2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Political People
The Right Honourable
Stephen Joseph Harper
PC MP MA
22nd Prime Minister of Canada
February 6, 2006
|Preceded by||Paul Martin|
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Calgary Southwest
June 28, 2002
|Preceded by||Preston Manning|
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Calgary West
1993 – 1997
|Preceded by||James Hawkes|
|Succeeded by||Rob Anders|
|Born|| April 30, 1959
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Political party|| Conservative
| Young Liberals
|Children||Benjamin and Rachel|
|Residence||24 Sussex Drive|
|Alma mater||University of Calgary|
|Religion||Christian and Missionary Alliance|
Stephen Joseph Harper PC MP (born April 30, 1959) is the twenty-second and current Prime Minister of Canada, and leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Harper became Prime Minister after his party won a minority government in the January 2006 federal election. He is the first Prime Minister from his current political party, and the first since 1993 from any "Conservative" party, following twelve years of government by the Liberal Party. Harper is the first Canadian prime minister born in the second half of the twentieth century.
Harper has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the riding of Calgary Southwest in Alberta since 2002. Earlier, from 1993 to 1997, he was the MP for Calgary West. He was one of the founding members of the Reform Party, but ended his first stint as an MP to join, and shortly thereafter head, the National Citizens Coalition. In 2002, he succeeded Stockwell Day as leader of the Canadian Alliance (the successor to the Reform Party) and returned to Parliament as Leader of the Opposition. In 2003, he reached an agreement with Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay for the merger of their two parties to form the Conservative Party of Canada. He was elected as the party's first non-interim leader in March 2004.
Stephen Harper was born in Toronto, the first of three sons of Margaret Johnston and Joseph Harper, an accountant at Imperial Oil. He attended Northlea Public School, while living at 332 Bessborough Avenue in Leaside. Later, while living at 57 Princess Anne Crescent, he attended John G. Althouse Middle School and Richview Collegiate Institute, both in Central Etobicoke. He graduated in 1978, at the top of his class with a 95.7% average, and was a member of Richview Collegiate's team on Reach for the Top, a television quiz show for Canadian high school students. Harper then enrolled at the University of Toronto but after two months he dropped out, then moved to Edmonton, Alberta, where he found work at Imperial Oil, in the mail room. Later, he would advance to work on the company's computer systems. He took up post-secondary studies again at the University of Calgary, where he completed a Bachelor's degree in economics. He later returned there to earn a Master's degree in economics, completed in 1993. Harper has kept strong links to the University of Calgary, and often guest-lectured there. He is the first prime minister since Lester B. Pearson not to have attended law school.
Harper married Laureen Teskey in 1993. They have two children: Benjamin, born in 1996, and Rachel, born in 1999. He is the third Prime Minister, after Pierre Trudeau and John Turner, to send their children to Rockcliffe Park Public School, in Ottawa. Stephen Harper occasionally attends church at the East Gate Alliance Church in Ottawa, a member of the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Personal life and sport
Harper has several hobbies and has participated in many artistic endeavours. He is an avid fan of ice hockey and of the Calgary Flames, although on a October 4, 2006 Toronto Maple Leafs game, cameras had caught him raising his arms after a Toronto goal which raised questions by hockey fans. His son Ben was wearing a Maple Leaf jersey at the game.
Stephen Harper has ventured into the arena of sports broadcasting. During the TSN broadcast of the Canada-Russia final of the World Junior Hockey Championships, Stephen Harper appeared in an interview and expressed several views on the state of hockey today. Among his comments was his preference for an overtime period in lieu of a shoot-out.
Harper taped a cameo appearance in an episode of the television show Corner Gas which was aired in spring 2007. Harper reportedly owns a large vinyl record collection and is an avid fan of The Beatles and AC/DC.
