Former prime minister Stephen Harper will be a keynote speaker at the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference next week and will offer his thoughts on the challenges faced by the middle-class. 

According to the organization’s president Jamil Jivani, Harper will be giving an address, followed by a conversation with former leader of the Reform Party of Canada and Canada Strong and Free Network founder Preston Manning.

The conference will be taking place on Mar. 22 to Mar. 24 at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa. 

“As a millennial who watched Mr. Harper on television as a teenager, it’s surreal for me to welcome him on stage in Ottawa. Mr. Harper’s leadership has informed how my generation of conservatives think about politics and public policy. He is uniquely able to bring different generations of Canadians together,” Jivani told True North. 

“Mr. Harper will speak to the theme of our conference, “working for the middle class.” Given Canadians need more economic growth and the challenges of inflation and affordability crises, this is a key time to be thinking about what it looks like to have an economy that prioritizes the needs of middle-class families.”

Other speakers at the conference include Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, MPs Garnett Genuis, Melissa Lantsman, Jasraj Singh Hallan and others. True North’s Andrew Lawton, Elie Cantin-Nantel and Noah Jarvis will also be speaking. 

Harper, who was a Reform MP from 1993 to 1997, eventually became the first Canadian prime minister elected under the Conservative Party of Canada banner. 

“Reform started with five people meeting in Calgary in 1986, and using the tools that democracy gives to us all – freedom to speak, assemble, organize, and vote – started a process which produced a reform-friendly majority government twenty years later,” Manning told True North. “That legacy should inspire those who want a change of government at the federal level today.”

According to Jivani, in hindsight, many of the Reform Party’s policies remain relevant today and having Harper and Manning on stage together is a unique opportunity for the conservative movement. 

“I personally wasn’t old enough to remember much about the Reform Party days. So there’s a lot of history in Canada’s conservative movement that I enjoy learning about now. With Mr. Harper and Mr. Manning together in Ottawa, it will be a special opportunity to hear them both reflect on the legacy of the Reform Party and its contributions to Canada,” said Jivani.

“If you look back at the Reform Party policies that Mr. Harper and Mr. Manning ran on in the 1990s, many of them are very relevant today.”

Jivani pointed to decentralized health care, bail system reform and representative Senate reform as examples.

“It’s important that we understand why the Reform Party was successful in challenging the Liberal Party of Canada in the 1990s, and what today’s conservative movement can learn from that moment in history in order to successfully challenge the Liberal Party today,” said Jivani.

“The Canada Strong and Free Network is focused on engaging the next generation of conservative leaders. We are happy to build bridges between generations, so millennials and gen z-ers are supported and mentored to lead Canada into the future.”