
has this unique position and it seems to be both multi-cultural and
patriotic. I’m curious, do you think this is
a blueprint for other nations to follow, that you can be both things, and
if yes, how can we encourage both?>>Yeah, look, I think absolutely. First of all, I think Canada had a bit of
a traditional advantage on that from other countries in that Canada has never had
one clearly defined national culture. And we’ve always had at least, we’ve had
two national languages, we’ve always had, at least, going back two major religions,
and obviously it’s more diverse today. So there was never a kind of a unified
vision of what a Canadian looked like, so I think that background kind of helped. But on multiculturalism,
we actually modified the multiculturalism policy somewhat along the lines really
of how it’s practiced in Quebec. And technically in Quebec, they don’t
call it multiculturalism, they call it [FOREIGN], which interculturalism,
doesn’t mean anything in English. But what it really is,
is it is about encouraging, I would say promoting is not the word,
but encouraging immigrants to retain aspects of their identity, their links
to their home country, their traditions. But encouraging that within the concept
of a broader social unity and a broader participation. And we as a government really saw
multiculturalism, well it had obviously the aspect of preserving people’s
native and a diverse set of cultures. Really, its objective was
ultimately integration. It stems from the belief, and I do believe
this strongly, that first and foremost, immigrants, when they come to a new
country, they want to belong. They actually don’t
want to be ghetto-ized. They may want to retain aspects of
their personal and family identities, but they want to belong. And so we encourage that,
but at the same time, we recognize that as you diversify the
ethnic and religious mix of your country, that inevitably that will have some impact
on the mainstream of your own culture. So that was really the philosophy behind
the policy, and we think it’s, look, I think that it’s objectively successful. Canada has few Kind of ethnic based,
deeply ethnic based conflicts. It’s a very diverse society where
people integrate reasonably well and this is going back decades. And from my standpoint,
the Conservative Party of Canada is one of the few center-right parties in
the world that wins a large share, and in the case of 2011,
an outright majority of immigrant vote.>>Yeah, it’s a powerful set of options. Future policymakers, please take note. I’d love to build on
this notion of belonging, but now on the international stage. You’re a passionate free trader. Under your watch, Canada signed landmark
free trade deals with South Korea and the European Union, and you’re known
to be a supporter of NAFTA as well. What are the best ways
to promote the benefits of free trade in an increasingly
anti-trade global political environment?>>Sure, you might be a bit
surprised by my answer on this. I’m actually writing a book on this
very subject, on the rise of populism, what’s driving it, and particularly
how conservatives should respond. First of all, just on the record, when we came to office,
when my government came to office in 2006. In spite of the fact that Canada is one
of the most open economies in the world, we had free trade agreements
with only five countries. And when I left we had concluded
negotiations with 51 and now all are in the process, are either
implemented or being implemented. And by the way, that was another thing, in
an era where there’s increasing resistance to trade, that was another thing we
did with overwhelming public support. None of those trade agreements
were unpopular, so why is that? And what I tell policy makers
particularly the conservative policy makers who form
the International Democrat Union. What I tell them is it is not a simple
matter of being for free trade. I understand David Ricardo, I understand
the basic theories of free trade, but that’s not good enough. A trade deal is a large commercial deal,
and this is actually, to some degree, where I agree with what
President Trump is saying. You actually have to know what you’re
doing when you sign such a deal. You can’t do it on the basis of theory, or the basis of simply bureaucratic,
internal consultations and negotiations. When we did trade deals we
established comprehensive consultations with every single
major sector of Canadian society. We understood at the bargaining table, what the interests of our
economy actually were. We understood both what interest we
needed to advance in terms of trade, we also understood what
interest we needed to protect. Because protection is part of your
responsibility as a government when those are your interest. So we understood what the interest are, obviously we would lean
to opening up markets. And we ultimately understood what kind of
concessions we could and could not make, where we could make gains, and
where we could not make gains. And particularly,
the additional factor we had in place was when we dealt with larger
entities like the European Union. We had to know what they wanted, and
we spent a lot of time finding that out. So, it comes down to treating
it as a serious commercial deal. Understanding all of the periods and
