Dick Harris

Dick Harris
Richard M. Harris
Member of Parliament
for Prince George–Bulkley Valley
In office
Preceded by Brian Gardiner
Succeeded by riding dissolved
Member of Parliament
for Cariboo—Prince George
Assumed office
Preceded by first member
Personal details
Born September 6, 1944 (1944-09-06) (age 67)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Political party Conservative
Other political
Reform (1993-2000)
Canadian Alliance (2000-2003)
Spouse(s) Patricia (divorced)
Anne Phillips
Children Mike, Ryan
Residence Kelowna, British Columbia
Profession Businessman (Tire sales)

Richard M. "Dick" Harris (born September 6, 1944) is a Canadian politician. He is a Member of Parliament and member of the Conservative Party of Canada. He also was a member of the Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance. He represents the electoral district of Cariboo—Prince George, and formerly Prince George–Bulkley Valley. He was first elected during the 1993 federal election and was re-elected in 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011. He challenged Reform Party leader Preston Manning for leadership when Manning proposed merging the party with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He later campaigned for Stockwell Day to become leader. The most prominent position he held with his party was Chief Opposition Whip from 2001 to 2002. He was accused of financial irregularities during a nomination race in 2004 and generated controversy when he appointed an unelected, Conservative Party member to represent a neighbouring electoral district in governmental affairs, though the electoral district had an elected Member of Parliament, but from an opposition party.

He has served a member on several parliamentary committees, including the 'Standing Committee on Finance' during the 36th and 37th Parliaments and the 'Standing Committee on Natural Resources' during the 39th, 40th, and 41st Parliaments. He has introduced 2 Private Member Bills into the House of Commons, though neither were adopted: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (failure to stop at scene of accident) in the 38th Parliament and An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (incarceration) in the 41st Parliament.


Before becoming a Member of Parliament

Dick Harris was born in Vancouver but, along with a brother, he was raised in Prince Rupert, British Columbia by his mother, a single parent.[1] After finishing school he moved to Prince George, married and raised three children. A businessman, he owned and operated several companies in Prince George and the Cariboo region. His most successful company specialized in tires and distribution of tire parts, though he sold the companies before being elected as a Member of Parliament.[1] One of his businesses, RMH Home Innovations, became insolvent and Harris was sued in 1995 for non-payment of debts.[2]

Politically, Harris had been a supporter of the Progressive Conservative Party for 20 years before joining the Reform Party in 1989.[3] He was active in fundraising and became chairman of the Reform Fund Canada.[1] He served on the party's executive council from 1991 to 1993.[4] In 1992, Harris won the Reform Party nomination to stand for election in the next federal election in the Prince George–Bulkley Valley riding. While a sitting Member of parliament, he was borrowed money from constituent Roman Muentner. Muentner sued Harris for non-payment. While Harris admitted he owed the money, he successfully argued that he should not have to repay the loan because the loan documentation was not signed under seal.

35th Parliament

The next federal election was held in October 1993. The race in the Prince George–Bulkley Valley riding was expected to be close between Harris and the incumbent MP, Brian Gardiner (NDP).[5] However, his party placed third and the Liberal Party of Canada formed a majority government. In both sessions of the 35th Parliament Harris sat on the 'Standing Committee on Government Operations' and the 'Standing Committee on Transport'. In the first session he was also assigned to two subcommittees: the 'Subcommittee on the St. Lawrence Seaway' and the 'Subcommittee on the Consideration of the Objections Filed on the Proposed Electoral Boundaries for the Western Provinces'. In July 1994, Reform Party leader Preston Manning formed a three member critic team for Indian Affairs and Northern Development with Harris, Mike Scott and John Duncan.[6] The team held town hall-style meetings in BC where they opposed independent self-governments but advocated for municipal-style governments on reserves, like the Sechelt Indian Government District, and warned that land claims could be costly and usurp private property rights.[7] The three member team was unable to draw sufficient attention to the Reform Party's position on native affairs, so the team was disbanded in December 1994 and Harris re-assigned to the "Reform Posse", a special team of Reform Party MPs (Harris, Jay Hill and Randy White) meant to investigate government spending, similar to the Liberal Party of Canada Rat Pack.[8] With the assistance of a forensic accountant, the Reform Posse investigated the Department of Indian Affairs but Manning disbanded them in August 1995 and Harris was re-assigned to be the Reform Party's deputy critic of public works.[9] He was subsequently re-assigned to be the assistant critic on Transport in February 1997, a role he filled until the end of the parliamentary session in June.

