Some moments from Stephen Harper’s appearance on an American hard-right podcast
But the most interesting artefact of Stephen Harper’s book tour just surfaced a couple days ago: an interview with Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor who now hosts a popular right-wing podcast, edits a website and sells hoodies that say “facts don’t care about your feelings.” He also has the distinction of being named, alongside Jordan Peterson, in a widely cited New York Times article about the so-called “intellectual dark web.”
Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Canada’s former head of government set aside an hour for an on-camera chat with an internet provocateur like Shapiro. Harper doesn’t answer to voters anymore and it’s hard to it’s hard to imagine a more sympathetic interviewer. There are a few interesting moments. In case you don’t want to watch the whole thing, here they are.
Harper thinks the differences between Canadian and U.S. healthcare aren’t that huge
“We go on stereotypes here,” Harper replies when Shapiro questions him about the Canadian conservative stance on public healthcare. “The fact is that much of Canadian healthcare is private. There are a lot of uninsured services…Likewise, in the United States, every senior citizen is under socialized medicine.”
Harper is “pro-immigration”
The ex-PM’s stance on immigration, as stated in this interview, defies any kind of Trump-style sloganeering, but it’s not exactly the welcoming attitude that a lot of left-leaning Canadians would want from a leader. “I’m fundamentally pro-immigration,” Harper says. “Properly done, immigrants should be a really great base for a conservative party. But first and foremost immigration has to be legal.”
Harper goes on to tell Shapiro that the case against illegal immigration is a purely pragmatic one. “This is what happens where you have unpopular or illegal immigration,” Harper says. “Public opinion turns against all immigration. That’s what I say a good conservative approach would seek to avoid.”
Canada’s ex-prime minister was an unwitting shill for neck cream
If your podcast diet consists of a lot of This American Life-inspired thinkfests, you’re probably used to hearing ads for mattresses and meal delivery kits. Shapriro—and this may or may not be a reflection of his listener demographics—gets some very different types of sponsorship deals. Midway through talking with Harper about the global rise in populism, Shapiro turns to the camera to plug a miracle cream (which we won’t name, because they’re not paying us) that’s supposed to tighten flabby skin around one’s jawline.
Harper isn’t throwing in his lot with the Libertiarians
At one point Shapiro starts talking about the 2008 bailout of the U.S. and Canadian auto industries. Measures like these may have staved off a global financial crisis, but Shapiro has a philosophical objection: “It creates moral hazard. People think that they can depend on the government.”
Harper, who personally participated in those bailouts as prime minister, isn’t having it. “Libertarianism runs counter to data,” he says. “The fact of the matter is these things happened and you can’t just wish them not to have happened and pretend that they have no influence on how people see the world and their expectations about the world.”
Later, he adds: “I don’t think it’s realistic given the nature of a modern economy, how complex it is, what that does to the underlying social and family dynamics to expect that government will not be involved in anything.”