commas and making a good deal for the country. And is it possible, President Trump doesn’t say he’s
a protectionist, maybe he is. He says he’s for
good deals and not bad deals. Is it possible to have the bad trade deal? Absolutely, and there are many times I
would’ve walked away from the table rather than signed what was on it.>>There’s something else that you said
about overwhelming public support though and essentially selling these deals or cutting these deals to last within
the court of public opinions. So, is there a component to this to
winning hearts and not just minds?>>Yeah, look I think advantage
we start with in Canada was we had, our first free trade
deal besides confederation itself. Our first free trade deal was
the Canada-US Agreement concluded in 1987. It became the focal point of
the 1988 federal election. In which the then progressive conservative
government was championing the deal. And the opposition, the liberals and the
new Democratic party, were opposing it. And the rhetoric got very high
according to the opposition, signing of the free trade deal would
devastate multiple Canadian industries. Basically hollow out the Canadian
economy and eventually we’d lose our independence and become
the 51st state of the United States. This was literally,
in fact a famous ad from that campaign, almost no one here is
old enough to know this. Famous ad from that campaign was two
negotiators sitting at a table and the American says, let’s just, I think we’ve got a deal if we just
kind of take out this one line. And you go back and
the line was the border.>>[LAUGH]
>>Between Canada and the United States. But the government won the election, principly on a split
vote of the opposition. They won the election and
they passed the deal. And not only did none of the things
the opposition predicted come true, but frankly the deal, in its economic
performance and the eventual NAFTA, exceeded all forecasts in terms
of its encouragement of trade and economic growth. So you have that backdrop that
Canada is a trading country. And with that experience no one really
believes kind of hysteria about trade but look, I will tell you this. We didn’t operate on that alone, I talked about the kind of
comprehensive consultations we ran. And I can tell you this, when I got
in front of the Canadian public, whether it was in Brussels or somewhere in Canada to TPP in the case
to announce a major trade agreement. When I got in front of people and
then every group in the country, every interest group, every sector would
put out its release saying they were for the deal, against the deal or
mixed feelings. I knew in advance what every single interest group in
the country group was going to say. We were not guessing about public opinion. We knew exactly, so yeah,
you win hearts and minds. But actually, this is not an issue. These are people’s vested
economic interests. You cannot treat them as
a strictly a philosophical battle. It’s about really understanding
where the rubber meets the road and where people will see the gain or lose.>>When it comes to interests, I’d love
to talk a little bit now about foreign policy interests, and specifically
one example of your leadership. I’ll lay out the scenario first,
it’s November of 2014, you’re at the G20 Summit in Australia, and Vladimir
Putin comes up to you to shake your hand. You accept the handshake, reluctantly and you say to him,
you need to get out of Ukraine. Take us what went through
your head at that moment.>>Sure, well,
I’ll tell you more of the story. First of all, like so many leaders, I had given Vladimir Putin the benefit of
the doubt when I first came to office. He had come to power in Russia
after a terrible decade, where the company literally fell apart. And the economic and social indicators for
Russia from that period are some of the worst,
it wasn’t just the political collapse. Some of the worst social and economic
collapse any major country’s ever seen. And so he came to power, reestablished
order, seemed to be a strong leader. So people gave him the benefit
of the doubt at first. I gave him a benefit there
a couple of years and it increasingly was obvious
to me that he was not and never going to be a friend, and
we can talk about that if you want.>>[LAUGH]
>>But frankly, I became in private meetings,
increasingly blunt with Mr. Putin unlike some of my
international colleagues. In fact,
I think I became kind of the bad cop. Bad cop,
good cop at Summer International Forums. So Vladimir Putin was
not unaware of my views. And then of course, and
I had been actually even a year or two before the invasion of Crimea. I had been advocating for
his removal from the G8, not very subtly. Certainly not subtly in private,
and not even that subtly in public. And so he invades Crimea and
Eastern Ukraine, and it was really my
first meeting with Mr. Putin since that period. Let me just tell you
a bit of the backdrop. What happens at international conferences? You see these things, you would not believe how much time you
spend arriving at an international summit.>>[LAUGH]
>>There is an order in which you arrive. It’s all established by protocol and you
all kind of drive up one at a time, and you assemble in a room behind, before
the conference begins, you come out and arrive again on the stage. It takes like two or
