Soren­son opens up over Harper's re­tire­ment

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail file­photo

Most po­lit­i­cal watch­ers in Canada ex­pected change was afoot since the last fed­eral elec­tion, and last week for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper an­nounced that he would be leav­ing pol­i­tics.

Harper an­nounced last Fri­day via a video posted to his so­cial media ac­counts that he would be re­sign­ing as MP for Calgary Her­itage.

“While I’m do­ing my good­byes to the par­lia­ment of Canada and get­ting ready for the next chap­ter of my life, I would like to ex­press my eter­nal grat­i­tude to the vot­ers of Calgary Her­itage, to the mem­bers of the con­ser­va­tive party and to all Cana­di­ans for giv­ing me the hon­our of serv­ing the best coun­try in the world,” he said in his state­ment. “To­day is re­ally the end of his lead­er­ship and I have so much re­spect for the man,” said Bat­tle River-Crow­foot MP Kevin Soren­son. “I look back on so many of the things we ac­com­plished, I was priv­i­leged to serve with him in cab­i­net, and around the bud­get ta­ble and see his abil­ity man­ag­ing an econ­omy that world-wide, had some mas­sive chal­lenges.”

Harper’s po­lit­i­cal ded­i­ca­tion spanned three decades. He was first elected in 1993 in Calgary West as a mem­ber for the Re­form Party, and re­signed in 1997.

Much changed in the five years that fol­lowed and in 2002, he ran for the lead­er­ship of the Cana­dian Al­liance. He beat out Stock­well Day and then won a by-elec­tion in Calgary South­west. Two years later, he re­signed as leader of the op­po­si­tion and ran for the lead­er­ship of the Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada. He be­came leader.

Soren­son’s fed­eral po­lit­i­cal ca­reer be­gan as mem­ber of the Al­liance in 2000, and then the Con­ser­va­tive Party.

He says part of Harper’s legacy will be that of a bridge builder. “He came back and united the Cana­dian Al­liance with the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party,” said Soren­son. “He was amaz­ing in those early years of main­tain­ing unity and build- ing unity be­tween the two par­ties that have re­ally done bat­tle in ev­ery elec­tion.” From 2006, un­til last Novem­ber’s elec­tion, he served as Prime Min­is­ter. Soren­son says a hall­mark of Harper’s term in of­fice was sound fis­cal man- age­ment.

“He is an econ­o­mist, he was ex­actly the one we needed for the times. The world went into a global re­ces­sion in 2008,” said Soren­son. “We came in 2006, and in those two years we paid off nearly $40 bil­lion

of na­tional debt, low­ered the GST, low­ered taxes and then in 2008 the re­ces­sion hit.”

“We were the last of the G7 coun­tries to go into it (the re­ces­sion) and were the first to come out of it.”

While known as a man­ager, Soren­son says that most don’t read­ily see his pas­sion.

“He loved this county. When the global re­ces­sion hit, he knew it was go­ing to take some very dif­fi­cult choices. He was al­ways driven by what is the right thing for the long term ben­e­fit of Cana­di­ans,” said Soren­son.

Go­ing for­ward, the party is en­ter­ing a lead­er­ship race to fill the vac­uum left by the de­par­ture of Harper.

“I think (in­terim leader) Rona Am­brose has done an amaz­ing job in all parts of the coun­try. I wish that she could

run, but the rules are that she can­not. I al­ways thought she could be the one, she’s ex­pe­ri­enced and served in cab­i­net. She has done so much,” he said.

“We’ll let the mem­ber­ship choose. We need some­one who will con­nect with the av

er­age Cana­dian, some­one who un­der­stands what the party is and the fis­cal man­age­ment of the coun­try, un­der­stands job cre­ation and keep­ing taxes low enough so mid­dle in­come fam­i­lies will keep more money in their pock­ets. Per­haps it is some­one who can con­nect with the media bet­ter. In a less than per­fect world we just want to choose the best leader we can."

Bat­tle River-Crow­foot MP Kevin Soren­son, right, says he is proud to have served with Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper.

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