Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper used a keynote speech at a Conservative conference in Ottawa on Wednesday night to criticize the Liberal government over its handling of alleged foreign interference.
Harper was one of the final speakers at Wednesday’s Canada Strong and Free Networking conference, formerly known as the Manning Networking Conference. The conference lasts until Friday.
The former prime minister was touting his reforms to the rules on political donations – particularly when the Tories lowered the limit for individual donors and scrapped a government subsidy of $2 per vote.
“[We made] parties that depend on a market of small contributions rather than a combination of large donors and government grants,” he said, before mocking the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“This system, by the way, does not include support from foreign governments.”
The Liberals have been dogged by questions about foreign interference following a slew of recent media reports. According to Global News, the Privy Council Office prepared a report for the Trudeau government warning that Chinese officials in Toronto had funneled money to a “secret network charged with interfering in the 2019 Canadian election.”
Global reported similar allegations in November – that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) informed Trudeau in January 2022 of Chinese efforts to interfere in this election. The interference reportedly included the Chinese government sending money to at least 11 candidates.
Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning then joined Harper on stage for a one-on-one chat. The two men discussed the anniversary of the Reform Party’s breakthrough in the 1993 federal election which sent more than 50 of the party’s candidates to Ottawa.
But they also leaned on a discussion on the future of the Conservative Party, particularly in view of the next election.
Harper used the subject to then slam the NDP, calling it “an offshoot of the Liberal Party” — referring to the trust and supply agreement reached between NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Trudeau.
In the deal, the NDP promised to support the ruling Liberals until 2025 in exchange for progress on shared priorities, including a dental plan for middle- and low-income Canadians.
But Harper didn’t seem impressed with what the NDP got in return.
“Only Jagmeet Singh could walk into a room with Trudeau and walk out with a deal where he would get nothing,” he said. “I just wish I had an opposition leader like that.”
The Canada Strong and Free network was founded in 2005 as the Manning Center for Building Democracy. The organization regularly hosts events, including an annual networking conference, to share ideas about advancing the conservative movement in Canada.
Several Conservative parliamentarians, including leader Pierre Poilievre, are expected to take the stage later this week.
Harper had some advice for the man in his old job.
Poilievre has made a number of political announcements since being elected leader. More recently, he called for development of national standards for doctors and nurses and said he would suing pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis if elected prime minister.
But making such announcements before an election campaign may not be the way to go, Harper said.
Although the former prime minister said the Tories should work on their platform and broadly define the direction they would take for the country, he said the party’s main task now was to hold the government to account.
“What I’m saying to the leaders of the Conservative opposition is your job today…it’s not to talk about how you would run the country. It’s to hold the government to account,” he said. declared.
“The time to tell people about your alternatives in detail is in an election campaign.”
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