three hours to arrive. So anyway, I’d gone through and I was,
they were doing the backwards order, the most junior to the most senior,
and prime ministers, no matter how long you’re in office, are
always considered junior to presidents. So, I had already arrived in the room
backstage with most of the leaders. Putin would have been near
the end of the arrivals, and it was interesting because,
I tell this story for a bunch of reasons. So I’m in the room. I’m at one end. Mr. Putin comes in and
everybody’s greeting him and slapping him on the back, and all
the things we do at these things that we->>High fives.>>Yeah, we know all these people. You get quite comfortable
with these people. You get to know them after time. Well, anyway, Putin comes around to me. And he sticks out his hand, and I had
kind of thought what am I going to do or say if Putin, candidate support for
Ukraine was extremely strong. Obviously, I denounced them privately. And so I said to him, I shook his hand. I said I’ll shake your hand, Vladimir, but
I have only one thing to tell you, and that is get out of Ukraine. And he paused,
looked at me kind of taken aback and said to me, I’m not in Ukraine.>>[LAUGH]
>>To which I said, well, that’s why it’s a waste
of my time to talk to you.>>[LAUGH]
>>And by the way, I was just reading, Teddy Roosevelt said and this is so true. Teddy Roosevelt said about
the Russians in 1905. He said, the most annoying
things about the Russians, is they will lie to you even when they
know that you know they’re lying.>>[LAUGH]
>>It’s an inexplicable national trait.>>[LAUGH]
>>But, anyway, so I said that to Putin. And the reason I tell this story,
is what’s interesting after that, the story got out, by the way, because
the Russians put the story out, not me. I don’t know why. But what’s interesting is all the other
leaders witnessed this exchange. And what went through their heads, obviously the ones who were facing the
electorates where Putin and his actions were not popular, all of a sudden,
they ceased being friendly with him. Because they knew if the story got out, while Harper was not friendly with
them and we were, that would be bad. So nobody was friendly with them for
the rest of the conference. And then there were pictures of them
sitting at tables eating by himself, and that sort of thing.>>[LAUGH]
>>But look, I point that out only because, and it’s
not that symbolic actions are everything, but it is interesting how sometimes
simply by taking a stand. You can people to act.>>And it seems that this time now,
especially knowing what we know, that that was quite courageous and
prescient.>>Well, I don’t go to rush on business,
let’s put it that way, so.>>[LAUGH]
>>How would you handle Putin in today’s world, almost four years later?>>Well, it’s the same thing. Look, there’s no way of avoiding the fact
that Russia is a major power and cannot be ignored. We brought in a host of sanctions
on Russia in coordination with the Obama administration and others. We would keep those sanctions in place. And I would continue to minimize
contact with Putin, except where it’s unavoidable or necessary to conduct
foreign policy as in Syria, for example. But I would not pretend
I’m friends with him and it’s my conviction that Putin
does not want to be our friend. I think there’s been so much effort
made by successive western governments, to have friendly and
cooperative relations with Putin. What is just they fail to understand
is that this is not Putin’s objective. Vladimir Putin is a very,
don’t get me wrong, a very strong leader. Actually, a very impressive
individual in many ways. I don’t mean to demean him. He’s one of the more impressive
leaders I’ve dealt with. But Vladimir Putin carries
an enormous chip on his shoulder for the fall of the Soviet Union. He believes that the west was
trying to destroy his country. And a large part of his
actions are designed simply to undermine the west as an end in itself. And that’s kind of what he’s made of.>>That’s a good warning to keep in mind. I’d like to shift a little
bit now to leadership style. As you rose to prominence
in Canadian politics, you showed that you weren’t afraid to
take the gloves off in political scraps. A style that some observers
called decidedly un-Canadian. What led you to adopt
this particular approach?>>I wanted to win.>>[LAUGH]
>>I remember another conservative leader in a particular province saying to
me before a campaign, he was saying, Prime Minister, I respect you,
but I have a different style. I’m not going to kind of mix it up, I’m not going to go
negative on the opposition. I’m going to take the high road,
and I said great. I said there’s a word for that. He said what is it? Called a losing campaign. Look, a campaign’s a campaign. They use the word campaign for a reason. It’s a combat. It doesn’t mean you should
do anything to win. But you are making a contrast
with your opponents, and you have to be combative
from time to time. And every successful leader is. You talk about all the great
statesmen of history. I guarantee if you go back and
look at their political records, they were successful combatants. Now, if you’re a conservative, the liberal
media says this is terrible and unstatesman-like. But the other side does it all the time. So you just gotta do it,
