Five interesting quotes from Stephen Harper’s year-end interviews

Andy Radia

We don't get to see Stephen Harper, uncut very often.

Since coming into office in 2006, the prime minister has — for the post part — operated behind a veil of government press releases and talking points.

One of the rare exceptions is during his year-end interviews where he's often relaxed, more open and really quite impressive.

Harper has now completed those interviews for 2013: On Thursday, he sat down with Global News, Postmedia News and French-language TVA for a Q and A.

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Each of the media outlets have now released transcripts from those interviews:

While there are no real surprises in what he said, we get see and hear the PM's perspective — in his own words — about the Senate, his future and his government's relationship with the provinces.

Here are some of the highlights:

About Nigel Wright's $90,000 gift to Senator Mike Duffy:

Harper to Global News:

At all times what I was told was that Mr. Duffy was going to repay his expenses as I thought he should. I think all the facts are very clear on that. Obviously I wasn't told the full story be frank, I've had a range emotions about that. Anger, betrayal, disrespect, you name it. Disappointment. the end when you have these kinds of situations, as a leader, you have to take responsibility and there are two things we've done.

One is to obviously make sure those who undertook these actions have been held accountable and I think they have been and are subject as you know to further investigation.

And the other is to...obviously look at our processes and try to figure out how we can make sure something like that never happens again. Because clearly the leader has to be fully informed, has to give his consent to any kind of major decision like this.

About a potential constitutional battle with the provinces on Senate reform or abolishment:

Harper to Postmedia News:

"What I will not do, I can tell you right now, is hold a bunch of constitutional conventions and meetings because nobody wants to go back to that era. But we’ll see what it is we can do [after the Supreme Court reference]. And then contemplate our next steps from there."

About the media speculation that he will step down before the next election:

Harper to Global News:

"It’s kind of surreal, I tell people, being in this job.

One day I open the paper and see that I’m planning to resign, the next day I open the paper and see that I’m calling a snap election ahead of the legislated date."

About why Canadians should give him and the Tories a fourth mandate:

Harper to Postmedia News:

"Well, I think there’s two easy answers for that. The first one is that the government has done, I would say, probably more than any other government in history over our three mandates. No government has owned as closely to what it ran on and made a point of actually acting on the basis of which it ran.

The second one is substantive. Which is that, I think time has proven that the things we have done have been good for the country. The country still has significant challenges because we are in a very uncertain and challenging global economy. But the country is doing well."

About provincial deficits and premiers complaining about transfers:

Harper to TVA (reported on by the Globe and Mail)

"Some provinces have made choices that have placed them in a bad financial position, but it’s not because of Ottawa, where we have refused to increase taxes and have placed strict limits on our expenditures.

I can tell you that the financial state of the provinces is their responsibility. The federal government has provided a record amount of transfers, and one can’t explain a bad financial situation in a province by a lack of transfers from the federal government."

The full-transcript from the Postmedia News article can be seen here. The Global News interview — with some video clips — is available here.

They're both worth a look.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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