Harper became involved in politics as a member of his high school's Young Liberals Club. He later changed his political allegiance because of the Trudeau Liberal government's National Energy Program (NEP), which he thought was harmful to Alberta's energy industry. He became chief aide to Progressive Conservative MP Jim Hawkes in 1985, but later became disillusioned with both the party and the government of Brian Mulroney. Harper was especially critical of the Mulroney government's fiscal policy, and its inability to fully revoke the NEP until 1986. He left the PC Party that same year.
He was then recommended by Western economist Bob Mansell to Preston Manning, the founder and leader of the Reform Party of Canada. Harper impressed Manning, who invited him to participate in the party. Harper gave an important speech at Reform's 1987 founding convention in Winnipeg. He became the Reform Party's Chief Policy Officer, and he played a major role in drafting the 1988 election platform. He is credited with creating Reform's campaign slogan, "The West wants in!"
Harper ran for the Canadian House of Commons in the 1988 federal election, appearing on the ballot as Steve Harper in Calgary West. He lost by a wide margin to Hawkes, his former employer. The Reform Party did not win any seats in this election, although party candidate Deborah Grey was elected as the party's first MP in a by-election shortly thereafter. Harper became Grey's executive assistant, and was her chief adviser and speechwriter until 1993. He remained prominent in the Reform Party's national organization in his role as policy chief, encouraging the party to expand beyond its Western base and arguing that strictly regional parties were at risk of being taken over by radical elements. He delivered a speech at the Reform Party's 1991 national convention, in which he condemned extremist views.
Harper's relationship with Manning became strained in 1992, due to conflicting strategies over the Charlottetown Accord. Harper opposed the Accord on principle for ideological reasons, while Manning was initially more open to compromise. Harper also criticized Manning's decision to hire Rick Anderson as an adviser, believing that Anderson was not sufficiently committed to the Reform Party's principles. He resigned as policy chief in October 1992.
Harper stood for office again in the 1993 federal election, and defeated Jim Hawkes amid a significant Reform breakthrough in Western Canada. His campaign likely benefited from a $50,000 print and television campaign organized by the National Citizens Coalition against Hawkes, although the NCC did not endorse Harper directly.
Harper emerged a prominent member of the Reform Party caucus, and earned respect even from political opponents for his intellect and ideological commitment. Author Mordecai Richler once described him as the "one MP of substance" in the party.
Harper was active on constitutional issues during his first term in parliament, and played a prominent role in drafting the Reform Party's strategy for the 1995 Quebec referendum. A long-standing opponent of centralized federalism, he stood with Preston Manning in Montreal to introduce a twenty-point plan to "decentralize and modernize" Canada in the event of a "no" victory. Harper later argued that the "no" side's narrow plurality was a worst-case scenario, in that no-one had won a mandate for change.
Although not associated with the Reform Party's radical wing, Harper expressed socially conservative views on some issues. In 1994, he opposed plans by federal Justice Minister Allan Rock to introduce spousal benefits for same-sex couples. Citing the recent failure of a similar initiative in Ontario, he was quoted as saying, "What I hope they learn is not to get into it. There are more important social and economic issues, not to mention the unity question". Harper also spoke against the possibility of the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the Supreme Court changing federal policy in these and other matters.
At the Reform Party's 1994 policy convention, Harper was part of a small minority of delegates who voted against restricting the definition of marriage to "the union of one man and one woman". He actually opposed both same-sex marriage and mandated benefits for same-sex couples, but argued that political parties should refrain from taking official positions on these and other issues of conscience.
Harper was the only Reform MP to vote for a bill establishing the Canadian gun registry at second reading stage in 1995, although he voted against it at third reading. He made his initial decision after concluding that a majority of his constituents supported the measure, but changed his mind after deciding there was substantial opposition. It was reported in April 1995 that some Progressive Conservatives opposed to Jean Charest's leadership wanted to remove both Charest and Manning, and unite the Reform and Progressive Conservative parties under Harper's leadership.