you just gotta face that criticism. And don’t be unfair. I used to say, I’ve delivered some very
tough criticisms of my opponents, but I always had one criteria with our staff,
which was, is the criticism true? Is the criticism true? Don’t level a criticism that’s not true. That’s going to back fire on you. But if you see a weakness, deliver it. Obviously you have to deliver
your own message as well. But that’s a big part of it. I think the other part of it is, I like to think the other part of my
success was not just winning elections. But ultimately, once you get there,
you have to know why you’re there and what it is you’re trying to do.>>And when it comes to winning,
there’s winning in the short term and then there’s winning in the long term,
or medium to long term. You once said about your former
finance minister Jim Flaherty, and I’m going to quote. As fiercely partisan as he was,
Jim was also genuinely liked and respected by his opponents. That’s something in this business,
something I envy. I can’t even get my friends to like me.>>[LAUGH]
>>Humor aside, how important do you feel being liked is to securing
your victories and cementing your legacy?>>Well, look, in spite of my joke, I actually think I was widely liked by
the people who voted for me in fact. But look, being,
I’m kind of one of those guys. I think being, I’m amazed how many people go into
politics because they want to be loved. It’s not really a good occupation
if you want to be loved.>>[LAUGH]
>>I do think there are people who go into politics because they like the cameras and
microphones, but they can’t sing or dance.>>[LAUGH]
>>So look, I was not attracted to camera and
microphones. I was a bit made up a little bit
differently than most politicians but I think it’s important to be respected. I think it’s important to be
seen as having integrity. But being loved or being liked,
I think that’s secondary. I think it’s obviously
important that you treat, it’s important even that you
treat opponents with respect. You can still treat them with
respect while attacking them, right? There’s a difference between attacking
someone on a weakness that’s legitimate than belittling them and
we try and avoid that. I think the key is to be respected,
especially in democratic politics and as I say, I don’t know anybody who got
into politics to be liked and succeeded.>>So there’s a question that falls
from this, and it’s one that we discuss a lot at business school about what
tact you can take as a leader. And it’s, do you think that we as leaders
have to make a choice between being warm and
assertive in order to get the job done?>>Well look, I would say that leadership
in the political arena is a bit different than leadership in business,
in the democratic political arena. In the Democratic political arena, there are different leadership styles
that are successful for different people. Not all leaders are the same,
no all approaches are the same, certainly not in politics. But I would say that the difference in
politics is no matter how good you are, you are going to have a tremendous
amount of opposition and criticism. We encourage that, right? I mean, this is the difference between
democratic politics and politics in non-democratic countries, is we keep our
leaders under scrutiny and criticism. In fact, in the parliamentary system,
unlike your system, the Prime Minister who wields most of
the power is not the head of state. I’m not, when I traveled abroad
the Governor General of Canada is first in diplomatic ranking,
not the Prime Minister. He is the one who carries the prestige
of office in the country. I’m the Prime Minister, yeah I had most
of the head of government power, but I had to be subjected daily to
attacks in the House of Commons. We offset the power we grant somebody by
the degree of scrutiny we put them under. Your system’s a little bit different,
but there’s still commonality. And that’s what we do. We don’t have cults of personality
in democratic countries. That is one of the hallmarks
of an undemocratic society. When a leader is beyond criticism, when
a leader embodies the state, when a leader becomes somebody that you actually have
to worship, for lack of a better term. And so no matter what style
you adopt in public life, you’re going to have lots of criticism. There’s no way around that. Look, I think in business
there are ways of conducting yourself that would not expose
yourself to that level of criticism.>>Sure, one thing that maybe is more
common perhaps between politics and business is the need to build and
utilize power over time. And we actually have a course here at
Stanford at the Business School called Paths to Power, which is all about
how individuals build, retain, lose power in organizations. It seems based on your career that you
can teach the course without any notes.>>[LAUGH]
>>What are the key lessons that you’ve learned
about amassing and retaining power?>>Look, I’m not sure there’s any one,
I say there’s any one path. I think if I look at the successes that
I had I would attribute them to two or three things. One of them as I said earlier
was the luck of timing. And a couple of times,
when I became leader of my party and then when I merged the parties,
these things happened because they happened at
