Alberta Politics
The Harpers, pere et fils (Photo: Twitter).

Young Ben Harper gets a well-heeled start in politics, thanks to dear old dad’s former lieutenant

Posted on October 11, 2020, 12:38 am
8 mins

Give Ben Harper’s old man his due: he got his son a better first job in Alberta than the elder Mr. Harper’s pop got him.

Readers with functioning short-term memories will recall that not so long ago much was made of the fact Stephen Harper’s father got the former Conservative prime minister his first job in Alberta, working in the mailroom of Imperial Oil’s offices in Edmonton.

Alberta Premier’s Office junior policy advisor Ben Harper in New York’s Grand Central Station (Photo: Twitter).

And it was in Edmonton, one of Mr. Harper’s unauthorized biographers asserted, that the future prime minister learned to be so angry, “having quickly grafted Alberta’s sense of grievance to his own restless search for identity.” That was Michael Harris in Party of One.

And, verily, a young man can learn a lot from a job in the mailroom. Presumably the elder Mr. Harper learned that he really didn’t like what many of us would call “real work.” At any rate, as far as anyone seems to have noted, he never really had a normal job after that.

Thereafter, Stephen Harper opted for the comfortable life of a career politician — even when he was out of politics, studying at ideologically compatible corners of academia like the University of Calgary’s political science department or working for well-funded right-wing political organizations like the secretive National Citizens Coalition.

Ben Harper, it seems, will be able to skip that unpleasant first step in the mailroom.

Word leaked out last week through obsequious media stories that Ben, the former Conservative prime minister’s 24-year-old son, had somehow landed a plum job as a “junior policy advisor” in the office of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney for a cool $100,000 or so a year. His precise salary is unknown, conveniently hidden just below the threshold required to appear on the province’s Sunshine List.

But the younger Mr. Harper has been hanging around the Legislature in Edmonton since last June, it’s been noted, doing work of an advisory nature for the finance and economic development departments.

Ben Harper is now supposedly the junior of two policy advisors in the premier’s office, which only puts him a step away from the senior role, one supposes. That would assume, however, that the place runs on union seniority rules.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Stephen Harper’s former lieutenant in Ottawa, now Ben Harper’s boss in Alberta (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Predictably, there was some mockery about the new hire’s thin resume — seeing as Papa Harper appears to be the United Conservative Party’s eminence gris and present puppet master of his former lieutenant, Mr. Kenney — especially since Ben doesn’t actually seem to be in Edmonton right now.

But powerful men have always done favours for their friends’ offspring and always will. Like the poor, as Someone said, well-heeled juniors with influential daddies shall always be with us. Those of us who are not so well connected learn to live with it, and sometimes even come to like the recipients of such convenient largesse when we’re required to work with them.

Moreover, as with the Laytons and the Trudeaus, it is an indisputable fact political talent does sometimes run in families — a reality Alberta’s Conservative elite deeply resents only when the bloodline runs Laurentian red instead of Cordilleran blue.

What was more interesting last week was the sycophantic passion with which Mr. Kenney’s online screech machine defended the ex-prime-ministerial offspring’s qualifications in the face of a few jabs about the obvious nepotism.

Before you knew it, UCP supporters were acting like Sen. Lindsey Graham at a White House garden party, heaping praise on the new policy advisor and his sterling academic credentials, not to mention the wisdom of the boss for hiring him.

“Ben Harper has both a BA (Economics) & BComm from Queen’s, and is doing his Masters in Economics at Columbia University – one of the world’s top institutions of higher learning,” harrumphed the premier’s chief troll and issues manager, Matt Wolf, inadvertently highlighting the possibility Mr. Harper Jr. may be collecting his generous salary as he studies in the Big Apple. Nice work if you can get it, as they say.

Premier Kenney’s chief troll and issues manager, Matt Wolf (Photo: Twitter).

Can you imagine what Mr. Wolf and his colleagues would have been saying if the Prime Minister’s Office had found a job for some scion of the fictional “Laurentian elite” while enrolled at a university in another country?

The old Progressive Conservatives, whose sense of entitlement seems positively quaint nowadays, always had the dignity to ignore such jibes from the hoi polloi. That, however, was mostly before social media was a thing that, as has been discovered, could be used to elect people with questionable qualifications like Donald Trump and Jason Kenney to high office.