Despite his prominent position in the party, Harper's relationship with the Reform Party leadership was frequently strained. In early 1994, he criticized a party decision to establish a personal expense account for Preston Manning at a time when other Reform MPs had been asked to forego parliamentary perquisites. His criticism proved divisive in the party, and he was formally rebuked by the Reform executive council despite winning support from some MPs. His relationship with Manning grew increasingly fractious in the mid-1990s, and he pointedly declined to express any opinion on Manning's leadership during a 1996 interview. This friction was indicative of a fundamental divide between the two men: Harper was strongly committed to conservative principles and opposed Manning's inclinations toward populism, which he saw as leading to compromise on core ideological matters.
These tensions culminated in late 1996 when Harper announced that he would not be a candidate in the next federal election. He resigned his parliamentary seat on January 14, 1997, the same day that he was appointed as a vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), a conservative think-tank and advocacy group. He was promoted to NCC president later in the year.
In April 1997, Harper suggested that the Reform Party was drifting toward social conservatism and ignoring the principles of economic conservatism. The Liberal Party lost seats but managed to retain a narrow majority government in the 1997 federal election, while Reform made only modest gains.
Out of Parliament
Soon after leaving parliament, Harper and Tom Flanagan co-authored an opinion piece entitled "Our Benign Dictatorship", which argued that the Liberal Party only retained power through a dysfunctional political system and a divided opposition. Harper and Flanagan argued that national conservative governments between 1917 and 1993 were founded on temporary alliances between Western populists and Quebec nationalists, and were unable to govern because of their fundamental contradictions. The authors called for an alliance of Canada's conservative parties, and suggested that meaningful political change might require electoral reforms such as proportional representation. "Our Benign Dictatorship" also commended Conrad Black's purchase of the Southam newspaper chain, arguing that his stewardship would provide for a "pluralistic" editorial view to counter the "monolithically liberal and feminist" approach of the previous management.
Harper remained active in constitutional issues. He was a prominent opponent of the Calgary Declaration on national unity in late 1997, describing it as an "appeasement strategy" against Quebec nationalism. He called for federalist politicians to reject this strategy, and approach future constitutional talks from the position that "Quebec separatists are the problem and they need to be fixed". In late 1999, Harper called for the federal government to establish clear rules for any future Quebec referendum on sovereignty. Some have identified Harper's views as an influence on the Chrétien government's Clarity Act.
As National Citizens Coalition (NCC) leader, Harper launched an ultimately unsuccessful legal battle against federal election laws restricting third-party advertising. He also led the NCC in several campaigns against the Canadian Wheat Board, and supported Finance Minister Paul Martin's 2000 tax cuts as a positive first step toward tax reform.
In 1997, Harper delivered a controversial speech on Canadian identity to the Council for National Policy, a conservative American think tank. He made comments such as "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it", "if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians", and "the NDP [New Democratic Party] is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men." These statements were publicized and criticized during the 2006 election. Harper argued that the speech was intended as humour, and not as serious analysis.
Harper considered campaigning for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 1998, after Jean Charest left federal politics. Among those encouraging his candidacy were senior aides to Ontario Premier Mike Harris, including Tony Clement and Tom Long. He eventually decided against running, arguing that it would "burn bridges to those Reformers with whom I worked for many years" and prevent an alliance of right-wing parties from taking shape. Harper was skeptical about the Reform Party's United Alternative initiative in 1999, arguing that it would serve to consolidate Manning's hold on the party leadership. He also expressed concern that the UA would dilute Reform's ideological focus.
When the United Alternative created the Canadian Alliance in 2000 as a successor party to Reform, Harper predicted that Stockwell Day would defeat Preston Manning for the new party's leadership. He expressed serious reservations about Day's abilities, however, and accused him of "[making] adherence to his social views a litmus test to determine whether you're in the party or not". Harper endorsed Tom Long for the leadership, arguing that Long was best suited to take support from the Progressive Conservative Party. When Day placed first on the first ballot, Harper said that the Canadian Alliance was shifting "more towards being a party of the religious right".