particular point of time. And I was the right person,
position to do it. I didn’t plan that. I couldn’t have planned it. I know that there were people
actually think I planned all of this. It couldn’t have been planned, and so I just happened to be the right person
at the right time to do those things. And that’s life, right? A lot of success in life is luck. There’s no way around that,
starting with where you’re born and when, all those things. I think one of the strengths I had that
served me well was that I had, and people understood me knew that I had
a particular view of public policy and a vision for where the country should go,
a direction for the country. And to the extent they shared that
direction, they could get behind it. Now, it didn’t mean that I
didn’t consult regularly. And frankly, I would say that although I
had a clear direction for the country, I have often said this, that very
seldom did I take a policy decision in government that was not overwhelmingly
supported by my party, very seldom. I didn’t abuse,
I didn’t abuse the power that I had. But I did provide a sense of direction. Other people who lead on different basis. Some people lead, one of my predecessors
Brian Mulroney, I would say that he led on the basis of his ability to establish
warm relationships with colleagues. And he was a master at that. That was probably his strength. Pierre Trudeau, the father of
the current Prime Minister was a really philosophically driven Prime MInister and
led on a couple of key issues of the day. So different people have different styles,
mine served me well. I like to think I didn’t
abuse it in this sense. I could have wielded a lot more power. I think I could probably still easily
be leader of my party if I wanted to. I mean,
I’m de facto the founder of my party. And I could have turned the party into,
essentially, a personal political
vehicle if I’d wanted. But that was not my goal. My goal in political life,
I’m driven by my political conservatism. My goal in life was not just
to win an election and govern. My goal was to establish a long-term
conservative institutional force that would be a long-term contender for
power in government. And so I was determined to establish
an institutional organization that would outlive me and
would not need me down the road. So I did things very different than if I
simply wanted to amass power at all costs.>>And in your quest to establish that
long term conservative institutional platform, When the luck ran out, and
you were just left with decisions to make, you probably had to make some
choices that felt impossible. Did you ever make any decisions that
you wish you had made differently?>>Yeah. But I never say what those were.>>[LAUGH]
>>Well, look, I would say a couple of things. Obviously, there are all kinds of
things you would do different. More important in a public policy sense,
did I make decisions that I didn’t want to make at the time. That’s the more important thing, that I really wasn’t
comfortable with at the time. The answer is yes. As a leader of a party, as somebody
dealing with political reality from time to time ahead to make decisions that
would not have been my first choice. That said,
I don’t think on any really big thing that I ever find myself making a decision
that was fundamentally uncomfortable with. It may not even my optimal decision, but if I really thought it was
the wrong decision, a bad decision, as opposed to a non-optimal decision,
I would be pretty reluctant to take it.>>One last question before we shift
to questions from the audience. Another former finance minister,
Joe Oliver, said that one thing the media did not
portray enough i n the press, that is.>>Just one thing?>>[LAUGH]
>>Well, [LAUGH], one of the things he felt, anyways,
was your passion and pride for Canada. Could you talk a little bit more
about where this passion comes from?>>I don’t know where it comes from. To some degree,
I think it’s the way it should be. I’m a seventh generation Canadian. I tell this story, my great, great, great, great grandfather was settled
in Sackville, New Brunswick, then part of Nova Scotia in 1774, the year
before the American Revolution, and was the local leader in the militia for
the crown against the revolutionaries. So it goes back a long way. But look, I’m a product of my country. So much of what I’ve enjoyed in
life is because of my country. I don’t think there are many
countries in the world where someone like me from a modest
middle class background and public school education would become the
leader of their country, a major country. I think that says a lot
about the kind of social and economic opportunity and
mobility we have in Canada. I love our country’s history,
I love our country’s geography. I won’t as far as to tell you
that I always love the weather. But I am always turning the temperature
down in hotel rooms when I’m outside of Canada. So I must like it somewhat.>>[LAUGH]
>>But I think this is partly natural. What I don’t understand, and
I say this about the other side, I don’t understand the modern,
I would call modern elite liberalism, that often seems not to like its country. To me, being a nationalist, I’m not
talking a nativist or a xenophobe, but being a nationalist is something I would
have expected from any leader, most are. If you don’t love your country, if you’re