Certainly, the younger Mr. Harper is already better qualified than his boss from an academic perspective, although he seems from his past commentary on social media to lack some of the social graces.

Well, perhaps his dad has sent him here to polish him up, to teach him a little faux bonhomie like that of Mr. Kenney — who may be no Ralph Klein in the charm department, but can at least fake a nice smile and crack a joke when he’s not putting on his Angry Albertan act for the cameras. But then, they say Stephen Harper can be charming too when he’s among his friends and not people inclined to talk back to him.

So maybe it’s just that Ben needed a little spending money while he’s at Columbia. New York can be expensive, after all, especially in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights.

And when term ends, he can come back to Alberta and learn some of the things he’ll need if he decides to take over the family business — which seems, to paraphrase his father, to be making sure you won’t recognize Canada when the Harpers are through with it.

There was no mention in this brouhaha of Stephen and Laureen Harper’s daughter, Ben’s 20-year-old sister, who is also a university student. She, presumably, will need a summer job soon as well.

43 Comments to: Young Ben Harper gets a well-heeled start in politics, thanks to dear old dad’s former lieutenant

  1. Just Me

    October 11th, 2020

    The name of Harpo’s kid is Ben Harper?

    He better not have been named for this very talented Ben Harper … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Harper

    If Ben Harper is working in the Office of the Angry Midget, I guess we can conclude that a career in the NHL is not waiting for him. So, the lad is going to Columbia U while earning a cool $100K as a “special policy adviser”. The titles that the Office of the Angry Midget awards those who do little if anything on the public dime are both confusing and hilarious. Of course, the Wolfman stepped in to defend hiring Harpo the Younger, which is what those “Issues Managers” are for. I guess when Wolfman isn’t trolling Twitter, Reddit, and a host of other social media sites for a whiff of dissent, he has to pop his head out of his foxhole and defend the defenceless, like the son of a former PM.

    AISH recipients should be so lucky to have such a talented advocate in their corner.

    Reply
    • Bret Larson

      October 11th, 2020

      It just seems correct for progressives to resort to smears and names for Harper and Kenney. If it’s all you got it’s all you got.

      Reply
      • Erin

        October 11th, 2020

        Please respond to the content and context of the article. Do you believe that this appointment is appropriate? Why? Do you believe the compensation is appropriate? Why? Would it have been appropriate for any one other than Stephen Harper’s privileged child?

        Reply
        • Bob Raynard

          October 12th, 2020

          All governments, regardless of stripe, occasionally do something that embarrasses their supporters. The smartest response is no response; just let it blow over.

          For Bret to try to defend it seems pointless, and adds to my suspicion that we taxpayers are paying for his comments, especially since his opinions first started showing up after the formation of the war room. David’s site now has the a readership large enough to sell advertising; it stands to reason it would also be on the war room’s radar.

          Pity $30 million can’t buy a more intelligent response, however.

          Reply
        • Death and Gravity

          October 12th, 2020

          Respond to substance? It is to laugh.

          Precious, precious Bret is an extremely unimaginative, dim-witted troll. His rhetorical methods seem to be the result of skimming some works of that hideous crone Anne Coulter. They are effective insofar as were he to use them in the Real, in the midst of actual persons who would respond as he deserves, he’d be in a certain amount of danger. But he’d never dare. I don’t understand why our blogfather tolerates the insatiable little tick. I’d have banned him long since.

          Reply
        • Bret Larson

          October 13th, 2020

          I obviously have no idea whether his employ is reasonable or supportable.

          And I dont think anyone here, after reading the biased take on it provided, could have any additional information to determine the right of it.

          It is rather ironic though that the bubble group here feels comfortable lambasting the pay and scope of a government job.

          The outrage has definitely put a smile on my face, “government workers are paid too much and they do too little!”

          I just didnt really expect that here.

