The Harper Index

National Citizens Coalition (NCC) – Harper's presidency was a critical period

Harper became a vice president of NCC the day he resigned his Parliamentary seat in 1997, and since he left the organization's presidency to go back into politics, his position has never been filled.

The NCC is a well-funded right-wing Canadian lobby group that has been heavily involved in advertising and political campaigns and legal challenges in support of its goals of "more freedom with less government." The impetus that led Colin M Brown to found the organization in 1967 was his stalwart opposition, as an insurance agent and doctor's son, to public health insurance or "socialized medicine", as it was framed at the time by its opponents. The NCC has publicly stated that as a matter of principle it conceals the names of the interests that fund its campaigns. In January 1997, Stephen Harper quit his Parliamentary seat and was named Vice-President of the NCC the same day.

NCC has campaigned prominently on many libertarian, anti-worker and anti-public service issues over the years including:

  • campaigns to "de-unionize" the workforce;
  • opposition to fair tax reform;
  • privatization and/or elimination of public sector services;
  • discredit any activity carried out through the public sector such as education or health care;
  • court challenges to social unionism;
  • "closed shop" provisions in Canadian labour law;
  • lobbying campaign to have "right-to-work" legislation implemented in Alberta;
  • legal and advertising support for challenges to Canadian Wheat Board;
  • court challenge to annul election of BC NDP government, advertising campaigns against targeted politicians and parties;
  • media campaign attacking MP pensions;
  • court challenges to electoral laws that would limit third party spending;
  • media campaign attacking grants for the arts, advocacy organizations, and social science research;
  • attacks on public funding for what it calls "interest groups" such as human rights or women's groups.
  • The NCC has operated through various "grassroots" front groups under names like "Canadians Against Forced Unionism", "Freedom of Choice", "Albertans for Responsible Government", and "Ontarians for Responsible Government".

    The NCC has been actively involved in politics. It claims responsibility for the defeat of NDP governments in BC and Ontario. It helped fund the defeat of Stephen Harper's opponent Jim Hawkes when Harper got elected in 1993 for Reform. Over the years, members of Canada's corporate and political elites have been members of the NCC advisory council. The NCC had very strong links with the Reform Party both in terms of individuals involved and in policies advocated.

    Harper's speech as NCC President to the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American political organization, in Montreal in June 1997 — is often cited as a testament of his true political colours. In this speech, the text of which is available online, he enunciates his extreme political views more clearly than is common for him to do currently. Some prominent quotes form the speech include:

    • "In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance."

    • "[W]e have a Supreme Court, like yours, which, since we put a charter of rights in our Constitution in 1982, is becoming increasingly arbitrary."

    • "[The pride Canadians take in their country's status at the UN] distresses conservatives like myself quite profoundly, but I will warn you, it's a widespread view, and I will always say, one that could only be maintained as long as [Americans] basically provide us with military protection."

    • He called the Reform Party a "conservative Republican" organization that espoused "a constitutional agenda that challenges the way our entire political system operates."

    • He predicted that the Reform and Progressive Conservative parties would ultimately merge and "[o]ne party is going to win out.... And Reform is not going to lose that contest in the long term."

    • "If you've read any of the official propagandas, you've come over the border and entered a bilingual country. In this particular city, Montreal, you may well get that impression. But this city is extremely atypical of this country... So it's basically an English-speaking country, just as English speaking as, I would guess, the northern part of the United States."

    • "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it. Canadians make no connection between the fact that they are a Northern European welfare state and the fact that we have very low economic growth, a standard of living substantially lower than yours, a massive brain drain of young professionals to your country, and double the unemployment rate of the United States."

    • "[Y]our country [the USA], and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world."

    Related individuals, organizations and significant events

  • Stephen Harper had $50,000 in NCC advertising directed against his 1993 political opponent and won. In 1997 he resigned from his Parliamentary seat for a job with the NCC and was soon promoted to President.
  • The National Citizens Coalition (NCC) was founded in 1967 by Colin M. Brown (1914-1987), initially to oppose public health care.
  • Harper's speech as NCC President to the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American political organization, in Montreal in June 1997 — is often cited as a testament of his true political colours.

    Harper Conservative vs. Public Values Frame
      Freedom / Corporate lobbying
      Citizens / Front groups, Astroturf, big money
      Less government / Corporate governance and control

    Links and sources

    Posted: May 11, 2007

    Harper Index ( is a project of the Golden Lake Institute and the online publication

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