Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech to the UK Parliament

The text of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech to be delivered at 1200 GMT in the Robing Room at the Palace of Westminster to members of the UK Parliament (pardon the formatting hiccups. That’s my fault, not anyone else’s, as I rushed to get this online) . The speech is 3,320 words long:

Lord Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Monsieur le premier ministre, Prime Minister, Lords and Members of the House of Commons: For anyone who fully understands and truly cherishes the free and democratic nature of our institutions and the long history upon which they rest
there is no honour to compare with an invitation to stand here at the very cradle of our political system and to address the Members of the Parliament of Westminster.

Canada is in many ways such a different country from yours with our vast geography, our many cultures, and our two national languages ..

C’est un héritage qui remonte à la fondation de notre État par notre premier gouverneur, Samuel de Champlain, et qu’ont préservé jusqu’à ce jour nos concitoyens francophones

Yet, at their core, our Canadian institutions of government Are most profoundly indebted To their British ancestors For both their shape And their remarkable durability.

And so, As a Canadian, I am deeply honoured, and profoundly humbled to be here.

Mr. Speaker,  thank you also for your words of welcome.

Prime Minister, I am reminded of your generous compliments before the Parliament of Canada two years ago and your kind hospitality over the past one upon the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Her Majesty the Queen, and the funeral of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Might I say in response how much I have admired your determined efforts and your wise and principled leadership during these last few years as we have dealt with the difficult and critical issues facing our countries and the world issues which require the best of what has always made Britain unique and strong, and which you have plainly demonstrated.

And, of course, It goes without saying That I have also valued your friendship, which is beyond price.

I would also be remiss, while here in London, if I did not extend the very best wishes of the Canadian people, to the Duke of  Edinburgh  for his good health and to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as they prepare to welcome their first child.

Lord Speaker, Mr Speaker, distinguished members: some will tell you that I am the second Canadian Prime Minister to address the British Parliament.

Truth be told, I am the third. It is true that William Lyon Mackenzie King was the only other Prime Minister of Canada to address a gathering such as this. But Andrew Bonar Law often addressed this Parliament, during the 1920s, in his capacity as Prime Minister of Great Britain. And he was also Canadian, born in New Brunswick, just a few leagues removed from the place where my own ancestors settled after arriving from England in 1774.

However, with due respect to Bonar Law, it is the former Prime Minister of Canada, Mackenzie King, to whom I now wish to refer.

In May 1944, at the invitation of Sir Winston Churchill, he addressed the Members of this Parliament. A few years before that, in the darkest days of the Second World War, Churchill himself had delivered his famous “some chicken, some neck” speech to the Parliament of Canada. As the master orator that he was, Churchill had heaped fulsome, and I must say, well deserved praise upon Canada’s remarkable contribution to the war effort. Now, it was King’s turn. He did not disappoint and there is much in his remarks that bears repetition, nearly seventy years later.

He spoke of friendship.

He spoke of timeless principles.

And he spoke of the power of the values that we share to call forth from us the best parts of our character.

Canada’s entry into the war was not, he said, from obligation, but : “was the outcome of our deepest political instinct a love of freedom and a sense of justice.” And he spoke of the fraternity of those countries that, when they look at themselves, see something of the values they inherited from Great Britain.

My friends, The uncertainties and the challenges before us today are plainly different and I dare say lesser, than those of the 1940s.

True values, however, do not change though they may be forgotten. Allow me, therefore, to suggest that in times of difficulty, recourse to such values, and to the friends who share them is just as relevant today as it was when the fate of our civilization itself rested in the hands of greater men such as churchill and King.

Thus, now is not the time to doubt our values or our friends, or, indeed, ourselves.

Rather, now is the time to re-discover our values, to reaffirm their importance and to fall back upon them.

Canada and Britain may not be today the largest economies in the world nor the biggest military powers nor the greatest in terms of population but what we share are things more lasting eight hundred years of constitutional order and evolution that has allowed us to achieve what others wish for: to choose our governments and to hold them accountable to worship god in our own way and live in harmony with neighbours who do so differently and to enjoy standards of living once considered unimaginable, while aiding our fellow citizens in their times of illness, unemployment and need.

These are the things to which ordinary men and women the world over aspire so many of which first arose here in the generations brought forth on this very soil.

