“It taught me how to listen,” says Alex Harper when reflecting on his years as a secretary with the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The Dundee resident went on to serve on the Montreal Board of Trade for 30 years—it was during this time that he founded Quebec’s version of Crime-Stoppers—Info-Crime Montreal, a 30-year-old organization that he still works closely with today. His work has garnered him notable recognition, earning him the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and a spot in the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) Hall of Fame in 2016. This year, he released his first book, available in both English and French, titled In Business in Montreal and En affaires à Montréal.
Working at the Montreal Board of Trade, Harper (who worked his way through the ranks, ending up as president for a year) helped to realize the merger of the Board with the Chambre de Commerce du Montréal métropolitain. He met and worked with business leaders, politicians and people who have since gone on to shape our country's direction, including the likes of Brian Mulroney and Jean Charest. “I have met so many people who are incredibly smart, and who were looking to give back. They weren’t looking for recognition—they were looking to contribute,” explains Harper.
In addition to his work with the Montreal Board of Trade, Harper also owned and operated a farm on Beaver Road in Ste. Agnes de Dundee, travelling back and forth each day. According to his daughter, Lynn Harper, “It was no gentleman's farm! We tended a herd of 60 cattle, sheep, horses, goats, ducks, chickens and geese, baled hay in the summer and cut wood in the fall. During lambing season, my father often spent the night in the barn waiting for lambs to arrive—only to turn around and drive into the city and meet with high-ranking officials a couple of hours later.”
In Harper’s own book, he writes of the experience: “One of the most hectic times was around lambing. Most of our lambs came into the world in late January to mid-February, the coldest period of the year…To be sure the new-born lambs didn’t freeze to death, I had to go out to the barn every hour overnight…This worked fine most of the time. On one occasion, however, I recall that I “slept in”– not getting to the barn for about three hours. When I got there I was faced with six little lambs running all over the place. The problem I had was in trying to match them with their mothers. Question was, do I have six singles, three sets of twins, or something in between. And how will I be able to find the mother? After spending what seemed like an eternity, I was able to match up four of the lambs with mothers and the remaining two I brought into the house and announced we now had two lambs we would have to bottle-feed. They became great pets, with Catherine and Heather actually taking them to town and leading them around on leashes.
Most people didn’t know this side of my life. On the occasion I described above, I was at a meeting with Mayor Jean Drapeau at 9 a.m. the next morning. We were discussing some important “Montreal issue” – so it wasn’t appropriate to tell the gathering what I had been doing overnight!”
Today, Harper is still hard at work running his publishing company, Anchor-Harper Publications, situated in Huntingdon—a business that he began with Olaf Silvia, who has since relocated, but still works for the company in a consulting capacity. His son-in-law, Donald Roberge, works with him in the family business.
In the speech he gave in the Senate of Canada following presenting Harper with the Jubilee Medal, the Honourable Jean-Guy Dagenais had this to say about the father of three: “Even without knowing his life story, I already thought of Alex Harper as a great Canadian who had dedicated 30 years of his life to the Montreal Board of Trade. Under his leadership, the 150-year-old organization merged with the Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain in 1992, unifying Montreal's Anglophone and Francophone business communities…His involvement in the social and economic life of the greater Montreal area was largely behind the scenes, but he was involved in many other local efforts, such as Aéroports de Montréal, Centraide Montreal, Mariners House, the entrepreneurs centre, the Canadian Space Agency and efforts to improve residual waste management.”
On March 14th, the longtime local will host a book launch to promote his first book, at Montreal’s Le Crystal, located at 5285 Henri-Bourassa Blvd. West in Montreal. The book, which took Harper four years to write due to his desire to be able to offer the book in French (translated by Hugues Létourneau and edited by Robert Petit), explores Harper’s experience in the world of business. “I’ve had quite a life, and I decided that I should put it on paper. Or else, it might be forgotten with the sands of time,” explains Harper about why he decided to share his considerable experiences.
For more information, visit http://anchor-harper.com.