36th Parliament

The next election was held in June 1997 and Harris won re-election with 54% of the vote in the Prince George—Bulkley Valley riding. The Liberal Party again formed a majority government but Harris' Reform Party formed the Official Opposition. Harris became the Vice-Chair of the 'Standing Committee on Finance' in both sessions of the 36th Parliament, as well as being the Reform Party's assistant critic on Finance.

Meanwhile, a division formed within the Reform Party as the leader, Preston Manning, explored merging the party with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. In April 1999, Harris became the 13th Reform Party MP to publicly oppose a merger,[10] saying "There's nothing wrong with our product. There's nothing wrong with our brand-label. Maybe the salesmen communicating the message are not the right people out there."[11] Harris was concerned that they would have to compromise on their opposition to official bilingualism and positions on Senate reform, family values, and justice issues.[12] A referendum within the Reform Party on whether to explore a merger plan was called and Harris debated Manning on the issue at Reform Party events. Harris paid for national advertising opposing the merger idea and co-signed a letter distributed to all 59 Reform Party MPs which said "A Yes vote in May would be a tactical disaster... [the] Reform [Party] will be perceived as having already decided to commit suicide".[13] The referendum passed with 60% voting in favour of a merger, dubbed the 'United Alternative'.[14] Committees were formed to investigate a plan for merger and Harris joined the policy committee.

A second referendum was set for the Reform Party's convention in March 2000 to decide on whether to pursue the merger. Harris, in January 2000, still opposed to the United Alternative, and announced his candidacy for leader of the party — a challenge to party leader Manning who was campaigning for the merger.[15] Harris immediately assigned a campaign chairman and launched a nationwide membership and fund-raising drives. The 55-year old Harris viewed his campaign as staying true to the Reform Party's roots in populism and rejecting the Progressive Conservative Party's "elitist politics".[16] Manning and those who favoured the United Alternative, like Reform Party MP Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River) with whom Harris shared a constituency office in Prince George, saw the merger as the best way to form a government. Harris viewed the push for the United Alternative as a top-down initiative by Manning and a small group of advisers[17] and called the United Alternative an "unholy alliance".[18] At a late-January meeting, party members voted against launching a leadership review, ending Harris' leadership bid. At a later meeting, in March, party members voted in favour of dissolving the Reform Party of Canada and re-forming as the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance with a new constitution and policy planks better suited for a merger with the Progressive Conservatives. When it came time to select a leader, Harris endorsed Stockwell Day, an Albertan provincial politician who went on to defeat Manning.

37th Parliament

Thou shalt not criticize the party. Thou shalt not criticize the national executive, or the president of the national executive, or any of your colleagues in caucus, or any of the caucus officers. Those are the rules. In public, that's the measure. If people stay within those rules, then they are going to be playing golf with the whip instead of having to sit down and explain themselves.
Dick Harris, as the party whip, to the Canadian Alliance caucus, April 2001[19]

In the November 2000 election Harris, as a member of the Canadian Alliance, was again re-elected in the Prince George–Bulkley Valley riding, this time with 59% of the vote. The Canadian Alliance again formed the Official Opposition to the Liberal Party's majority government. In the first session of the 37th Parliament, Harris served as a vice-chair of the 'Standing Committee on Finance', and a member of the 'Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs', the 'Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages', and the 'Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations'. Fellow Canadian Alliance were criticizing the performance of their leader, Stockwell Day, during the election. In response, Day shuffled the responsibilities of his MPs in April 2001, demoting Opposition House Leader Chuck Strahl and promoting Harris to Chief Opposition Whip. Day and Harris took aggressive stances by forbidding public criticism.[19] Art Hanger immediately spoke out against them to the media and was subsequently removed from caucus. On May 16, several Day loyalist, including Harris, co-signed a letter directed at the remaining caucus members acknowledging rumours of a parallel caucus being formed but that could not be "tolerated". The letter re-stated the formal responsibilities that all Canadian Alliance MPs agreed to and that "members will be breaching their formal written word, given to the leader, the party and their constituency, as a condition of their nomination" if they were found to "publicly attack any other colleague, the leader or the party". [20] Hanger was followed by Chuck Strahl, Gary Lunn, Jim Pankiw, Val Meredith, Grant McNally, Jay Hill and Jim Gouk who all publicly criticized Day and withdrew or were removed from the Canadian Alliance caucus. Five more members left in June and July, including Deborah Grey. Grey accused Harris of seizing her computer and reviewing her files without her knowledge. Speaker of the House Peter Milliken investigated and ruled that Grey's "rights had been violated".[21] In September, the dissident Canadian Alliance members formed a parallel caucus called the Democratic Representative Caucus and Day eventually conceded to a formal leadership review. Harris resigned as whip in January 2002 in order to campaign for Day's re-election as party leader.[22] Stephen Harper won the leadership contest in April 2002 with 55% of the party votes. Under Harper, Harris remained the assistant critic on finance but his committee roles were reduced to solely the 'Standing Committee on Finance' which he was a vice-chair in the 2nd session and a member in the 3rd session. Harper led the merger of the Canadian Alliance with Progressive Conservative Party to form the Conservative Party of Canada which Harris joined.

