With Barack Obama’s re-inauguration around the corner, America’s conservatives are gearing up for the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, an annual political conference in Washington, D.C.
This year, there are reports Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, will be taking one of CPAC’s coveted keynote spots, addressing the conference about how conservatives can build coalitions to win elections and and further right-leaning policy.
CPAC (not to be confused by the Cable Parliamentary Affairs Channel–the Canadian version of C-SPAN) bills itself as the largest annual gathering of conservatives. Hosted by the American Conservative Union, a policy thinktank, this year’s conference will mark the event’s 40th anniversary.
While previous installments of the event have had an unsurprising American-centric focus towards policy, this year’s program will inevitably be focused on rebuilding and advancing the conservative agenda, especially with the results of November’s election.
CPAC draws an overwhelmingly pro-Republican audience, but the event focuses more on promoting conservative ideology rather than partisan policy. Among its previous speakers are radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, as well as former governors Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both addressed the conference while serving as President.
While British M.E.P. Daniel Hannan and Dutch M.P. Geert Wilders have appeared at CPAC before, Harper’s address would be the conference’s first by a foreign head of government.
This points to a positive trend for the conservative movement as it endeavors to explore its own potential for growth. While such a phenomenon would have been unlikely to predict a decade ago, Canada has become a more reliable home for conservative policy than the United States recently. In the absence of a conservative government in the United States, many conservative Americans have looked to Harper with great praise, particularly on the issues of support for Israel and his government’s economic policy.
At CPAC in 2012, there was much discussion about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, an energy partnership between Canada and the United States that Stephen Harper and most American conservatives supported, while President Obama blocked it.
The American Conservative Union’s National Communications Director, Laura Rigas, confirmed that Prime Minister Harper had been invited, but could not say whether his office had accepted the invitation. CPAC’s website says that the full agenda will not be released until February.
Julie Vaux, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary couldn’t say whether Harper had accepted an invitation to CPAC, except to say “We do not comment on the Prime Minister’s schedule. We will confirm his acceptance/attendance in due time.”
Stephen Harper was first elected Prime Minister of Canada in 2006 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2011, most recently with a majority government.
The PMO confirmed on Monday January 14 that the Prime Minister will not be attending CPAC.