The Canada eZine - Canadian Politics
Stephen Joseph Harper (born April 30, 1959), leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, was elected the twenty-second Prime Minister of Canada in January 2006. He is currently the Member of Parliament for the riding of Calgary Southwest. From 1993 to 1997, he was the MP for Calgary West.
Born April 30, 1959 in Toronto, Stephen Harper is the eldest of three sons of Margaret Johnston and Joseph Harper. After graduating secondary school Harper enrolled at the University of Toronto but after two months dropped out and moved to Edmonton, Alberta. After a period of time working at Imperial Oil in Alberta, he took up post-secondary studies again at the University of Calgary, completing a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in economics by 1993.
At age 34, Harper married Laureen Teskey in 1993. Together they have two children: Benjamin, born 1996, and Rachel, born 1999.
1985 - Chief aide to Progressive Conservative MP Jim Hawkes
1987 - Became the Reform Party's Chief Policy Officer and primary author of the Reform Party's 1988 election platform
1988 - Ran and lost, as a Reform Party candidate in the riding of Calgary West, in the 1988 federal election.
1988 - 1993 Executive Assistant, chief adviser and speechwriter for Deborah Gray, the Reform Party's first Member of Parliament.
1993 - Ran and won his first federal election as a Reform Member of Parliament.
1993 - 1996 As a Reform MP, was active on constitutional issues and played a prominent role within the Reform Party drafting the party's position on the 1995 Quebec referendum. Also took positions against spousal benefits for same-sex couples and gun control. Despite his prominent position in the party however, Harper's relationship with Preston Manning, the Reform Party leader, was strained, culminating when Harper resigned his parliamentary seat on January 14, 1997.
1997 - 2001 Soon after resigning his seat, Harper was named president of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), a conservative think-tank and advocacy group. There he advocated for an alliance of the conservative parties; supported Conrad Black's purchase of the a newspaper chain, arguing that he would provide a "pluralistic" editorial view to counter the "monolithically liberal and feminist" approach of previous management; launched an ultimately unsuccessful battle against federal election laws restricting third-party advertising; and led several campaigns against the Canadian Wheat Board.
In 1997, Harper delivered a controversial speech for a conservative American think tank in which he said, "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."
In 2000 Harper penned several controversial pieces including the "Alberta Agenda" in which he called on the province to reform publicly-funded health care, the Canada Pension Plan, and "build firewalls around Alberta" in order to stop the federal government from redistributing its wealth to less affluent regions. Later that year, Harper also wrote an editorial praising the values of Alberta while Canada "appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country".
2001 - 2004 Throughout 2001, Stockwell Day, the leader of the Canadian Alliance Party of Canada, the former Reform Party of Canada, was facing increasing criticism. Bowing to pressure in early 2002, Day called a new Canadian Alliance leadership race in which Stephen Harper emerged as Day's main rival. In his bid for the Canadian Alliance leadership, Harper described his potential support base as "similar to what George Bush tapped".
After winning the party leadership, Harper announced his intention to run for parliament in a by-election in Calgary Southwest, and officially became Leader of the Opposition in May 2002. Later in the same month, Harper said that the Atlantic Provinces were trapped in "a culture of defeat". 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.
As opposition leader Harper was largely devoted to building a union between the Canadian Alliance and the federal Progressive Conservatives. In October, 2003, despite his public promise to not merge with the Alliance, Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay reached an agreement with Stephen Harper merging the two parties and created the new Conservative Party of Canada. Harper won the Conservative leadership election soon after on March 20, 2004.
2004 to present Shortly after becoming leader, Stephen Harper led the new Conservative Party of Canada into the 2004 federal election. After moving into the lead for a time, inappropriate comments from Conservative MPs, and leaked press releases slandering the then Prime Minister, caused Harper's party to lose some momentum. In the end, the Liberal Party was re-elected with a minority government, with the Conservatives coming in second place.
In 2005-2006, Stephen Harper won his first federal election and formed a minority Conservative government in February, 2006. After the election he tried to get rid of same-sex marriages but due to lack of support flip-flopped on the issue. He started using the RCMP as his personal gestapo squad, backed down on Kyoto and denied the existence of climate change in Canada, threatened to sell the CBC, censored homosexuality and violence in Canadian films, and has basically ignored issues like poverty, health care and the economy.