And so, what we need for the new challenges of a new world is not a new set of values. It is the steadfast resolve to fully apply those time-honoured principles that we already know work.

Certainly, that has been the Canadian approach to the economy which, I know, Prime Minister, is the top priority for both your government and mine.

For example, in Canada, we have proceeded on the conviction that we must live within our means, make sound, long-term decisions, and reward those who work hard and play by the rules. We also know that, all things being equal, a dollar in a citizen’s own pocket is more beneficial than a dollar in the hands of Sir Humphrey Appleby.

(in Canada, have we have some who have come to believe Sir Humphrey is a real person.)

Indeed, early on a former senior Canadian public servant informed me that “yes, Prime Minister” is not a comedy…; it is a documentary.)

So, friends, knowing these things, in Canada, when times were good, we ran surpluses and we used them, not to expand the state, but to pay down debt and to lower taxes.

Le résultat, depuis que notre gouvernement est entré en fonction la famille Canadienne moyenne paie actuellement 3 300$ de moins en taxes fédérales.

As a result, since our government came to office, the average Canadian family now pays about $3,300 (about 2,200 pounds) less in federal taxes every year.

Canada now also has the lowest rate of tax on new business investment in the Gg7.

Consequently, we are widely regarded as the best place in the world to do business and we have the best post-recession job creation record among the major developed economies.

Our values also tell us, as you have put it, Prime Minister, that “you cannot borrow your way out of a debt crisis.”

in Canada, we have no debt crisis so we were able, during the recession, we were able to deliberately borrow to sustain economic activity and confidence but in a way that was timely, targeted and temporary.

We did not create permanent new programs or government bureaucracy and we are now returning, gradually but surely, to a balanced budget, without raising taxes.

I know that, in many countries, there is a considerable debate between austerity and growth.

Let me tell you, it is a false dichotomy. You need good measures of both.

In Canada, we are investing record amounts in drivers of future prosperity like research, innovation, skills and infrastructure. Yet we are also fiscally responsible, finding substantial reductions and efficiencies in government and ensuring that vital social programs will target those in genuine need, and will be financially sustainable, for the generations to come.

Another value whose certainty has been repeatedly proven though sadly sometimes more in the breach than the application is that everyone gains in an open economy. Our businesses grow when new markets are opened.

Hard-working families find that their money goes further when they have wider choices at lower prices. And everybody gains, when they specialize in doing what they do best.

We therefore have resisted calls for protectionism.

We said no to those who would tear up our trade agreements and build economic walls around our country.

In fact, we are doing the opposite.

We have reduced tariffs unilaterally, giving Canada the first tariff-free manufacturing sector in the G7.

Liberalized trade is at the heart of our economic action plan.

Since coming to office, our government has concluded free trade agreements with nine countries and has begun trade talks with more than fifty others.

Et nous gardons espoir que nous réaliserons bientôt un accord économique et commercial global avec l’union européenne, le deuxième partenaire commercial du Canada, après les états-unis.

And it remains our hope that we will soon achieve a Comprehensive Economic and Trade agreement with the European Union, Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the United States.

For Canada, and for Great Britain as a member of the eu, this will be a historic step – a monumental one, in fact:

A joint Canada-EU study has shown that a commercial agreement of this type would increase two-way trade by twenty per cent. In this matter, as in global trade matters generally, Prime Minister I should like to express my deep appreciation to you and to your government, for your robust advocacy on behalf of this agreement. It will be a great benefit to all of our citizens.

Of course, when it comes to creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity, there is no silver bullet only clear objectives, consistent application and hard work. In Canada, that is what we are doing.

That is why the Canadian economy has created roughly one million new jobs, net, since the end of the recession why more people are working in Canada today than ever before. Sometimes there is pain, to be sure. But, a nettle once firmly grasped is on its way to being pulled out by the roots.

Prime Minister, in this regard, I acknowledge and applaud your own leadership in taking tough decisions to reign in spending. Both at home, and within the councils of the G8 and G20, the responsible actions of your government have set a powerful and necessary example to other nations as they grapple with massive sovereign debts of their own. And I know you are making the tough decisions, because you believe, because you understand they are the right decisions, the necessary decisions.

Indeed, these are the days when our two countries – and those other nations that share both our values and our difficulties – will, whether by action or inaction, choose their future.

