Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his strangely bloodless performance in a UCP video released yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of UCP video).

How do you make a political endorsement without making a political endorsement? 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who was not mentioned in Mr. Harper’s “endorsement” of her political party, which he also didn’t name (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Canada’s former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper has offered us a lesson!

Yesterday, Alberta’s United Conservative Party cracked open the political crypt and rolled out a video of the éminence grise of the Conservative Party of Canada, who now toils in the metaphorical dark for the neoliberal Internationale, otherwise misleadingly known as the International Democrat Union

Mr. Harper’s simple job was to persuade Albertans to hold their noses and vote for Premier Danielle Smith’s so-called United Conservative Party. 

The former PM did not appear to be enjoying himself in the video that was posted on social media and texted to UCP supporters. He was particularly scary when he tried to crack a smile, an expression that could have curdled milk on nearby doorsteps if dairy products were still sold that way. 

“A’berta’s been through some tough years since 2015,” Mr. Harper, looking faintly vampiric, began his message. “But the economy is finally hitting its stride again and employment is booming.”

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, the only person Mr. Harper mentioned in his statement yesterday (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“Yet that could all be derailed if the Notley NDP wins. We see what they’ve done before, job killing, tax hiking, anti-energy policies leading to mass layoffs, business closures, and recession,” he yammered on. 

“It took years to recover from the last NDP government. We can’t risk going backwards again. Vote for Alberta. Vote Conservative.” 

Notice anything about this? Other than the fact he spoke only 73 words in 32 seconds and that it’s mostly tendentious pish-posh unworthy of a guy that used to have some gravitas, that is. 

Who is he asking you to vote for? Someone named Alberta. Alberta Who? 

What political party does he want voters to support? Ummmm … Conservatives! 

Yes, we have no Danielle Smith! We have no United Conservative Party today! 

Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney around the time he was receiving Mr. Harper’s enthusiastic endorsement (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

And this from a guy who even had kind words, by name, for Viktor (Hungary for the Hungarians) Orban! 

This is not, dear readers, a statement that can be called a ringing endorsement of Danielle Smith and United Conservative Party. 

Indeed, the only person Mr. Harper mentions is Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, and his attack on her is strangely bloodless. 

Readers may recall that Mr. Harper’s endorsement of his former Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney 2019 was considerably more enthusiastic. 

“It’s not just that Jason Kenney performed well in every job I gave him,” he said at the time. “It’s that he got better and better and better at every one.” Alas, that was then and this is now. Mr. Kenney rose to the level of his incompetence, perhaps as a result of Mr. Harper’s last endorsement, and has since moved on.

His replacement, Ms. Smith, appears to have reached her level of incompetence long before she fluked into her present job – possibly on or about Dec. 17, 2014 – and now as a result she is an accidental premier who presents the danger of destroying Mr. Kenney’s creation and delivering a grave setback to Alberta conservatism in the longer run.

This may account for Mr. Harper’s pretty obvious lack of enthusiasm in his endorsement, if his statement qualifies even for that description. 

Former Progressive Conservative deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who nowadays is campaigning for Ms. Notley’s New Democrats (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Nevertheless, Ms. Smith and her most ardent supporters treated the video clip as manna from heaven

“Thank you Stephen Harper,” the premier gushed on Twitter. “You are an exceptional leader with an unwavering commitment …” Yadda-yadda

“Thanks @stephenharper for the endorsement of @ABDanielleSmith,” rhapsodized Ms. Smith’s office manager, Rob Anderson, nowadays apparently known as Free Alberta Rob – which sounds from here like a slightly premature bumper sticker, but whatever. 

Since there was no endorsement whatsoever of Ms. Smith in Mr. Harper’s words, this sounds a little like whistling past the political graveyard – which is not to say the UCP couldn’t pull off a victory with its widespread support in rural Alberta and the province’s many habitual Conservative voters, at whom Mr. Harper’s message was clearly aimed. 

“Endorsements like this are pre-recorded for the last few days of a campaign,” observed former Progressive Conservative deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who lately has been out door-knocking for the NDP. “But times are desperate for the UCP. They’re deploying lifeboats before the Writ is dropped.”