In October 2008 Stephen Harper held another election which cost Canadians $300 million CDN and won another minority government, enlarging the size of his caucus slightly.
During the first week of December 2008 Harper decided to prorogue parliament when his government lost the confidence of the House of Commons due to his lack of an economic plan and was going to be replaced by a Coalition government composed of the Liberals and NDP. It was the first time a Prime Minister had ever prorogued parliament in order to save his political career. The delay means he has until January 2009 to come up with a compromise and a new budget.
Stephen Harper Quotes
"Canada is a vast and empty country." - 2006 Leaders' Debate, December 15, 2005
"I think there is a dangerous rise in defeatist sentiment in this country. I have said that repeatedly, and I mean it and I believe it." - Ottawa Citizen, June 3, 2002
"There is a continental culture. There is a Canadian culture that is in some ways unique to Canada, but I don't think Canadian culture coincides neatly with borders." - Report Newsmagazine January 7, 2002
"Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion… And whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or ten governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country may be." - Speech to the Colin Brown Memorial Dinner, National Citizens Coalition, 1994
“Let me repeat a message I have already delivered to Atlantic Canadians. I do not believe that the Liberals have ever been committed to the Atlantic Accords. You will recall the reluctance of the Prime Minister to fulfill his election commitments. You know about the subsequent delay in tabling implementation legislation. To finally bring it forward in a bill with ‘poison pill’ provisions such as the stealth carbon tax is further evidence of bad faith. I will continue to warn Atlantic Canadians that a Liberal majority government would never have signed, and will never honour, the substance of the Atlantic Accords.” (Stephen Harper, Open letter to Premier Hamm and Premier Williams, March 30, 2005)
"There is a dependence in the region that breeds a culture of defeatism," (Stephen Harper, CBC News, May 30, 2002)
"I think in Atlantic Canada, because of what happened in the decades following Confederation, there is a culture of defeat that we have to overcome. …Atlantic Canada's culture of defeat will be hard to overcome as long as Atlantic Canada is actually physically trailing the rest of the country." (Stephen Harper, New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, May 29, 2002)
"There's unfortunately a view of too many people in Atlantic Canada that it's only through government favours that there's going to be economic progress, or that's what you look to …That kind of can't-do attitude is a problem in this country but it's obviously more serious in regions that have had have-not status for a long time." (Stephen Harper, Toronto Sun, May 31, 2002)
“I've taken my position and frankly it's the same position that I took all through the [Alliance] leadership race. I delivered [speeches] everywhere I went, including in the Maritime provinces on several occasions, about the spirit of defeatism in the country and what drives it and how we have to address it.” (Stephen Harper, National Post, May 31, 2002)
“As prime minister, I will take up this issue [fiscal imbalance]…I will not try to fix this with another one-off, side-deal with this or any other province. I will bring the provinces together so we can achieve real, substantial, and I might add final, progress on this matter. And I mean final. When we reach agreement, [it] will commit more dollars to the provinces through a comprehensive review of spending and taxing powers.” (Stephen Harper, Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Speaking Notes, April 15, 2005)
"It is imperative to take the initiative, to build firewalls around Alberta, to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction." (Stephen Harper, National Post, January 24, 2001)
“If Ottawa giveth, then Ottawa can taketh away… This is one more reason why Westerners, but Albertans in particular, need to think hard about their future in this country. After sober reflection, Albertans should decide that it is time to seek a new relationship with Canada. …Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status, led by a second-world strongman appropriately suited for the task …Having hit a wall, the next logical step is not to bang our heads against it. It is to take the bricks and begin building another home – a stronger and much more autonomous Alberta. It is time to look at Quebec and to learn. What Albertans should take from this example is to become “maitres chez nous”. (Stephen Harper, National Post, December 8, 2000)
"The only way we will ever get positive constitutional change is when these people are confronted, defeated, and then work constructively within federation." (BC Report Magazine, September 29, 1997)