Les pays qui ne gardent pas leurs finances sous contrôle ou qui ferments leurs économies au monde feront face aux conséquences.

Countries that do not bring their finances under control or that close their economies to the world, will face consequences. And those consequences ` are not only economic. In the absence of solvency, relevancy will also disappear.

Nothing can lead more quickly and more completely to diminished influence in the world than the decline of economic performance and financial credibility. Should we fail to adhere faithfully to our values in economic matters the wider values that we wish to project for the sake of all humanity values of freedom and democracy and justice, of dignity and compassion and security those values will also certainly be eroded. And they will be eroded at a time, when they are most needed.

For good to happen in this world, someone must speak up for these values and have the will and the capacity to act, so that these values are not mere sentiments. I speak of the courage to denounce aggressors, to counter extremist ideologies, and to confront the abominations that must not be tolerated.

Lord Speaker, Mr Speaker, distinguished members I know there are many among us here who could tell a hundred stories about how such values have guided our generations to this very day.

From the war of 1812, to the great conflict that brought Churchill and King together, to the dusty landscapes of Afghanistan in our own time, Britons and Canadians have pursued what is right in the world, often at great cost.

The most recent example is Libya, where, under your global leadership, Prime Minister, and under the command of Lieutenant-General Bouchard of the Royal Canadian Air Force a nation that faced massive and imminent slaughter at the hands of the psychotic architect of the lockerbie horror was given its freedom and the opportunity (not yet fully grasped) of a peaceful and democratic future.

We have also clung jointly to our values in the South Atlantic, supporting the right of free people living on small islands to determine their own future.

Truly, though, friends that pales today in comparison to the all too many, dangerous situations of a truly global nature situations where, as societies based on values and principles, we are called upon to recognize evil even if, the actions we should undertake are sometimes far from self-evident.

In the acific, a cold-war totalitarian state, North Korea, lingers on determined as ever to present a real and growing danger to regional security.

In the Middle East, its only true western democracy endures but Israel does so amid an unrelenting hostility to its very existence by many of its neighbours a sorry testament to the persistent hatred of the jewish people and to the moral relativism in so much of world affairs that provides shelter to such anti-semitism.

But no such nuance can attach to the government of Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran’s leaders, openly brag that they will eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. This is a profoundly malevolent regime, that threatens us all, and whose first victims are the iranian people themselves. And Canada will continue to urge the international community to show steadfast resolve in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, the Iranian ally in Syria is locked in bloody war with its own people. And herein lies a grotesque dilemma: Decent people agree that Assad must go;, that Syria’s government must represent all its people, including its minorities. Yet the extremist, sectarian nature of much of the opposition cannot be ignored or wished away. And Syria cannot be allowed to become another safe haven for the hydra-heads of terrorism.

Such monsters already lurk far too close to home as we have seen in the murder of Drummer Rigby … (God bless his soul and his family) and the foiled plot in Canada to sabotage a Via Rail express.

Of course, not every global challenge is one of security, nor should every response be military in nature. Even as we deal with the economic challenges our citizens face at home, we should never compare our problems with the brutal deprivation that is the daily reality for still far too many of our fellow human beings in much of the world.

In Canada, we take pride in our leadership, begun at Muskoka in 2010 to reduce the appalling mortality among children and young mothers in the developing world. And, Prime Minister, we salute you and your government for the fact that, even as you have grappled with enormous budgetary pressures, you have continued your world-leading efforts in so many areas of humanitarian and development assistance.

We also fully support your initiative to help ensure that the citizens of emerging economies get a fair deal when others develop their resources. That is why I announced yesterday, in advance of the G8, that Canada will establish new mandatory reporting standards for the payments Canadian extractive companies make to governments.

We also firmly believe in the principle that widespread prosperity can only be achieved where there are stable, transparent governments absent corruption and fortified by a respect for human rights and a commitment to the rule of law.

We value all of these objectives for the world’s poorest.

But, make no mistake : if we wish to spread prosperity to others, we must be prosperous ourselves. Without prosperity, there can be no aid. Indeed, without prosperity, we will have little ability to project any of our values anywhere.

And, of course, we cannot hope to effectively spread our values unless we live by them and demonstrate our own success by virtue of doing so.

