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thumb-2023-08-011-shuvaloy-majumdar-stephen-harper This article is more than 8 months old
Analysis

Canada’s Newest Conservative MP is Stephen Harper’s Right-Hand Man and an International Neocon Operative

Who is Conservative MP Shuvaloy Majumdar?

If Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives manage to form government after the next election, who would Poilievre likely choose to serve as foreign minister?

It’s hard to imagine Poilievre choosing anyone other than Shuvaloy “Shuv” Majumdar – Poilievre’s old college friend and Stephen Harper’s right-hand man.

After traveling the world working for an American neoconservative NGO and his close relationship with the Chair of the International Democratic Union, a global organization of right-wing political parties, Majumdar has experience inside the world of international right-wing think tanks, consultancies and NGOs.

In a recent campaign video, Poilievre described Majumdar as a “longtime friend,” noting the two first met at the University of Calgary where both MPs were active with the university’s controversial Reform Party campus club.

Shuvaloy Majumdar and Pierre Poilievre

Shuvaloy Majumdar and Pierre Poilievre (Facebook); Shuvaloy Majumdar and Preston Manning (Facebook); Pierre Poilievre (CBC News)

Majumdar has also worked in high-level positions inside Harper’s government as a top foreign policy adviser, serving as Director of Policy to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird between 2011 and 2015.

After Harper’s government was defeated in 2015, Majumdar joined the former prime minister in the private sector, becoming the “Global Director” of Harper and Associates – Harper’s private consulting firm.

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

Alongside his work with Harper, Majumdar also held a high-level role with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a right-wing, business-friendly think tank partnered with the Atlas Network, a global network of right-wing think tanks funded by conservative mega-donors, including billionaires Charles and David Koch.

Majumdar ran the right-wing think tank’s “Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad” and was a key architect of the think tank’s “Indo-Pacific strategy,” which advocates closer ties between Canada and Narenda Modi’s far-right nationalist government in India.

“The fact that Narendra Modi has expanded his BJP presence in the Lok Sabha is really quite remarkable. He’s easily becoming the most consequential leader of India since independence,” Majumdar said in one media appearance, adding that Modi’s India offers a “profoundly important message for the world” and has “so much symmetry in terms of values” with Canada.

Shuvaloy Majumdar (Macdonald-Laurier Institute)

In 2020, Majumdar helped produce a controversial report by former CBC reporter Terry Milewski alleging Pakistan secretly created a Sikh separatist movement. The report was amplified by official Indian government accounts and triggered a backlash in the Sikh diaspora community.

Majumdar also led MLI’s partnership with the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, an Indian think tank set-up with funds from Indian oil giant Reliance Industries.

In 2019, the Saskatchewan government paid Harper & Associates a quarter-of-a-million dollars for help by “setting up key meetings” with “senior government ministers and officials”as part of a trade mission to India – Saskatchewan later opened a trade office in New Delhi, highlighting India as a potential export destination for “agricultural products, potash, oil and uranium.”

Macdonald-Laurier Institute (YouTube

Majumdar’s career has seen him spend a considerable amount of time working in foreign capitals in behind-the scenes roles during tense moments.

Before his time inside the Harper government, Majumdar spent years stationed in Baghdad (2006-2007) and Kabul (2007-2009) as an operative of the International Republican Institute, an international non-governmental organization affiliated with the US Republican Party that seeks to promote neoconservative foreign policy objectives around the world.

IRI was founded under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and is a “core institute” of the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy, active in over 70 countries. The IRI’s Board of Directors consists of top Republican Senators, former GOP-appointed ambassadors and national security officials, and previously chaired by John McCain.

In a 2011 interview with Sun TV, Majumdar described his work with the IRI as providing “technical assistance” to political and civil society groups in countries in the midst of war, occupation and regime change.

“It speaks to a demand around the world for this kind technical assistance in terms of how to organize political movements, how to mobilize elements of civil society, support independent media, and broadly empower the democratic aspirations of people around the world.”

Shuvaloy Majumdar (Sun TV)

Though it describes its work as helping to “foster the infrastructure of democracy in countries that were lacking any semblance of democratic development,” the IRI has also been accused of interfering in the internal politics of countries in favour of US foreign policy interests.