38th Parliament

In preparation for the 2004 election Harris was challenged by Williams Lake dentist Elmer Thiessen for the Conservative Party nomination. On the evening of the vote, the committee counting the votes announced that Harris was leading and that they wanted to wait to count mail-in ballots before announcing a winner. After protests, based on Elections Canada rules that all ballots must be in by the time of counting, the party ordered a second ballot take place due to voting irregularities, including accusations that Harris improperly signed up new members and that constituency association officials purposely restricted voting to Williams Lake only.[23][24] Harris won on the second ballot by 16 votes but the RCMP launched an investigation into Harris for financial irregularities. Harris's campaign manager, Josh Bredo is currently in prison. The investigation could find no irregularities. Harris went onto win the election in the Cariboo—Prince George riding with 46% of the vote and his party again formed the Official Opposition to the Liberal Party. Harris was given no critic duties or committee roles during the 38th Parliament but Harris did introduce one bill into the House of Commons: Bill C-275 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (failure to stop at scene of accident). Bill C-275 received first reading on November 15, 2004.[25] In his sponsor's speech Harris said,

[The bill] would ensure that perpetrators of such violent and criminal acts are held responsible and accountable for their actions. The bill is long overdue. It would eliminate plea bargaining for hit and run offences, which is sorely needed. It would provide a minimum sentence of seven years in prison for those convicted of hit and run causing death, which is sorely needed. It would provide a minimum of four years in prison for those convicted of hit and run causing bodily harm, which again is sorely needed. To date, perpetrators of hit and run offences causing bodily harm or death have almost never received more than two years for this violent crime. The tragedy of our justice system is that it has become so sick that people who commit violent crimes are simply not dealt with in a manner that is acceptable to our society. Whenever we read something like this in the paper where the convicted person was let off with a slap on the wrist for a violent crime they committed, I, like Canadians all across this country, just roll our eyes and ask where the justice is. What is wrong with our justice system that this could be allowed to happen over and over again? Bill C-275, Carley's law, would bring sentences for hit and run offences in line with sentencing guidelines for other violent crimes, namely manslaughter and attempted murder, because it is as serious a crime as manslaughter or attempted murder.
—Mr. Richard Harris (Cariboo—Prince George, CPC), March 8, 2005[26]

The Minister of Justice did not support bill based on its lack of distinction between intentionally and unintentionally not stopping at the scene of accident and its dis-proportionality to other crimes, so the bill was voted down, 194 to 94, on June 22, 2005.[26][27] Meanwhile, his constituency association (most of whom had supported Harris' nomination challenger, Elmer Thiessen) formed a committee to investigate the financial irregularities charges, eventually finding charges to be valid.[4] The constituency association held an election in February 2005 for their board of directors. Harris supporters filled 27 of the 30 seats and the new board withdrew the previous board's findings against Harris.[28] A month later, the RCMP dropped its investigation due to "insufficient information".[29] A new constituency office was opened in Williams Lake in September 2004[30] and an office in Quesnel in November 2005.[31]

39th Parliament

No one was permitted to challenge Harris for the Conservative Party nomination for the January 2006 election. He went on to win the Cariboo—Prince George riding with 45% of the vote and this time Harris' party won and formed the government. In the 39th Parliament, he served as a member of the 'Standing Committee on Natural Resources' for both sessions and as a member on the 'Legislative Committee on Bill C-2' (Tackling Violent Crime Act) during the second session. Harper appointed Harris to be the chair of the British Columbia Conservative Caucus and the party's forestry caucus.