          Reply
      • Kang

        October 11th, 2020

        BRET: Name calling with no substance? Okay, what should we say of Harper senior and Kenney who were responsible for destroying all the Agriculture Canada scientific libraries across Canada in the last months of their Federal tenure (two huge ones in Alberta alone)? Books, photos, and scientific monographs dating back to 1860? How about the internationally recognized Fresh Water Research Library they destroyed, or the huge Health Canada library that also went into dumpsters, none with any attempt at back up? What is the term for people who burn, or in this case systematically dumpster books and scientific papers? Some things are just bad policy but to destroy a heritage of knowledge and generations of scientific work removes those people from civilized consideration. No wonder they cling so desperately to power. In my world true conservatives never burn books, but their intellectual cousins have often done so.

        Reply
        • Bret Larson

          October 14th, 2020

          Sorry for not responding sooner. Personally I believe in the application of the scientific method to understand our world and how to take care and nurture the environs. Im not sure how that applies to the information you are concerned about.

          I cant speak for Harper and Kenney, but as one who has to vote for them, because the other guys are alot worse, Im concerned about large cadres of government employees hired as scientists and their work used as a rational for whatever their political bosses want to accomplish and provide the veneer of science to the conclusions.

          Its worth noting that science only answers questions amenable to the scientific method and that which can be interdependently confirmed.

          So, on such questions one has to ask, what does the science say.

          Not, what does the science named interest group say.

          Reply
          • Kang

            October 15th, 2020

            Nice try at misdirection. But the fact is those ag research libraries had irreplaceable basic knowledge gathered using the scientific method over 160 years specific to producing food in Canada’s environment. The Health Canada Library had similar information dating back to the start of the 1900s. It is now all gone – an act of criminal vandalism which is far worse than the Brown Shirts burning books in Germany. At least the Brown Shirts were just burning books by authors like Freud, who they did not like. The Cons were actually destroying knowledge itself. The loss of that work means it is impossible to have base-lines to compare the effectiveness of new tech and techniques against previous tech. In food, agriculture, and health, that really matters.

      • maximum

        October 11th, 2020

        You obviously don’t get out much if this is all it takes to upset you. One thing you can say about Right Wing Trolls is that many of them are unintentionally amusing because they can’t spell, and think “grammar” is an older female relative, rather than structural rules governing language.

        Reply
      • Anonymous

        October 11th, 2020

        Bret Larson: Where is the smear? The UCP keeps hiring their conservative pals for redundant positions, that pay hefty salaries. Where is the logic here, when many Albertans are struggling, including anyone on A.I.S.H and seniors?

        Reply
        • Bret Larson

          October 15th, 2020

          You forgot oilfield workers.

          And of note, those on A.I.S.H and seniors who may be struggling, are struggling because all oil field workers are struggling.

          Reply
      • Political Ranger

        October 12th, 2020

        speaking of having absolutely nothing to say …
        just another mindless and childish taunt from you!

        Reply
  2. Bill Malcolm

    October 11th, 2020

    Well, this is a well-flowing diatribe and easy to read. You have outdone yourself in pointing out the unashamed nepotism the elder harper has displayed. I mean, in between singing off-key old Beatle tunes and avidly consuming hockey games on TV, stevie’s talents and internal need to change Canada have raged unabated. What I’ve never read about is just exactly what needed to be changed and the logical reasons why. The sheer unpleasantness of the man, his canning of the many small programs of people living in other provinces to extend cultural ties stands out, his appointment of political commissars to ride herd on federal scientists writings and utterances at conferences is all acknowledged as hated past deeds. But why did he feel the need to be such an arsehole? He never enunciated it clearly so far as I know – he just seems to hate people being happy and decided to give us all a nasty surprise when it was neither needed nor required. In other words, no logic, just mean-spiritedness.

    Now Ben, named after the vacuous Mulroney II one presumes, has a gold-plated free lunch lined up for himself, in no way corresponding to his talent, merely connections. College on $100K a year? Not too shabby when considering the thousands of people kenney dumped into penury and UI. Soon we’ll be hearing the Con carney bark from him, devoid of any knowledge of personal hard times of course, so it’ll be some vapid nonsense with no basis in reality but hate-manufactured horse manure instilled by that senior intellectual father of his.