In 2004, Mother Jones described how the IRI has subverted the democratic process in countries like Haiti, Venezuela and Cambodia, including helping topple elected leaders:

“The group, the International Republican Institute (IRI), is supposed to focus on nonpartisan, grassroots democratization efforts overseas. But in Haiti and other countries, such as Venezuela and Cambodia, the institute — which, though not formally affiliated with the GOP, is run by prominent Republicans and staffed by party insiders — has increasingly sided with groups seeking the overthrow of elected but flawed leaders who are disliked in Washington.”

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has also described the IRI’s mission as a soft power approach to advancing business interests and the “unscrupulous promotion of an ultraconservative Republican foreign policy agenda”:

“The IRI prioritizes the maintenance of what is frequently deemed a ‘friendly business environment’, often to the detriment of an array of desperately needed social policies. These overt attempts by the IRI to manipulate the domestic political firmament of other nations in the image of the conservative values of the late President Reagan, are strongly reminiscent of (albeit less bloody than) many of the excesses of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) when it toppled Latin American governments that had failed to share so-called ‘American values’. Not surprisingly, many analysts have characterized the IRI as well as its partner and primary funder, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), as the ideological heirs of the CIA, in which it is strenuously attempting to remake its image while transferring some of the funding responsibility for its ‘softer’ programs to that classic Cold War institution, the NED.”

According to the IRI’s website, Majumdar was still actively involved with the organization as recently as 2019.

Majumdar’s interest in democracy goes back as far as his college years with Pierre Poilievre when he served as the Chief Return Officer for the University of Calgary’s student elections.

In 2003, Majumdar publicly accused fellow student Mickey Amery of election fraud, claiming Amery “hijacked democracy” by stealing voting IDs and casting fake votes, deriding Amery for having “poor moral character” and making “the wrong moral choices.”

Amery was named Alberta’s Minister of Justice by Premier Danielle Smith in June.

Last month, Amery was spotted out on the campaign trail displaying support for the same man who previously accused him of hijacking democracy and having “poor moral character.”

Mickey Amery campaigning with Shuvaloy Majumdar in July 2023 (Facebook)

Majumdar was later fired as the University of Calgary’s CRO after problems with ballots that he produced resulted in the 2004 student election to be overturned. According to a May 2004 report by The Gauntlet, Majumdar was “out of country and could not be reached for comment.”

In 2019, Majumdar found himself at the centre of another scandal, this time relating to Jason Kenney’s 2017 UCP leadership campaign.

Leaked emails surfaced in 2019 showed Majumdar had some unclear role in the so-called “kamikaze” campaign of Jeff Callaway, who ran for the UCP leadership for the main purpose of attacking Kenney’s main rival, Brian Jean.

The emails show top members of Callaway’s campaign team were directed by top Kenney staffer Matt Wolf to make sure Majumdar was “looped in” on campaign plans so he could offer “additional feedback.” Other emails showed Majumdar helped “cue up” media appearances for Callaway’s surrogates to attack Kenney’s rival.

Email sent from “Kamikaze” campaign to Shuvaloy Majumdar

The kamikaze campaign resulted in over $200,000 in fines after PressProgress was first to report on tens of thousands of dollars of donations illegally funnelled to Callaway’s campaign by donors who received the money from other people.

Majumdar’s name has also come up in connection to the RCMP investigation looking into bombshell allegations that Kenney’s UCP leadership team committed “identity fraud” as part of a scheme to cast fake votes using “fraudulent e-mail addresses.”

In 2019, one Kenney leadership campaign worker told PressProgress that RCMP investigators mentioned Majumdar’s name when they were questioned about UCP memberships. The campaign worker identified Majumdar as one of the “big bosses” to whom they submitted membership forms and processed data.

The RCMP investigation into Kenney’s leadership campaign is ongoing and no criminal charges have been laid in connection to any allegations. Last summer, the Toronto Star reported the investigation had been potentially compromised after RCMP investigators left thir audio recorders at the home of UCP operative Alan Hallman.

Despite questions about the 2017 UCP leadership race which may never be resolved, Majumdar won the Calgary-Heritage byelection with 65% of the vote last month.

Majumdar, who lists Ottawa and Washington as his current homes, could have a long future in Calgary-Heritage — the riding, previously held by Stephen Harper, is widely considered one of the safest federal Conservative seats in Canada.

If Majumdar’s past is any indication, his focus and energy will be going well beyond the quiet suburban Calgary riding he now represents.

 

 

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Stephen Magusiak
Reporter
Stephen Magusiak is PressProgress’ Alberta reporter. His reporting has a focus on public accountability, public services and privatization, and the right-wing war on environmentalists.

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