This could very well be, although yesterday’s low-production-value Harper statement looked too hastily put together to be something put in the can days or weeks ago. 

But as Mr. Lukaszuk suggested, desperate times call for desperate measures, and as lame as his message was, intentionally or not, Mr. Harper’s name still carries a lot of clout in this province. 

Join the Conversation


  1. A Harper endorsement carries the same weight as a Preston Manning endorsement from my perspective.

    Absolutely meaningless. Perhaps even worse than meaningless.

    I mean really…Danielle Smith is hardly an example of a politician’s politician. Let alone of a the Premier of a Province. Even if that Province happens to be Alberta!

    1. If I were an undecided voter, a Harper endorsement would have some sway with me – just not the way the UCP hoped.

  2. Y’all may not get the reference, but watching Harper made me think of this exchange from the 1995 Crypt Keeper movie…

    Crypt Keeper :Well let me tell you something pal, you’re no Gory Cooper, you aren’t even a Robert Deadford. Another take like that and it’ll be back to bit parts for you, and I won’t say what ‘bits’ I’m talking about.

    [stressed sigh]

    Where’d they dig this guy up?

  3. I suppose Harper’s tepid seeming endorsement is better than none. Although I find it particularly interesting that he wants us to vote Conservative, when the party I believe he is is supposed to be referring to is generally known in Alberta as the UCP. I don’t think Harper is so out of touch with Alberta politics as to unintentionally make this misstatement.

    So perhaps there will be a big rebranding soon, as UCP is becoming a bit too toxic. I suppose there still is a bit of time before the signs, ads and brochures all have to be done, but at this point it would be a bit chaotic. On that note, who seems to embody chaos? Smith! Harper, well not so much.

    I suppose Harper has done his duty and at this point in time many Conservative voters do look back at him fondly. So perhaps it will have some effect. However, I wonder if the contrast between the more controlled conservatism of Harper, as opposed to the more free wheeling Smith style, might not go over as well for many of those who liked Harper.

  4. DJC, I’m sorry, but you really should have put up a warning label before posting that pic..yikes…tales from the crypt for sure…ugh!!!

    As a follow up to Just Me’s comment about fixed elections..
    from the Tyee—“Elections Alberta mess may skew ballots ,says expert”…thanks to Charles Rusnell .

    I find it rather frightening that politics in Alberta is taking on such a republican overtone, in such a brazen way, yet I’m not surprised, what with the cast of characters that are so linked in so many ways. Every time I read about a new name that’s come up and out into the picture re:D Parker , it appears IMHO to link back to the esteemed Crypt Master…..and his gnashing little
    “loyal ” doll ,is turning up the dialogue across Canada in a way that brings out some very unladylike language every time I hear him start snarling. I see now, where he got the “limit the media “,and how Dani is doing the same, or at least trying to.
    As far as DS calling out Rachel for not wanting to answer a question from WS ,it would be like PP calling out PMJT for not taking questions from Fox news— I mean why should they? but that’s just my personal opinion.

    In the meantime, everyone
    be/aware of voting rights, pass the message….and if you think I’m being cynical, check out Dani’s supporters on her page and see how many are already d’’s going to be a long 5wks.

  5. This is as desperate as it gets. Stephen Harper never mentioned Danielle Smith by name, because she could very well be finished. Nor did he mention the UCP, because they too, are likely finished. Conservatives? Those haven’t existed in Alberta, for a long time, because Ralph Klein destroyed that brand, and the Reformers took over. The ones who cheated us out of our oil and tax wealth, destroyed jobs, wrecked public healthcare and public education, increased poverty levels, made utility and insurance costs rise, and compromised the environment. We didn’t see this stupidity under Peter Lougheed.

  6. It’s Bibi’s best friend, Stephen. You’d think any friend of Netanyahu would be a friend of Danielle Smith, given their similar views of the judicial system. Alas, Bibi inspires his nation’s young people to show up and protest. Smith inspires a blank gray wall with a man who can’t bear to say her name or the name of her Take Alberta Backwards backers. Is that smirk at the end duping delight or derision? Hard to say.