Lord Speaker, Mr Speaker, distinguished members: I believe this is the challenge we in the west face today. There are massive shifts, shifts of epic dimensions, taking place in the world economy. To the extent this means that traditionally less fortunate people are beginning to enjoy prosperity, and the other fruits of our values much of this is a good thing.

But there are also, as there have always been, rising powers that do not share our values and dangerous forces that seek to destroy them. We cannot, in the face of this, be at all complacent or, as I have said elsewhere, entertain the notion, as I think some in the west do, that our wealth and influence can be assumed, that they are some kind of birthright.

I know, Prime Minister, that neither of our governments think that, which is why we make the difficult decisions that we do to ensure our people will remain among the most fortunate and prosperous for the generations to come.

But, just as we cannot be complacent about our wealth neither can we allow our peoples, in these times of tough decisions and shifting fortunes, to become fatalistic.

I mentioned some leaders of earlier generations. Prime ministers Churchill and King. Certainly they would never, in the depths of war, countenance any notion of an inevitable defeat indeed, Churchill’s words against any such thinking are among the most powerful ever uttered in the English language.

Perhaps more relevant today is the example of Mrs. Thatcher, who, in a time of peace, refused to accept any suggestion of an inevitable decline. She did so, not as an expression of good cheer, but as a matter of resolve and action and so Britain rose once more. In fact, I would say that dealing with difficult times and moving forward is what our two countries do have often done together … and have done very well. And go on, we shall, to prosper and to lead, if we are true to our values, and unshakably resolved not to fail.

Lord Speaker, Mr. Speaker, distinguished members you have been generous with your time.

So, let me close with this.

Some years after our Prime Minister, King, delivered his speech here the people of Canada sent you a gift the handsome table gracing the floor of your house of commons part of an allied effort to rebuild the chamber after the damages of war a gift, no doubt, to remind you of the defence of Britain by Canadians done, from the outset, voluntarily and passionately and not simply out of the value of friendship, but also because of the friendship of values.

And I ask that, if you happen to find yourselves looking at that table, think of us in Canada perhaps not your most powerful friend, but your truest and most reliable and know, that as we tackle the great challenges of this and future eras we will face them together, always, and we will succeed.

Merci beaucoup.

11 thoughts on “Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech to the UK Parliament”

  1. The claim to truly understand and cherish parliamentary traditions would be more credible if he were not the Prime Minister whose government had been found in contempt of Parliament–to say nothing of other abuses here at home.

  2. A relatively flacid speech more noted for what it left out then what was said.

    Nothing said about the latest scandals dogging the PM which are pretty serious, nothing about his dis-respect for the Canadian Parliament, nothing about his dis-respect for the environment and his links to big oil and lastly about wasting the time of the UK MP’s because of photo opportunity so he can avoid facing the music in Canada.

  3. As always, an expression of sound economic thinking and ideal social values.

    thank you Mr Prime Minister

  4. Stephen Harper is the worst PM this country has ever had. He has backed people in his party who have stolen from the taxpayers, lost 3.1 billion $’s and is not looking for it, paid off senators, endorsed his own PM’s to lie, cheat, and he himself has lied to the people of Canada about the tar sands (now called oil sands by his party) and has lowered our environmental standards for protection our lake, rivers and streams. The list gets longer by the day, and the scandals regarding this government that he now calls the Harper Government not the Conservative Government grow by the day. Just look at any Canadian paper to get an eye full of what is going on in this country. So many of us have just plain become ashamed of this government actions. I used to be a proud Canadian, but not under this government.

  5. Today, Mr. Harper appears to have ignored the U.N. Apartheid / Genocide complaint filed by Ka-nyen-geh-ha-kah (Mohawk) Workers who seek redress for years of oppression including apartheid / genocide & restoration of a homeland. A May 20, 2013 “Victoria Day” meeting in New York between the Mohawk Workers of the Ouse / Grand River representing the Ka-nyen-geh-ha-kah (Mohawks) of Grand River and UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya in respect of an apartheid / genocide case against Canada, Walton International, and other entities remains a virtual secret in Canada.. Learn more from:

    Perhaps the Queen raised these issues when she met privately with Mr.
    Harper yesterday, given that the Crown has been allied with the
    Mohawks since long before confederation. As best I can tell, the media
    has helped to keep these issues from public discussion and failed to
    asked Harper and his regime any question pertaining to this topic.