Harris generated controversy in August 2007 when, as chair of the BC Conservative Caucus, he appointed Houston mayor Sharon Smith as the "government go-to person" in neighbouring electoral district Skeena—Bulkley Valley.[32] He told residents, through the media, to approach Smith rather than elected local MP Nathan Cullen, a member of an opposition party, for help with government services or lobbying for federal funding. The Conservative Party denounced the move with government spokesman Ryan Sparrow saying it was not sanctioned by the party and that local residents should use their elected member of parliament.[32] Another controversy arose when it was discovered that the Conservative Party used an "in-and-out" plan to have regional offices pay for national advertising. Opposition parties contend that the Conservatives did this to avoid campaign financing limits and attain reimbursement for the costs through Election Canada. Harris' office participated with $30,000 (36% of his total campaign expenses for advertising), though Harris and the party maintain that they kept within the law.[33][34]

40th Parliament

In the October 2008 election Harris was re-elected in the Cariboo—Prince George riding with 55% of the vote and his party again formed a minority government. During the campaign he received criticism for being "invisible" and living a semi-retired life in Kelowna some 600 km from his constituency. Harris maintained an apartment in Prince George on Range Road during this period. He did not own property in Kelowna. However, he responded to specific residency questions by suggesting that his prior long-term residence (over 50 years in the area) in Prince George qualifies him to represent the region.[35] In the 40th Parliament, he served as a member of the 'Standing Committee on International Trade' in the 2nd session and on the 'Standing Committee on Natural Resources' during the 3rd session. He retained his chairmanship of the Conservative's forestry caucus and the BC Caucus. Government opposition members and local critics, called Harris to task for failing to read the Canada/US Softwood Lumber Agreement, however, letters to newspapers from the main forestry companies in his province supported him in the work he did on their behalf during the Softwood Lumber negotiations.

41st Parliament

As the incumbent seeking re-election, Harris was automatically acclaimed as the Conservative Party candidate in Cariboo—Prince George riding.[36] In the May 2011 election he faced UNBC student Jon Van Barneveld for the NDP, rancher Heidi Redl for the Green Party, UBC student Sangeeta Lalli for the Liberal Party, pilot Henry Thiessen for the Christian Heritage Party, UNBC student Jordan Turner for the Rhinoceros Party, and independent Jon Ronan. Harris won the riding with 56% of the vote and his Conservative Party formed a majority government. As the 41st Parliament began, Harris was assigned to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. In the first session Harris introduced a Private Member's Bill (C-316) An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (incarceration) which would have made time spent in jail ineligible as wait times in qualifying for employment insurance.

Thus, quite simply, the bill would change the EI Act so that those who serving time for crime no longer would be able to receive preferential treatment over hard-working Canadians, who deserve and need this kind of help. This bill is all about fairness for hard-working Canadians
—Mr. Richard Harris (Cariboo—Prince George, CPC), October 3, 2011[37]