After Pierre Elliot Trudeau's death in 2000, Harper wrote an editorial criticizing Trudeau's policies as they affected Western Canada. He wrote that Trudeau "embraced the fashionable causes of his time, with variable enthusiasm and differing results", but "took a pass" on the issues that "truly defined his century". Harper subsequently accused Trudeau of promoting "unabashed socialism", and argued that Canadian governments between 1972 and 2002 had restricted economic growth through "state corporatism".
After the Canadian Alliance's poor showing in the 2000 election, Harper joined with other Western conservatives in co-authoring a document called the " Alberta Agenda". The letter called on Alberta to reform publicly-funded health care, replace the Canada Pension Plan with a provincial plan and replace the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with a provincial police force. It became known as the "firewall letter", because it called on the provincial government to "build firewalls around Alberta" in order to stop the federal government from redistributing its wealth to less affluent regions. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein agreed with some of the letter's recommendations, but distanced himself from the "firewall" comments.
Harper also wrote an editorial in late 2000 arguing that Alberta and the rest of Canada were "embark[ing] on divergent and potentially hostile paths to defining their country". He said that Alberta had chosen the "best of Canada's heritage -- a combination of American enterprise and individualism with the British traditions of order and co-operation" while Canada "appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country [...] led by a second-world strongman appropriately suited for the task". He also called for a "stronger and much more autonomous Alberta", while rejecting calls for separatism. In the 2001 Alberta provincial election, Harper led the NCC in a "Vote Anything but Liberal" campaign. Some articles from this period described him as a possible successor to Klein.
Harper and the NCC endorsed a private school tax credit proposed by Ontario's Progressive Conservative government in 2001, arguing that it would "save about $7,000 for each student who does not attend a union-run public school". Education Minister Janet Ecker criticized this, saying that her government's intent was not to save money at the expense of public education.
Day's leadership of the Canadian Alliance became increasingly troubled throughout the summer of 2001, as several party MPs called for his resignation. In June, the National Post newspaper reported that former Reform MP Ian McClelland was organizing a possible leadership challenge on Harper's behalf. Harper announced his resignation from the NCC presidency in August 2001, to prepare a campaign.
Canadian Alliance leadership
Stockwell Day bowed to pressure and called a new Canadian Alliance leadership race for 2002, and soon declared himself a candidate. Harper emerged as Day's main rival, and declared his own candidacy on December 3, 2001. He eventually won the support of at least 28 Alliance MPs, including Scott Reid, James Rajotte and Keith Martin. During the campaign, Harper reprised his earlier warnings against an alliance with Quebec nationalists, and called for his party to become the federalist option in Quebec. He argued that "the French language is not imperilled in Quebec", and opposed "special status" for the province in the Canadian Constitution accordingly. He also endorsed greater provincial autonomy on Medicare, and said that he would not co-operate with the Progressive Conservatives as long as they were led by Joe Clark. On social issues, Harper argued for "parental rights" to use corporal punishment against their children and supported raising the age of sexual consent. He described his potential support base as "similar to what George Bush tapped".
The tone of the leadership contest turned hostile in February 2002. Harper described Day's governance of the party as "amateurish", while his campaign team argued that Day was attempting to win re-election by building a narrow support base among different groups in the religious right. The Day campaign accused Harper of "attacking ethnic and religious minorities". In early March, the two candidates had an especially fractious debate on CBC Newsworld. The leadership vote was held on March 20, 2002. Harper was elected on the first ballot with 55% support, against 37% for Day. Two other candidates split the remainder.
After winning the party leadership, Harper announced his intention to run for parliament in a by-election in Calgary Southwest, recently vacated by Preston Manning. Ezra Levant had already been chosen as the riding's Alliance candidate and initially declared that he would not stand aside for Harper; he subsequently reconsidered. The Liberals did not field a candidate, following a parliamentary tradition of allowing opposition leaders to enter the House of Commons unopposed. The Progressive Conservative candidate, Jim Prentice, also chose to withdraw. Harper was elected without difficulty over New Democrat Bill Phipps, a former United Church moderator. Harper told a reporter during the campaign that he "despise[d]" Phipps, and declined to debate him.