not deeply rooted in it, don’t love it’s people, don’t love most things about it,
why are you leading it in the first place? So to me, this is just what you would
expect of someone who aspires to be head of government of a country.>>Thank you. Now we’ll open it up to
questions from the audience. We’ve got one right there.>>Thanks very much for being here. My name is Audrey,
an undergrad in math and computer science. I was curious to hear your thoughts
on May 2008 financial crisis and broadly how you approached making
decisions and this whole process.>>Well, look obviously that
was an interesting time for me because I had begun my political career
and a policy since my number one focus, as economists, an economist whose
specialist is fiscal policy, was back in the 80s and
90s fixing Canada’s fiscal problems. And creating a long term structural
balance, eliminating the debt problem. Of course, we did that in the 90s and
my first few years in government, I inherited a surplus, continued to run
a surplus, used it predominantly to reduce taxes by the way, which I think is
what a good conservative would do. But I didn’t use it to reverse taxes
in a way that would create a structural deficit, I wouldn’t cut taxes
if I couldn’t pay for it. All of a sudden we have
the 2008 financial crisis. People forget I’d even pledged in
the election campaign that I would not run a deficit,
despite what was impending recession. But what people forget is, each week, it was really something
to be in power at that time. From September of 2008 till, I would say, January, February of 2009,
we literally were in a situation where economic activity was visibly falling
around the globe every single week. And it was just incredible. You’d wake up every morning with cataclysmic economic
news all around the world. Well, it became apparent to me and
it was fortunate I had the right training. I’m not just a fiscal policy economist, my background is in economic history and
macroeconomic theory. And it became very apparent to me
that we run what I thought was a kind of a theoretical situation,
but coming to real life. And I concluded it was necessary for
us to run not just allow the budget to fall into
deficit, but it became necessary to run a significant stimulus program because
of the collapse of economic activity. And so we did that. But we also, with Minister Flaherty’s,
the late Jim Flaherty, Finance Minister’s guidance. As soon as we did that, we put in place
a program to gradually restore economic balance, which we did over five years. So it was a tough decision. By the way,
not an easy one to get through my caucus. A large percentage of my caucus
did not want us to run a deficit, did not want to run the stimulus program. But I think I was able to convince them,
partly because I was so known as a fiscal hawk, and also because
of my training, I was able to convince them that we were in a situation that
required extraordinary measures. But I assured them and assured Canadians
that we would not ruin the long-term financial structure of the country,
and we ultimately succeeded in that.>>Ernesto Silva, here. I’m a member of the Chilean Congress.>>Could you please stand up?>>Please, I’m sorry. Ernesto Silva,
I’m a member of the Chilean Congress. You mentioned that you were writing a book about how conservatives should
face the rise of populism.>>Yeah.
>>Could you comment a little bit on that, please.>>Yeah, I’ll do it very quick. First of all, it’s interesting to hear the
term populist described today as it is. Usually, pejoratively and
often pejoratively by conservatives, populists are anti-market,
anti-trade, etc. The Reform Party that I was involved
in founding described itself as a populist party. [LAUGH] It was for trade and for markets. It was really a populous party in the then
tradition of Thatcher and Reagan. So populism is a term that kind of has
different meanings and different contexts. I often think that when you see the term
populist used in the media today, it’s used this way, we describe
outcomes we like as democracy and outcomes we don’t like as populism. So I think there’s a bit
of a loaded term there. But to the extent that in
the globalization age, that I like to think we as Conservatives brought about,
globalization, freer trade, free markets. Freer migration around the world,
we’re now seeing a backlash to that. And I really believe that Conservatives,
that is, people who are students of human
experience, rather than just decry that. When we see our own voters being attracted
to that we need to ask ourselves why. And I think in the age of globalization
that way too many ordinary people are not doing well enough. And when you look at some of
the things the populous complain about in terms of trade policy or market policy or immigration policy,
globalism is a philosophy. I do think that in some cases, while we’re generally on the right
track we pursue policies. That haven’t really thought hard about
the actual impacts on ordinary people, that’s what I always try to do. I would say I was not a blueprint kind of
politician, I don’t believe in them. But I think in a lot of cases, politicians
have followed blueprints and have not been very conscious of how some market-oriented
policies actually impact people. And we should be making sure we