  1. ^ a b c "B.C.'s Harris tells Canada: Just watch me". The Vancouver Sun: p. 1. January 13, 2000. 
  2. ^ SCBC 28617 Supreme Court of British Columbia.
  3. ^ Kieran, Brian (September 30, 1993). "Reform-seduced northerners jilt the NDP". The Province (Vancouver): p. 6. 
  4. ^ a b O'Neil, Peter (January 29, 2005). "MP won't discuss allegations of financial irregularities". The Vancouver Sun: p. A4. 
  5. ^ Austin, Ian; John Bermingham, Stuart Hunter (October 22, 1993). "Tories, NDP Sinking in Battle for B.C.". The Province (Vancouver): p. 50. 
  6. ^ Crockatt, Joan (July 22, 1994). "It could be too late to reform Reform". The Ottawa Citizen: p. 3. 
  7. ^ O'Neil, Peter (August 19, 1994). "Native land claim talks worry Reformers". The Vancouver Sun: p. 4. 
  8. ^ O'Neil, Peter (December 20, 1994). "Controversial justice critic demoted in Reform shuffle". The Vancouver Sun: p. 5. 
  9. ^ Bell, Stewart (August 14, 1995). "Manning's move riles his posse". Calgary Herald: p. 1. 
  10. ^ O'Neil, Peter (April 24, 1999). "B.C. Reform MP joins opposition to UA plan". The Vancouver Sun: p. A15. 
  11. ^ O'Neil, Peter (June 11, 1999). "Most B.C. Reform MPs back UA". The Vancouver Sun: p. A15. 
  12. ^ Naumetz, Tim (June 2, 1999). "Reform's principles come first, MPs say". Calgary Herald: p. A3. 
  13. ^ Ovenden, Norm (April 24, 1999). "Reform MPs battle UA proposal". The Ottawa Citizen: p. A5. 
  14. ^ O'Neil, Peter (July 29, 1999). "Anti-UA Reformers get roles on action panels: The committees will determine the feasibility of replacing Reform with a new right-wing party". The Vancouver Sun: p. A5. 
  15. ^ Greenaway, Norma (January 12, 2000). "Rival to seek Manning's job as Reform upheaval intensifies". The Ottawa Citizen: p. A4. 
  16. ^ O'Neil, Peter (August 20, 1999). "UA blamed for giving boost to Clark: Dick Harris, a Reform MP from B.C., says the push for an anti-Liberal alliance has given new life to the Tory leader and his 'elitist politics'". The Vancouver Sun: p. A13. 
  17. ^ Walker, William (January 24, 2000). "Reform's party pooper". Toronto Star: p. 1. 
  18. ^ Baxter, James (January 30, 2000). "Hardliners ready to fight: Reform's old guard serves notice it won't go quietly into fledgling Alliance". Times-Colonist (Victoria, BC): p. A4. 
  19. ^ a b Alberts, Sheldon; Ian Jack (April 30, 2001). "Back me or get out, Day tells MPs: Caucus put on notice". National Post: p. A1. 
  20. ^ Harris, Dick; John Reynolds, Grant Hill, Randy White (May 16, 2001). "Alliance Split". Calgary Herald: p. A17. 
  21. ^ Ovenden, Norm; Ian Jack (October 16, 2001). "Seizure of Grey's files condemned". Edmonton Journal: p. A9. 
  22. ^ "Alliance whip resigns". Toronto Star: p. A6. January 14, 2002. 
  23. ^ Paulson, Dave (April 14, 2004). "Conservatives out for Harris". Prince George Citizen: p. 4. 
  24. ^ "MP says police investigation of finances due to disgruntled employee". Prince George Citizen. September 17, 2004. 
  25. ^ "C-275 — An Act to amend the Criminal Code (failure to stop at scene of accident)". LEGISinfo. Library of Parliament. http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Sites/LOP/LEGISINFO/index.asp?Language=E&query=4325&Session=13&List=toc. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  26. ^ a b Parliamentary Debates, Canadian House of Commons, March 8, 2005. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
  27. ^ Hoekstra, Gordon (Jun 25, 2005). "Hit-and-run bill defeat frustrates MP Harris". Prince George Citizen: p. 1. 
  28. ^ "Conservative board flip-flop". The Williams Lake Tribune: p. 2. February 24, 2005. 
  29. ^ "Not enough information to pursue charges against MP, police say". Prince George Citizen. March 16, 2005. 
  30. ^ Birchwater, Sage (September 14, 2004). "Dick Harris opens Williams Lake office". The Williams Lake Tribune: p. A3. 
  31. ^ "New office for MP". Prince George Citizen: p. 13. November 23, 2005. 
  32. ^ a b Panetta, Alexander (Aug 30, 2007). "Want services? Forget your MP, Tory chair says". The Globe and Mail: p. S3. 
  33. ^ Nielsen, Mark (April 23, 2008). "Harris, Hill defend election spending". Prince George Citizen: p. 1. 
  34. ^ "Elections Canada questions Conservative 'in-and-out' advertising". Ottawa Citizen. August 23, 2007. http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=06689c49-104f-4373-aa71-0fe92e7d8189&sponsor=. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  35. ^ "Harris responds to his critics". Omineca Express. April 23, 2011. http://www.bclocalnews.com/bc_north/ominecaexpress/news/119633034.html. Retrieved September 17, 2011. 
  36. ^ "Anders keeps Calgary West nomination". CBC News. May 4, 2009. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/story/2009/05/04/cgy-calgary-west-anders-conservative-acclaimed.html. Retrieved October 19, 2011. 
  37. ^ Parliamentary Debates, Canadian House of Commons, October 3, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2011.

External links

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