  7. Kee-rist!!
    That lede picture scared the bejeezes outta me!
    Don’t know how I’ll sleep tonite.

  8. Add remarks from Preston, Jason and Mr. Peepers and Voila! Alberta’s home grown barber shop quartette!

    1. “We’ll put the band back together, do a few gigs, we get some bread. Bang!” — Jake Blues

      We don’t need more of Stevie Blunder and the boys at this juncture. Please do not encourage it.

  9. The UCP internal polling is likely in the dumps or it’s in danger of it going into the dumps. Harper doesn’t really make any new arguments in that short clip and that clip is another example of the UCP not really giving people a reason to elect them again besides the ABNDP are bad. In the last few weeks the UCP and their supporters have employed brutal character assassinations against the ABNDP. I don’t think it has been helping their campaign much at all. The UCP campaign so far is giving me similar vibes to the 2019 campaign for the ABNDP which is not good for them despite their geographical advantage. Smith and the UCP still have time to change things but I don’t know if they are willing to do that at this point

  10. I’ve been around long before 2015. I’m old enough to have met Peter Lougheed at a gala dine and dance to welcome the Argentinian ambassador at the Jasper Park lodge. I’m old enough to have dealt with Don and Dale Getty. I’m old enough to have campaigned for Gene Zwosdesky in conservative garb. I’m old enough to have welcomed Ralph to golf in his Volkswagen convertible. I’m old enough to know better! Any vote for the UCP is a vote that will send the hand basket on it’s way, with all of us in it!

  11. It has all the appearances of desperate, naked, shameless groveling, where; any port in a storm will be used as necessary, any lie will be told if required, and any @ss will be kissed if it advances the self interested goal [The dupes that are her followers and supporters are understood and categorized as, “(Wo)Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful (wo)man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”]

    The simple crudeness of Ms. Smith’s character could not be made more obvious, i.e., the ends always justify the means, if those means advance self interested ends.

    The disinterest of Mr. Harper appears to involve the fact that Mr. Harper has moved far beyond the introductory world of childish political ‘games’ and if Danielle Smith is neither a close friend, family member, or associate, Mr. Harper could probably care less about a clumsy, scheming third rate radio talk show host.

  12. Hm, I sort of remember Ernest Manning was called in to campaign for Harry Strom, likewise, Diefenbaker for Robert Stanfield. Neither of these two, famous as they may have been had much effect on outcomes. Yesterday’s news is yesteryear’s news. Voters vote on current issues.

  13. I have a hard time believing that picture is actually Stephen Harper. Where’s the smarmy smile and the “just plain folks “ sweater?

  14. I was hoping we would never have to hear from him again in Canadian or Alberta politics. He should stick to his IDU with Orban and his ilk. Or the Moonies. He even gave “an address to the Universal Peace Federation World Summit 2022” which is “the political arm of the Unification Church, founded by Sun Myung Moon (“ Please, Mr. Harper, stay out of politics. Your ideas don’t belong here.

  15. Here’s a cool fact! Did you know that the Regional Advisor for the Prairies in the office of the Prime Minister from June 2012 to July 2013 (Mr. Harper) was none other than TBA founder David Parker? Same guy who was once a Regional Organizer for Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign. It’s on his Linked-In profile.

  16. 40 days until Smith is not elected premier. Note that I did not say ”re-elected’ because she was never elected premier by the citizens of Alberta.

  17. It’s no surprise that so many seniors aren’t smart enough to figure out there is nothing conservative about these reformers. Police officers and us bank managers could write a book about how stupid some of them are and the stupid scams they fell for. Now they are being scammed by these reformers and they still aren’t smart enough to figure it out. They love being treated like morons. As a lawyer friend would have said “ There is nothing dumber than a senior supporting the word conservative while he watches reformers helping the rich steal his oil and tax wealth while forcing him into a lot more privatization. This is likely the worse case of fraud the world has ever seen. People being screwed out of hundreds of billions of dollars and it’s all legal because the idiots keep electing them, and telling them that’s it’s okay to do it.” I wonder what he would say today if he were still alive? Him and my dad would be furious and you can bet Lougheed would be to.