    Basic economics has long argued for a 100% inheritance tax so as to avoid some clueless clod of an offspring inheriting wealth. Every person for themselves in the competition of life. This idea was first laid on me by a Texan studying for his PhD at the London Scool of Economics fifty years ago when I was there for a master’s in mechanical engineering. That young gentleman wasn’t exactly a socialist either. But the biggies of business and conservatism seem to think their offspring a chip off the block and worthy of a leg up, so despite the conservative purity of making everyone responsible for their own success in life based on their personal abilities, your real life Con gives their greed and game away by dismissing such pure economic theory – gotta have Genius Mark Two start out in abject luxury as and when possible.

    Welcome to the skewed and gilded life of the offspring of a snarling big time Con meanie with autocratic leanings aspiring to the North Korean view, young Ben. No doubt you’ll soon regard yourself as superior to the common drudge, if you don’t already through family osmosis. The rest of us can only thank our lucky stars that jason the kenney has been a lifelong “it”.

    Reply
    • tom in Ontario

      October 11th, 2020

      “…in between singing off-key old Beatle tunes…”

      Malcolm, the cat’s out of the bag. You viewed the October 3, 2009 YouTube video of our P.M. banging away on the 88s and attempting to croon. Then you checked the comments.
      “I love how he is putting forth a serious effort and everyone starts laughing their asses off.”

      Reply
  3. tom

    October 11th, 2020

    Jason Kenney’s UCP government is becoming quite the patronage machine in its two first years.

    Reply
  4. Robert Bott

    October 11th, 2020

    Most points well taken, but it should be noted that Columbia University offers a variety of online master’s programs: https://online.columbia.edu/online-programs/
    Ben would not need to be in New York to be pursuing a degree there.

    Reply
  5. Abs

    October 11th, 2020

    Soon the whole Harper clan could be running the Kenney Big House in absentia, but which one is Ben? I like the sound of Jared. Ben and Jared. But at least Jared doesn’t live in another country while collecting his pay. Who knew that it was just that easy to graduate from university without the burden of a student loan? Just get a part-time job, kids! Even better if you can do it remotely.

    Maybe that’s what good old dad’s very public handshake on Ben’s first day of school in Ottawa was about. The deal was sealed.

    Reply
    • ronmac

      October 11th, 2020

      Looks like a “boy in short pants” has made his way to Albertaland.
      Alert readers will recall the days when his pappy staffed his inner circle with youngsters during his tenure as PM while long time advisors and close friends were left out in the cold. They were dubbed the “boys in short pants” and there was resentment from long time MPs being told how to do politics from people 20 years their junior who have never accomplished much in life.

      Reply
  6. Hana Razga

    October 11th, 2020

    Not another Harper, please! One Harper was enough…..

    Reply
  7. Jim

    October 11th, 2020

    So Harper doesn’t trust Kenney as much as previously thought and put his son close to him to keep an eye on things? Very interesting, perhaps a warning to Kenney to hurry things up and let him know he can be replaced. Makes you wonder what surprises Harper has planned if even a loyal soldier like Kenney needs to be watched closely. I could be wrong and it is just a payoff to Harper to take off some of the stress of paying Ivy League tuition. Guess we will have to watch for a tone change coming from the premiers office or perhaps an omnibus bill with some goodies in it for Harper’s funders.

    Reply
  8. Comment

    October 11th, 2020

    Nepotism is as old as time. But this one is really, really, really hard to take. Really.

    Reply
  9. Bret Larson

    October 11th, 2020

    Besides a “functioning short term memory” something else to need is the absence of orange blinders. At least Harpers kid is nominally from Alberta. Which can’t be said for most of the patronage appointments made by the Notley government. And as a bonus’s, his political life hasn’t centred around destroying the ability of Albertans to make a living. “Luxury!” That said, I agree such appointments are distasteful. And of course there’s only one way to avoid such things. Make government smaller by dropping taxes. Leave the money in people’s pockets and allow them to decide what he should be paid by the services he provides them in a free market.

    Reply
    • Political Ranger

      October 12th, 2020

      no such a thing as a free market
      like the rest of your diatribe, no thought, no sense

      Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      October 12th, 2020

      Alberta already has the lowest taxes in Canada. Lowering taxes clearly doesn’t stop people from complaining about high taxes (see also United States of America).

