Oct. 15, 2019

Harper, Chretien to share more than just a stage

UCalgary’s O’Brien Institute hosts one-of-a-kind coming together of political rivals
Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper

Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper will take the stage at Where Does Canada Go From Here event.

Where Does Canada Go From Here, is a conversation with two prime ministers who hold two very different ideologies, during an increasingly divisive time in world politics.

Stephen Harper and Jean Chretien were ideological rivals and political opponents — they were also leaders and statesmen. Thus, when these two Canadian icons take to the stage at a fundraising luncheon hosted by the Cumming School of Medicine’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the Hyatt Regency on Oct. 31, they won’t do so as titans heading into battle, but as passionate Canadians and intellectuals sharing ideas and wisdom in a rapidly polarizing and changing world.

Years removed from their time as prime ministers and leaders of their respective political parties, Harper and Chretien will freely exchange ideas in a fireside-style conversation unlike any other in Calgary’s recent history, with veteran journalist and University of Calgary Chancellor Deborah Yedlin, who will serve as moderator.

Discourse, politics and well-being are intrinsically and necessarily linked, says O’Brien Institute scientific director Dr. William Ghali, MD, adding that this is why the institute must foster these kinds, and this level, of discussions.

“Politics have always played a critical role in both health and well-being, so to have two of the most influential Canadian prime ministers in recent history conversing about the political climate, the recent election and Canada’s future is a discussion we’re proud to bring to Calgary,” says Ghali.

Between them¸ Harper and Chretien led Canada for nearly a quarter century. They did so at a time when the world adapted to a new normal following the fall of the Iron Curtain, while witnessing the rise of international terrorism, and the morphing of identity and reality in a digital world. Leaning on these unique perspectives, these two political juggernauts will set differences aside and lay bare their decades of political and leadership experience as they discuss issues critical to the future and well-being of Canadians, our democratic institutions and our country.

Apart from deep dives into the underlying causes and effects of today’s increasingly polarized political climate, such as the state of truth, information, facts and opinions, and their role and place in today’s increasingly isolationist and populist global political agendas, Harper and Chretien will also discuss the federal election, the state of the Canadian confederacy and developing policy real-time in a digital world. Education, health care, and soft power are also on the docket.

The work of the institute — in realms such as cannabis legalization, child poverty, the opioid crisis, safe communities — informs, and is shaped by, social and economic policies and partisan politics. As such, the O’Brien Institute is perfectly positioned to host these critically important, timely and necessary discussions, says Yedlin.

“Through a unique, interdisciplinary model, the institute seeks answers to society's pressing public health challenges, aimed at translating sound research into better health and health-care outcomes,” says Yedlin. “We are fortunate for the role the O’Brien Institute plays within the University of Calgary — championing research that delivers impact and makes a difference.” 

Learn more about Where Does Canada Go From here? A Conversation with two Prime Ministers.


William Ghali is a professor in the departments of medicine and community health sciences, scientific director of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, and a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta at the CSM.