    1. Alan, as a senior I am deeply offended. At 79 I am a progressive and have been a loyal NDP supporter when Rachel’s father Grant was at the helm of the party. I donate the maximum legally allowed to NDP coffers and cook for canvassers and sign crews. Tune into the Raging Grannies’ clever satire regarding AB politics and you may change your tune. There are many AB seniors who are well informed and actively working for a progressive and just province.

      1. Maureen: Kudos, just got through to your site— you go girls…!!!

        DJC, — year end predictions
        ” no election in 2023″ ???
        Well how about no election for Danielle, but for a “conservative ” candidate , as per the crypt master. The raging grannies had some interesting comments leaning that way, and IMHO the endorsement that wasn’t puts an interesting spin on why the writ hasn’t been dropped yet. How much time ‘does’ she have ? Will she lose her seat and if she did what would happen next? Yes I know I’m over the limit, but given some of the, how shall I say, irregularities in the Alberta elections act, I’m not familiar with any changes that have been made recently. Or is it possible that the Conservatives are going to try and go full boar in 2024, N & S .

        I’m going to make a wild prediction and say there’s going to be an Erin O’Toole type coup , and the glass is about to shatter.
        In for a penny….. stranger things have happened, it’s Alberta after all.

  18. Shouldn’t there be a long number linked to some police jurisdiction at the bottom of that picture?

  19. If Stephen Harper in his typical deadpan fashion endorses a woman who unlike any previous Premier has stumbled out of the gate on so MANY issues, then that’s a statement about his quality of opinion. Does this not make most reasonable people grind their teeth. Good god Harper, that is as shallow as it gets.

  20. Okay. I wasn’t as frighted as many above, but that’s prob’ly because I was recently vaccinated —uh, well, at least inoculated by recent visions of Stephen Harper.

    No, not really nightmares—but close! I did have a waking nightmare—or, I guess, they’re properly called “terrors”—when my darling started grumbling about my books. Again.

    “Can’t you get rid of some of these? You’ve already read them…”
    “But, Sweetie, they’re for reference…”
    “Pft! When was the last time you referred to them, eh? C’mon, when?”

    So I had the ghoulish task of culling some of my library—the part in the guest room where political books go to—uh—get referred to or die. Sorry Michael Harris; so sad, Yves Engler; been good to know ya; Donald Gutstein, and so long, Bob Plamondon…et cetera…sniff…

    For those who might not recognize these authors, they all penned books about Harper, and how I’ve become lately inured to his Lennon-McCartney-songbook mug. I stacked these efforts, each with its mug-shot of Harper on front or spine, upon the shelf in the hallway where things are triaged for trundling to the Free Shack. Maybe get a couple of DVD’s in return.

    But wait! Now that ole sweater-blue eyes of the Ice Gimlets has made a cameo in the most important election in Canada (in just 40 days), I do believe the “Ugly Canadian” of the “Party Of One” gets a reprieve!

    “But, Honey, this is current affairs!”

    If you think I’m happy, you’re right (with nod to Red Sovine). See, I have a mild obsession with books: I have a really hard time parting with even bad ones—euphemistically it’s been called “a gentle madness.”

    Now I just have to convince my Sugar. At least this’ll be one she hasn’t heard before—like so many of the others.

    Or maybe I’ll serenade her with the slick licks and lyrics of the Father of Rock-n-Roll himself: Chuck “Nostradamus” Berry

    “Gonna talk to the judge in private early this morning
    Take me to the sheriff’s office to sign a warrant
    They gonna form a charge agin ya
    That’ll be the very thing that’ll send ya
    I’m gonna see you be back home in forty days!”

    Maybe she’ll get the Alberta connection.

  21. Too bad so many UCP supporters died of covid and many are suffering from long covid and may not remember how to vote. Those ballots would have been good to have eh, Danielle. Next time do what you can to protect your supporters. You know by encouraging masking, and scientifically proven vaccines.

  22. David, I think you burried the lede on this one: to me the most interesting happening in the last week is not Harper being pulled out of cold storage but rather Thomas Lukaszuk campaigning for the NDP. That’s a ‘hell freezing over/when pigs fly’ kind of happening in the Alberta I once new (but clearly things have changed). Glad to see it, though.

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