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The Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, PC, MP (born April 20, 1959, in Toronto, Ontario) is a conservative Canadian politician, current leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, and leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
He was born and raised in Toronto before finding employment in the oil and gas industry and moving to Alberta. He attended the University of Calgary, receiving a Masters degree in economics, and lectured at the university. Harper became involved in politics in the mid-80s, but became disillusioned with the government of Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He was especially critical of the PC Party's fiscal policy.
Harper was recommended to Preston Manning, the founder of the Reform Party, by one of Harper's professors. Manning was impressed by the young man, and Harper was invited to participate in the founding of the party. At age 28, he gave an important speech at Reform's founding convention in Winnipeg, and is credited with creating the Party's 1993 election platform.
In the 1988 federal election, Harper ran for a House of Commons seat in Calgary, but lost by a wide margin to the Progressive Conservative candidate. He fared better in the 1993 election, in which he won the riding of Calgary West for the Reform Party. Harper arrived in Parliament with a large group of new MPs. Harper quickly became one of the core members of the Reform Party parliamentary delegation.
Harper disagreed with party leader Preston Manning's approach that would give the Reform Party an increasingly populist, as opposed to conservative, bent. Harper also held that Reform could serve as a right-wing force along the model of the left-wing New Democratic Party, having a major effect on policy even if it won relatively few seats.
Harper left his seat before the 1997 election to serve as vice-president, then as president, of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), a right-wing lobbying group. He left the post in 2002. With the NCC, Harper launched an initially successful, though ultimately unsuccessful, legal battle against Canada's third-party election spending limits.
On the heels of the poor showing in the 2000 election of the Canadian Alliance, Reform's successor, a disappointed Harper joined with other western figures to endorse a policy of strict adherence to constitutionally mandated separation of powers - what was termed a "firewall around Alberta" - in order to limit intrusion by the federal government into areas of strictly provincial jurisdiction.
Canadian Alliance leadership
When Stockwell Day bowed to pressure from within the Canadian Alliance, and resigned from the leadership in the summer of 2001, Harper stood as a candidate in the subsequent leadership election. In the vote on March 20, 2002, Harper handily defeated Day on the first ballot to become leader of the Alliance. He became Leader of the Opposition after returning to Parliament in a by-election in April 2002.
His first 18 months as Opposition Leader were largely devoted toward consolidating the fractured elements of the Canadian Alliance, challenging the agenda of the Liberal government, and encouraging a union of the Canadian Alliance and the federal Progressive Conservatives. The aim of this union was to present only one right-of-centre national political party in the next federal election and prevent the "vote-splitting" of the past.
In March of 2003, Harper and Stockwell Day co-wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which they condemned the Canadian government's unwillingness to participate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. At the time of the letter, Harper was the leader of the Canadian Alliance and Day was the party's foreign affairs critic.
On January 12, 2004, Harper announced his resignation as Leader of the Opposition to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, the result of a democratically ratified merger of the Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives led by Peter MacKay. He won the 2004 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race, with a first ballot majority against Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement on March 20, 2004.
The Canadian general election of June 2004
Harper kicked off the campaign by widely proclaiming that "Canadians can be Conservatives too". After a damaging release by the Auditor General regarding the Liberal misues of the Sponsorship Program of the 1990s and what was cited as "voter anger in Ontario against Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty for breaking a promise not to raise taxes", although polls showed the two parties in a dead heat, but soon before the election, the Conservatives began to attract negative attention for controversial remarks attacking homosexuality, official bilingualism and abortion. Additionally, the Liberal Party began airing controversial TV ads featuring smoggy cities and handguns pointing towards the viewer - the implication being that "Stephen Harper and the Conservatives" would make Canada more like the United States.
Harper was also criticized for his stance on the American Invasion of Iraq and the term "hidden agenda ", once used commonly in the 2000 Election to refer to Stockwell Day, began surfacing with increasing regularity with regards to Healthcare. Stephen Harper in turn claimed that the Liberals were running an "American Style Campaign" and were trying to "wrap scandal in the Canadian Flag". Whatever the case, the momentum began to swing against the party, although some polls still suggested it was neck and neck right up until election day. The party was successful in gaining seats in Ontario, where the Reform Party and Canadian Alliance had never been able to make significant gains. The race was close at times. In the end, Martin was re-elected with a minority government and 135 seats, and the Conservatives finished in second-place with 99 seats. While the Conservatives had improved on the 72 seats they held entering the election, the party took only 29.6% of the popular vote, down from the 37.7% that the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties had taken, combined, in 2000. After the election, although Harper was credited with bringing the old Progressive Conservative Party and Canadian Alliance Party together to fight a close election in very short time, was criticized for disappearing from the political scene for most the summer. Despite this, Harper maintained overwhelming support from Party Members, although Conservative support nationwide began to steadily decline.
Harper as Leader of the Opposition (September 2004 to the present)
Historically, Harper has been called a "policy wonk" and an "ideological conservative". More recently, observers have suggested he has sought to appear as a more moderate Blue Tory in order to appeal to a wider range of the electorate.
In response to a research tender placed by the Liberal government to study the negative impact of polygamy, Harper stated that changing the legal definition to the union of persons, could open the door to a "slippery slope" leading to the legalization of polygamy. During the CPC's Caucus Retreat in Victoria in late January, Harper's decision to release the ads with limited consultation with the Conservative Party parliamentary caucus was criticized by prominent CPC MPs Peter MacKay and Belinda Stronach and Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, although these individuals claimed to still have "faith in the party leadership". Although Harper has repeatedly cited one poll which says his position on Same Sex Marriage is the same as the "majority of Canadians", some other polls have shown that Canadians support same-sex marriage, with the margin of support increasing over the past year.
Harper has been criticized by some leading Law Professors for being dishonest with regards to the notwithstanding clause, an override in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms which allows rights of Canadian Citizens to be overridden in some cases. Harper and Constitutional Lawyer and Justice Critic Vic Toews suggest that this clause does not have to be used to enshrine the heterosexual definition of marriage. Pundits widely speculate that Stephen Harper's position has been manufactured to keep the "old alliance wing" of his party happy, which has criticized Harper for his "shift to the political centre" since the last election. As per Canadian political convention, it is assumed Harper will face serious challenges within the Conservative Party if he fails to significantly increase Party fortunes in the next election. The Conservative Party's first policy convention was held from March 17-19, 2005 in Montreal, which Harper is hoping to be instrumental in illuminating the "moderate stance of the vast majority of party members". Recent polls place the Conservatives at 36%, significantly ahead of the Liberals (who are at 25%) and close enough to win a minority.
He and his wife of ten years, Laureen, have two young children, Benjamin and Rachel.
|Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian House of Commons|
|Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian House of Commons|
John Lynch-Staunton (interim)
|Conservative Party Leaders||Succeded by:|
John Reynolds (interim)
|Canadian Alliance Leaders||Party dissolves into |
Conservative Party of Canada
Leader - John Lynch-Staunton (interim)
Preston Manning, Reform/CA
|Members of Parliament from Calgary Southwest||Succeeded by:
Jim Hawkes , PC
|Members of Parliament from Calgary West||Succeeded by:
Rob Anders, Reform/CA
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