Harper officially became Leader of the Opposition in May 2002. Later in the same month, he said that the Atlantic Provinces were trapped in "a culture of defeat" which had to be overcome, the result of policies designed by Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments. Many Atlantic politicians condemned the remark as patronizing and insensitive. The Legislature of Nova Scotia unanimously approved a motion condemning Harper's comments, which were also criticized by New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord, federal Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark and others. Harper refused to apologize, and said that much of Canada was trapped by the same "can't-do" attitude.
His first 18 months as opposition leader were largely devoted towards consolidating the fractured elements of the Canadian Alliance 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 party in the next federal election, thus preventing the vote-splitting of the past. In undertaking the merger talks, PC leader Peter MacKay reversed his previous agreement with leadership opponent David Orchard not to merge with the Alliance. After reaching an agreement with MacKay in October 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada officially merged in December, with the new party being named the " Conservative Party of Canada".
Harper is reported to have attended the 2003 meeting of the Bilderberg Group.
Conservative Party of Canada leadership
On January 12, 2004, Harper announced his resignation as Leader of the Opposition, in order to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Harper won the Conservative leadership election easily, with a first ballot majority against Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement on March 20, 2004. Harper's victory included strong showings in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada.
2004 federal election
Harper led the Conservatives into the 2004 federal election. Initially, new Prime Minister Paul Martin held a large lead in polls, but this eroded due to infighting, Adscam and other scandals surrounding his government. The Liberals attempted to counter this with an early election call, as this would give the Conservatives less time to consolidate their merger.
Martin's weak performance in the leader's debate, along with an unpopular provincial budget by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, moved the Conservatives into a lead for a time. However, comments by Conservative MPs, leaked press releases slandering the then Prime Minister, as well as controversial TV attack ads suggesting that the Conservatives would make Canada more like the United States, caused Harper's party to lose some momentum.
Harper made an effort to appeal to voters in Quebec, a province where the Reform/Alliance side of the merged party hadn't done well. He was featured in several of the Tories' French-language campaign ads.
The Liberals were re-elected to power with a minority government, with the Conservatives coming in second place. The Conservatives managed to make inroads into the Liberals' Ontario stronghold, primarily in the province's socially conservative central region. However, they were shut out of Quebec, marking the first time that a centre-right party did not win any seats in that province. Harper, after some personal deliberation, decided to stay on as the party leader. Many credited him with bringing the Progressive Conservative Party and Canadian Alliance together in a short time to fight a close election.
Harper as Conservative leader and Leader of the Opposition
The Conservative Party's first policy convention was held from March 17–19, 2005, in Montreal. Harper had been rumoured to be shifting his ideology closer to that of a Blue Tory, and many thought he'd wanted to move the party's policies closer to the centre. Any opposition to abortion or bilingualism was dropped from the Conservative platform. Harper received an 84% endorsement from delegates in the leadership review.
Despite the party's move to the centre, the party began a concerted drive against same-sex marriage. Harper was criticized by a group of law professors for arguing that the government could override the provincial court rulings on same-sex marriage without using the " notwithstanding clause", a provision of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also argued, in general, for lower taxes, an elected Senate, a tougher stance on crime, and closer relations with the United States.
Following the April 2005 release of Jean Brault's damaging testimony at the Gomery Inquiry, implicating the Liberals in the scandal, opinion polls placed the Conservatives ahead of Liberals. The Conservatives had earlier abstained from the vote on the 2005 budget to avoid forcing an election. With the collapse in Liberal support and a controversial NDP amendment to the budget, the party exerted significant pressure on Harper to bring down the government. In May, Harper announced that the government had lost the "moral authority to govern". Shortly thereafter, the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois united to defeat the government on a vote that some considered to be either be a confidence motion or else a motion requiring an immediate test of the confidence of the House. The Martin government did not accept this interpretation and argued that vote had been on a procedural motion, although they also indicated that they would bring forward their revised budget for a confidence vote the following week. Ultimately, the effort to bring down the Government failed following the decision of Conservative MP Belinda Stronach to cross the floor to the Liberal Party. The vote on the NDP amendment to the budget tied, and with the Speaker of the House voting to continue debate, the Liberals stayed in power. At the time, some considered the matter to be a constitutional crisis.