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        October 13th, 2020

        When you dont tax money, it doesn’t disappear. The people who actually create it decide what it supports instead of politicians.

        Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      October 12th, 2020

      Ah. Wee troll has made a positive claim: most of the patronage appointments made by the Notley government were not from Alberta.

      Evidence, please.

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        October 13th, 2020

        Please forgive such a lapse, Im sure they had a lot of pork barrel that was local also.

        Reply
  10. Anonymous

    October 11th, 2020

    The number of well paying and redundant positions that the UCP keeps giving to their conservative pals keeps growing. The UCP then has to make life harder for those on A.I.S.H, and the senior citizens, as well as anyone else who is struggling to get by. Where is the sanity, or logic behind this? This isn’t right.

    Reply
  11. Dave

    October 12th, 2020

    One of the key assertions of free market conservatives is that people get ahead on merit. However, this is often not the case. People who are born into wealth or even more modest, but comfortable financial circumstances have a great advantage. They also probably live in the right neighbourhoods, go to the right schools and get to know the right people. Even if they don’t get loans of millions from their families to start their business ventures, they have a lot of advantages whether they fully realize it or not.

    So, that the young Mr. Harper already has a nice paying job and is well positioned for the future before he even has finished school, I suppose is not surprising – daddy still has quite a name to trade on in the right circles.

    However, this sort of nepotism is not good for democracy, which should be a bit more equal opportunity. There is probably some unknown, unsung more qualified graduate who didn’t get this job because someone with a name swooped in or was parachuted in, to get it. Also, if the Alberta government isn’t hiring the best and the brightest, then that is a waste of taxpayers money isn’t it?

    Of course, the Kenney government hasn’t seemed to be too bright so far, so perhaps they never really cared about that so much and this explains it. Also, as someone who would like to see a better government, perhaps the way we will get there is if Kenney doesn’t get the best political advice and so ultimately gets an unfavorable verdict from the voters. So, on that thought – go ahead Mr. Kenney and hire a bunch more Conservative kiddies that come from well known Conservative families.

    Reply
  12. jerrymacgp

    October 12th, 2020

    “Policy Advisor” to the premier … that’s rich, given that Mr Kenney is a career politician & right-wing policy wonk without even the day-to-day distractions of a family of his own to divert his attention. He hardly needs policy advice from young Mr Harper. Another commenter labeled this appointment “redundant” … no better description comes to mind.

    Reply
    • Abs

      October 12th, 2020

      Ben Harper’s Twitter feed seems to consist entirely of retweeting Jason Kenney. His function is that of a mirror, rather than a policy advisor. If a student at an elite American university retweets this stuff, it gets a spit polish and maybe becomes shiny and brilliant. Therefore, who cares if the original tweet came from a college dropout in the hinterland? It’s pure gold now, from Midas himself.

      Reply
  13. Mike in Edmonton

    October 12th, 2020

    So according to the Wolf Troll, Ben Harper is a certified egghead with 2-1/2 university degrees, and Lord Jason was lucky and smart to hire him.

    Really? I can’t see Jason Kenney taking “advice” from somebody who’s 1) young, 2) smart, 3) still in university,* 4) the scion of Stephen the Great, not the Great Man Himself and not least 5) not rich enough to buy face time with Lord Jason.

    This is old-fashioned pork-barrel politics, nothing more. Young Ben’s advice will be ignored no matter how good it is–unless he cribs his arguments from the Manhattan Institute, Americans for Prosperity or some such.

    *I was going to be unkind and say, “not kicked out of university,” but I decided not to.

    Reply
  14. Guest

    October 14th, 2020

    “Government isn’t organized to be efficient, nor to serve the people. It is organized to provide jobs for the boys.”

    – Syracuse Herald, October 1913

    Reply
  15. Gay Tory

    October 14th, 2020

    Y’know, this could have instead been a really well-written article that focused upon the opportunities and challenges faced by prominent, Canadian political scions or even a truly critical appraisal of informal Dynastic systems within Canadian Parliamentary systems.

    Instead, the commentator comes out swinging against his article’s subjects without properly explaining why we should be cynical of the Harper’s engagement in the system but view the Trudeaus’ and Laytons’ participation more favorably.

    What was the point of this besides screed?

    Reply

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