  6. Thanks for posting the transcript. Is there also a video of the speech? I know I can’t rely on the public broadcaster for airing the PM’s speeches in full … they cut him off if Obama happens to make a speech at about the same time. I saw that happen on a couple of occasions.

    Mind you, whoever is responsible for keeping the PM’s “multimedia gallery” site going is not keeping it up to date. (link not given so as not to end up in filter)

    Fine and generous words indeed by Mr Stephen Harper Prime minister of Canada and a constant reminder of the close links between the United Kingdom and Canada and indeed the rest of the Commonwealth!
    Yet in spite of this closeness, in spite of the debts both Countries owe each other, in spite of the Canadians, Australian and citizens of other Commonwealth Countries arriving quickly on the scene to help Britain at the commencement of the second world war and later; The United Kingdom Governments of all persuasions continue to penalise financially these very Countries. They do this by freezing the British pension earned by Commonwealth citizens who have worked here and also British Pensioners so that their pension is NEVER increased once they leave these shores. This imposes a heavy burden on the Country to which they either return or to which they emigrate. For with a good heart and deeper pockets those same Countries will not allow these pensioners to exist only a pension that in many cases has never increased in 30 or more years. In some cases a 100% British pension remains at as little as £6 a week. This is a heavy burden on the tax paying citizens of Countries that are considered friends of Great Britain. This non indexation is however purely arbitrary as approximately 65% of overseas pensioner NOT in Commonwealth Countries do have their UK pension indexed annually as does the UK Pensioner living here in the UK. This is an unfair disgrace that no UK Government has even tried to justify or remedy and should be a great shame borne by UK Parliamentarians of all Parties.

  8. There are enough references in this speech of Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to Canada’s shared “values” with Britain, to enable us British expats, living mainly in Commonwealth countries, penalised as a consequence by past and current intransigent and unfair British Governments, by their freezing the UK pensions we earned when working in Britain, often to help the British economy recover from World War 2 damage, to hopefully make the current British Government rethink its approach of paying many of us expats a “frozen” and far less UK pension than if we had retired to live in say Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain or the USA among 50 nations worldwide.
    Britain’s continuing failure to relent from its unequal, unfair, legalised discriminatory pension policy and adhere to the values expressed in this speech as well as in the latest Commonwealth Charter, that, “We are implacably opposed to any form of discrimination”, could bring upon Britain a call from it Commonwealth partners for its suspension from the Commonwealth.

  9. Never mind about the video. Yesterday I received a CPC email linking me to one, and CPAC had it on yesterday after the late night’s House proceedings, scrums, etc.

  10. Mr Harper is spending all this time trotting around Europe trying to put the “Elder” statesman spin on his dismal career.One of his predecessors did that as well.Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the waning period at the end of his career.

    I look back on Harpers career and see it for the utter waste and arrogance that he has shown.There has been waste that rivals former politicians such as Mike Harris, the ill fatet reform party, Kim Campbells disasterous try at the helm.

    Canadian Taxpayers need to forget Party loyalties and start voting for a change, an investigation at both the Provincial and Federal levels of Gov.Abolishment of the Senate should be top on the list.Let those who want a Senate pay for it out of their own funds.That was if indeed 90 000 goes astray into a Senators bank account, its really the partys private money, not the taxoayers.

    There are so many taxpayers in dire straights,men women and children not getting enough to eat and certainly not getting the required medications while bloated SEnators and Politicians get all the perks in the world. Its almost as if the Gov’s would rather we all dissapear before reaching 65.

    CANADIAN TAXPAYERS get out and vote and the next series of elections and send the message you with to the Gov’s.If EVERY eleigible voter went to the polls and voted, I beleive life would change big time.

    No excuse is good enough.Find out the issues and make an intelligent choice but PLEASE dump these people who with to keep the bloated Senate and waste out hard earned money.

    THE CHOICE is all yours but make it and also take all the current leaders ( including those that have recently resigned ) and get them before a COURT of Law.See what happens then.

  11. Contrary to hype and some reports, he did not speak in the historic real House of Commons Chamber but in a little room off to the side. I guess the PMO and it’s spokespeople, including some media sycophants, managed to pull another fast one with the truth.

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