Harper was also criticized for supporting his caucus colleague MP Gurmant Grewal. Grewal had produced tapes of conversations with Tim Murphy, Paul Martin's chief of staff, in which Grewal claimed he had been offered a cabinet position in exchange for his defection. Some experts analyzed the tapes and concluded that a digital copy of the tapes had been edited.
The Liberals' support dropped after the first report from the Gomery Inquiry was issued. On November 24, 2005, Harper introduced a motion of no confidence on the Liberal government, telling the House of Commons "that this government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons and needs to be removed." As the Liberals had lost NDP support in the house by refusing to accept an NDP plan to prevent health care privatization, the no confidence motion was passed by a vote of 171-133. It was the first time that a Canadian government had been toppled by a straight motion of no confidence proposed by the opposition. As a result, Parliament was dissolved and a general election was scheduled for January 23, 2006.
On February 27, 2008 allegations surfaced that two Conservative Party officials offered Independent MP Chuck Cadman a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in a May 2005 budget vote. If the elements of the story are true, the Conservatives' actions may amount to a criminal offence. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to bribe an MP. An audio tape suggests then-opposition leader Stephen Harper was not only aware of a financial offer to Chuck Cadman but gave it his personal approval.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been asked to investigate, and confirmed late February 28, 2008 that it is examining a claim from the Liberal Party that the incident violates the Criminal Code's Section 119 provisions on bribery and corruption.
The Prime Minister has denied any wrongdoing and has subsequently filed a civil libel suit against the Liberal Party of Canada.
2006 federal election
The Conservatives began the campaign period with a policy-per-day strategy, contrary to the Liberal plan of holding off major announcements until after the Christmas holidays, so Harper dominated media coverage for the first weeks of the election. Though his party showed only modest movement in the polls, Harper's personal numbers, which had always significantly trailed those of his party, began to rise.
In response, the Liberals launched negative ads targeting Harper, similar to their attacks in the 2004 election. However, their tactics were not sufficient to erode the Conservative's advantage, although they did manage to close what had been a ten point advantage in public opinion. As Harper's personal numbers rose, polls found he was now considered not only more trustworthy, but a better choice for Prime Minister than Martin.
Immediately prior to the Christmas break, in a faxed letter to NDP candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the Commissioner of the RCMP, Giuliano Zaccardelli announced the RCMP had opened a criminal investigation into her complaint that it appeared Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's office had engaged in insider trading before making an important announcement on the taxation of income trusts. On December 27, 2005, the RCMP confirmed that information in a press release. (At the conclusion of the investigation. Serge Nadeau, a top Finance Department bureaucrat, was charged with criminal breach of trust. No charges were laid against then-Finance Minister Ralph Goodale.)
The election resulted in a minority government, and shortly after midnight on January 24, Martin conceded defeat to Harper. Later that day, he informed Governor General Michaëlle Jean that he would resign as Prime Minister. At 6:45 p.m., Jean asked Harper to form a government. He was sworn in as Canada's 22nd Prime Minister on February 6, 2006.
Prime Minister of Canada
Unlike his recent predecessors, Harper did not name one of his colleagues to the largely honorific post of Deputy Prime Minister. Various observers had expected him to name MacKay, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and his deputy party leader, or Lawrence Cannon, as a Quebec lieutenant, to the post. Harper did, however, name an order of succession to act on his behalf in certain circumstances, starting with Cannon, then Jim Prentice, then the balance of his cabinet in order of precedence.