understand what those impacts are. Just to give an example,
in many Western countries, the large scale importation
of low-skilled workers. At a time when low-skilled workers
are under technological pressure and their wages are falling. This makes no sense in terms of
the social outcomes it produces. Allowing foreign non-residents
to buy significant blocks of residential real estate and leave
it unoccupied in major urban centers. Yeah, that’s an open market policy,
but what is the social utility of that other than to drive people out
of the areas they live in? So I think we really have to think hard,
make sure, I’m a strong believer that over time, only market-oriented
policies really create growth. But they can take a lot of forms and you have to pursue them in ways
that are getting good outcomes. Too many working middle class people in
Western countries, especially this one, by the way,
have simply not been doing very well. And we have to understand why that is and adapt to those concerns. If voters go a different way,
no point telling them they’re wrong, in a democracy the voters
are always right. So our voters are telling us, we’re off
track, we better listen to what those messages are and figure out which messages
are right and which messages are wrong. Take one more question?>>Hi, my name is Amy, I’m a finance PhD
student here at the GSP, I’m also a proud Canadian who has been in the United States
since college, almost a decade ago. Over this period of time I sense a growing
divide between the coastal elite and the rest of America. As you travel around Canada, do you
sense the same trend of polarization?>>The answer to that is no. Canada has not had the kind
of political polarization or this modern manifestation
of more extreme populism. That we’ve seen in the United States and
other parts of the world. And the reason for that,
I like to think is really rather simple. It’s that in Canada, middle and
working class people have had fairly steady income growth even through
the global financial crisis. And so I think that I think there may be
other factors driving the polarization. But Canada is not immune,
if we practise a series of bad economic policies over
a long enough period of time. And people start to feel dispossessed or ignored by the political system we
could get the same thing in Canada. But we don’t have it today,
we have had political change, we have political debate,
we have parties with different views. But it’s not a deeply
rooted social cleavage, which is what really strikes me here. Really strikes me about the United States
is not simply the political polarization. But the degree to which it actually
reflects, in my experience, the American public. I’ll just tell you, I’ve told
Canadians for a long period of time, in my experience. George W Bush was president,
Barack Obama was president, obviously now with Donald Trump. I would say to people, if you go to
the United States don’t give your opinion of George W Bush or
Barack Obama or Donald Trump. Until you know what the listener thinks
because I guarantee he’s on one side or the other, and
that’s just the way the country is here. And I think it’s worrisome, but I think underlying it is the fact
that tens of millions of Americans. Who used to have a good middle
class lifestyle no longer do and this is a serious problem
that has got to be fixed.>>So
I wanted to wrap with a last question and draw on a few things that you
just talked about with us today. You’ve mentioned some pretty technocratic
terms, social utility and productivity, these are the terms of somebody who’s
clearly deeply versed in economic policy. I wanted to step back though and ask
about the emotional aspect of leadership. And specifically, the ways in which you unite people through
the emotional appeal of your leadership. And a lot of these themes that you’ve
spoken about with conservatism are still getting at what ultimately what the voters
ultimately want and what’s best for them. How do you ensure that they connect
emotionally to your policy views and to ultimately what
conservatism is trying to do?>>Well look, it’s a good question and
I’m not going to get up and claim it was one of my strengths, it’s not
a strength of conservatism, by the way. I think if you look at other movements, whether they be on the right or
on the left, modern liberalism, socialism, nationalism, modern right-wing populism. These are at their heart,
more essentially emotional appeals, I do think, not that we have to
connect to people where they live, and they live emotionally. But I honestly think that people tend,
and I say to conservative leaders. People tend to turn to conservatives when
they’re really deeply worried and they want sensible solutions, and when they
want something beyond the mere emotional. They want to be convinced that there’s
somebody who actually knows what they’re doing and that it will work. And so, while I think it’s important
to connect emotionally, and we often don’t do a good
enough job with that. I think conservatism can never be a purely
emotional political philosophy the way some of the others are.>>Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Mr>>[APPLAUSE]
>>Thank you very much!>>Thank you!

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