Editor's Note: The words and video below are partial transcripts of the English portion of former prime minister Stephen Harper's comments during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Conservative Convention in Vancouver, B.C. National Observer has highlighted the top quotes of the night in blue.
“Laureen and I are so pleased to be here tonight and we’ve heard from so many of you in recent months. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your encouragement and good wishes over this period.
“I’m kind of enjoying being off centre stage. Let me begin by thanking each and every one of you... You are building for the future of this party and the future of our great country.
An era of success
“The fact is our party has enjoyed a remarkable era of success. Let me just put it in this context for you. For the first time since Sir John A. McDonald — for the first time in over a hundred years, a longstanding Conservative government, even in defeat, has emerged strong and united, the one and only Opposition party to take the government the next time around.
“Friends, that kind of lasting long-term success is thanks to you, the members of this great party. You have given generously of your time, money and prayers. You took a set of ideas and made them into a national grassroots organization.
“It was thanks to you that we were able to cut taxes to their lowest level in over 50 years. It was thanks to you that we were able to put dollars into the pockets of hard-working families to expand their incomes and make record investments in infrastructure, and to do it all while balancing the federal budget.”
Firm stance on crime, terror
“It was thanks to you that we were able to get tough on crime and protect victims to rebuild our military, to vastly expand Canada's global free-trade access, to witness the decline of Quebec’s separatism and western alienation, and it was thanks to you that we were able to stand up as a country and take principled positions in a dangerous world.
“My friends, as I look out on this great crowd tonight, I see the energy, I see the passion and I see the deep abiding love for our Canada that will propel you even forward to an even brighter future in the next election. It was this same energy that brought us together some 13 years ago in this — the modern Conservative Party of Canada.
"As leader, I was blessed to work with the most talented, dedicated and loyal Parliamentary caucus that I think any leader in this country has ever had.
Words of thanks
“Over the last decade, literally thousands of individuals have worked for our Conservative team, whether on Parliament Hill the minister’s offices, the prime minister’s offices or at our party headquarters. Yours was often thankless work requiring heroic energy and inexhaustible patience.”
“I just want to thank those who have served our cause managing Conservative Fund Canada. In the new Conservative Party of Canada, we broke with the past, broke with the failed systems of both legacy parties, by giving the people who are responsible for raising the money, the primary responsibility of managing the money.
Moving away from big money
“This allowed us to move away from corporate money, from union money, from big money, and also yes — to significantly reduce taxpayer subsidies, and finally create a genuine, grassroots-based fundraising system. A system friends, where those who give can have no expectation other than a shared desire to advance our values and to build a better country.
“And friends, this is important — Irving, Louis, and the other members of the fund have done something without precedent. Even after an election defeat, we remain significantly the financially strongest of all of the parties... I know we all want to extend our thanks to all members of our National Council past and present for their service.
“And of course, most importantly, I want to thank my family. Whatever a person pays for being in public life — and frankly, I always found it more of an honour than a burden. Nevertheless, a bigger price is paid to those closest to them. I can never properly thank my late father, my mother, my brothers and their family — of course Ben and Rachel, and above all my best friend, my closest counsellor and the love of my life, Laureen.”
A bright future for the Tories
“Frankly, the past is no place to linger. Now is the time to look forward. Our party’s journey is only beginning. Millions of Canadians entrusted us with their votes and I know in the months and years to come, you will work hard to secure the votes of millions more. I know you will continue to build our organization from coast to coast to coast.”
“My friends, I know you will continue the critical work of reaching out to new Canadians and bringing them into our party at all levels. It was one of the most outstanding achievements of the past decade and that work must continue. I know friends, that throughout all these efforts, ours will continue to be the party of those who work hard, who play by the rules and are struggling to raise a family in an uncertain world.
“Ours is the party that knows hard-earned dollars are better spent by families than by governments. We are the party that as well friends, that this country — with all that it has — this bastion of human freedom and dignity.
"Even it means you cannot be all things to all people, this country must stand for something for something in the world.
“Friends — our party — the party that you have built over the last 13 years is strong today, and it will be even stronger in the future. In a year you will select, from among many outstanding candidates, a new leader. And you will unite behind that person, because in 2019, perhaps more than we understand even now, our country will need a strong, united Conservative Party.”