Harper indicated a desire to turn the Canadian Senate into an elected rather than an appointed body, an objective previously proposed by the former Reform Party of Canada. His desire includes fixed election dates with earlier elections possible in the case of minority governments. On September 7, 2006, Harper became the first Canadian Prime Minister to appear before a Senate committee and was present to make his government's case for Senate reform.
After sidestepping the political landmine for most of the first year of his time as prime minister, much as all the post- Charlottetown Accord prime ministers had done, Harper's hand was forced to reopen the Quebec sovereignty debate after the opposition Bloc Québécois were to introduce a motion in the House that called for recognition of Quebec as a "nation." On November 22, 2006, Harper introduced his own motion to recognize that "the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada." Five days later, Harper's motion passed, with a margin of 266-16; all federalist parties, as well as the Bloc Québécois, were formally behind it.
Harper has insisted on his right to choose who asks questions at press conferences, which has caused the national media to lodge complaints. Some have alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office also “often informs the media about Harper's trips at such short notice that it’s impossible for Ottawa journalists to attend the events”. Harper's director of communications has denied this, saying that “this prime minister has been more accessible, gives greater media scrums and provides deeper content than any prime minister has in the last 10 to 12 years”. Some suggest that the Conservatives’ then recent electoral success could be credited to their control of the campaign message, a practice that they continued when they became the government.
On March 11 and March 12, 2006, Harper made a surprise trip to Afghanistan, where Canadian Forces personnel had been deployed since late 2001, to visit troops in theatre as a show of support for their efforts, and as a demonstration of the government’s commitment to reconstruction and stability in the region. Harper’s choice of a first foreign visit was closely guarded from the press until his arrival in Afghanistan (citing security concerns), and is seen as marking a significant change in relationship between the government and the military. While other foreign leaders have visited Afghanistan, Harper’s trip was touted as unprecedented in its length and scope. Harper returned to Afghanistan on May 22, 2007, in a surprise two-day visit which included visiting Canadian troops at the forward operating base at Ma’Sum Ghar, located 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of Kandahar, making Harper the first Prime Minister to have visited the front lines of a combat operation.
At the outset of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Harper defended Israel’s “right to defend itself” and described its military campaign in Lebanon as a “measured” response, arguing that Hezbollah’s release of kidnapped IDF soldiers would be the key to ending the conflict. Some Canadians, including many Arab-Canadians, criticized Harper’s description of the Israeli response as “measured”. On July 17, 2006, Harper noted that the situation had deteriorated since his initial comments, but that it was difficult for Israel to fight “non-governmental forces” embedded in the civilian population. Harper reiterated his earlier support for Israel and called on both sides to show restraint and minimize civilian casualties.
Speaking of the situation in both Lebanon and Gaza on July 18, Harper told reporters “We all want to encourage not just a ceasefire, but a resolution. And a resolution will only be achieved when everyone gets to the table and everyone admits...recognition of each other,” referring to the refusal of Hezbollah and Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Harper laid the blame for the civilian deaths on both sides at the feet of Hezbollah. “Hezbollah’s objective is violence,” Harper asserted, “Hezbollah believes that through violence it can create, it can bring about the destruction of Israel. Violence will not bring about the destruction of Israel... and inevitably the result of the violence will be the deaths primarily of innocent people.”
On June 7, 2007, the Conservative government announced it had finalized free trade negotiations with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Under this agreement, Canada seeks to increase its trade ties with Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In 2006, the value of trade between these partners was $10.7 billion. Canada had originally begun negotiations with the EFTA on October 9, 1998, but talks broke down due to a disagreement over subsidies to shipyards in Atlantic Canada.
On September 11, 2007, Harper became the first Canadian Prime Minister to address the Parliament of Australia.
Relations with leaders of the United States
Shortly after being congratulated by George W. Bush for his victory, Harper rebuked U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins for criticizing the Conservatives’ plans to assert Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean waters with armed forces. Harper’s first meeting as Prime Minister with the U.S. President occurred at the end of March 2006; while little was achieved in the way of solid agreements, the trip was described in the media as signaling a trend of closer relations between the two nations.
The Harper Government received unexpected American news coverage during the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential primaries after the details of a conversation between Barack Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee, and Canadian diplomat Georges Rioux were revealed. Reportedly Goolsbee was reassuring the Canadians that Obama's comments on potentially renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were more political rhetoric than actual policy. The accuracy of these reports has been debated by both the Obama camp, and the Canadian Government. The news came at a key time nearing the Ohio and Texas primaries where, perceptions among Democratic voters is that the benefits of the NAFTA agreement are dubious. Thus the appearance that Obama was not being completely forthright was attacked by his opponent Hillary Clinton. ABC News reported that Harper's Chief of Staff, Ian Brodie was responsible for the details reaching the hands of the media. Harper has denied that Brodie was responsible for the leak, and says his government is trying to find the source. The Opposition, as well as Democratic strategist Bob Shrum , has criticized the Government on the issue, saying they are trying to help the Republicans, and could hurt relations with the United States if Obama ever were to become President.
Supreme Court appointments
Harper chose the following jurists to be appointed as justices of the Supreme Court of Canada by the Governor General:
- Marshall Rothstein ( March 1, 2006 – present)
In keeping with Harper's election promise for such changes to the process, Rothstein's appointment involved the innovation of a review by a parliamentary committee, following his nomination by the Prime Minister. Rothstein had already been short-listed, with two other candidates, by a committee convened by the previous Liberal government, and he was Harper's choice. Harper then had Rothstein appear before an ' ad hoc', non-partisan committee of 12 Members of Parliament. This committee was not empowered to block the appointment, though, as had been called for by some members of Harper's Conservative Party.
Harper received the Woodrow Wilson Award on October 6, 2006 for his public service in Calgary. It was held at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary, the same place where he made his victory speech.
Time magazine named him as Canada's Newsmaker of the Year in 2006. Stephen Handelman wrote "that the prime minister who was once dismissed as a doctrinaire backroom tactician with no experience in government has emerged as a warrior in power."
On June 27, 2008, Harper was awarded the Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism by B'nai B'rith International. He is the first Canadian to be awarded this medal.
|2006 federal election : Calgary Southwest|
|New Democratic Party||Holly Heffernan||4,628||8.06|
|Christian Heritage||Larry R. Heather||279||0.49|
|Total valid votes||57,416||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||120|
|2004 federal election : Calgary Southwest|
|New Democratic Party||Daria Fox||2,884||5.59||$3,648.70|
|Marijuana||Mark de Pelham||516||1.00||$0.00|
|Christian Heritage||Larry R. Heather||229||0.44||$985.59|
|Total valid votes||51,637||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||149|
|Electors on the lists||80,296|
|Canadian federal by-election, May 13, 2002 : Calgary Southwest|
|Canadian Alliance||Stephen Harper||13,200||71.66||$58,959.16|
|New Democratic Party||Bill Phipps||3,813||20.70||$34,789.77|
|Green||James S. Kohut||660||3.58||$2,750.80|
|Christian Heritage||Ron Gray||320||1.74||$27,772.78|
|Total valid votes||18,421||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||98|
|Electors on the lists||80,360|
|1993 federal election : Calgary West|
|Progressive Conservative||James Hawkes||9,090||15.72|
|New Democratic Party||Rudy Rogers||1,194||2.06|
|Natural Law||Frank Haika||483||0.84|
|Christian Heritage||Larry R. Heather||116||0.20|
|Total valid votes||57,821||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||133|
|Electors on the lists||87,421|
|1988 federal election : Calgary West|
|Progressive Conservative||(x) James Hawkes||32,025||58.52|
|New Democratic Party||Richard D. Vanderberg||6,355||11.61|
|Confederation of Regions||Brent Morin||170||0.31|
|Total valid votes||54,729||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||117|
|Electors on the lists||69,650|
All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.