"We have in this country a federal government that increasingly is engaged in trying to determine which business, which regions, which industries will succeed, which will not through a whole range of economic development, regional development corporate subsidization programs. I believe that in the next election we got to propose a radical departure from this." (Stephen Harper, Global News, February 24, 2002)
"It [referring to calling a Minister "Idiot"] was probably not an appropriate term, but we support the war effort and believe we should be supporting our troops and our allies and be there with them doing everything necessary to win." - Montreal Gazette, April 2003
"I don't know all the facts on Iraq, but I think we should work closely with the Americans." - Report Newsmagazine, March 25 2002
"We should have been there shoulder to shoulder with our allies. Our concern is the instability of our government as an ally. We are playing again with national and global security matters." - Canadian Press Newswire, April 11, 2003
"On the justification for the war, it wasn't related to finding any particular weapon of mass destruction. In our judgment, it was much more fundamental. It was the removing of a regime that was hostile, that clearly had the intention of constructing weapons systems. … I think, frankly, that everybody knew the post-war situation was probably going to be more difficult than the war itself. Canada remains alienated from its allies, shut out of the reconstruction process to some degree, unable to influence events. There is no upside to the position Canada took." - Maclean’s, August, 25, 2003
" This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based on focus groups. We will not take a stand based on phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of public opinion… In my judgment Canada will eventually join with the allied coalition if war on Iraq comes to pass. The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade." - Hansard, January 29, 2003
"When it comes to issues of this country's vital security and national defence, you don't put that to the United Nations, which, quite frankly, is a coalition of everybody—the good, bad and ugly," (Stephen Harper, Toronto Star, February 28, 2004)
"I believe that all taxes are bad." - CTV.ca news, December 1, 2005, "Tory tax cut promise dominates campaign"
"I will strive to make this not the highest-spending country in the world, but instead the lowest taxing one." (Stephen Harper, Conservative Leadership Convention, March 19, 2004)
"Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations." - The Star, January 30, 2007
“Let’s forget about this unworkable treaty…. Kyoto’s never going to be passed.” (Stephen Harper, Toronto Star, June 10, 2004)
“My party’s position on the Kyoto Protocol is clear and has been for a long time. We will oppose ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and its targets. We will work with the provinces and others to discourage the implementation of those targets. And we will rescind the targets when we have the opportunity to do so.” (Stephen Harper, Ottawa Citizen, November 22, 2002)
“No, what I am supportive of is, frankly, not ratifying the Kyoto agreement and not implementing it.” (Stephen Harper, CTV News, September 6, 2002)
“Kyoto [is] the worst international agreement this country has ever signed and I don't think they have the guts to implement it because it would have severe impacts on the economy and on the ordinary people from coast-to-coast.” (Stephen Harper, CTV News, September 4, 2002)
When Harper was asked in a news conference how he can reconcile using the courts—on the one hand—to oppose a bill passed by Parliament [Gag Law – 3rd party election spending]; and then making the case that the courts have had too much say on the same-sex issue, he said: “Well quite easily, because the right of free speech and right of religion are in the constitution. Sexual orientation is not.” (Stephen Harper, CBC Newsworld, September 4, 2003)
“The Liberals may blather about protecting cultural minorities, but the fact is that undermining the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on multiculturalism and the practices in those communities.” (Stephen Harper, Hansard, February 18, 2005)
“Liberals may talk about minorities. But undermining the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on the beliefs of all cultural and religious communities who have come to this country.'' (Stephen Harper, Canadian Press, April 9, 2005)
“I'm telling you, what I'm telling you is I don't see [the notwithstanding clause] as an issue here. The issue is simple. Which definition of marriage does Parliament want to enact, and I don't think that's, I don't think it's a complicated legal question, I think it's a simple act of political judgment and will.” (Stephen Harper, CTV Question Period, December 26, 2004)
“I do not support the special legal recognition of same-sex relationships, the compulsory provision of marital benefits to same sex couples, or a number of other possible implications of such legislation.” (Stephen Harper, Letter to the Editor, Calgary Herald, December 14, 1994)
Harper has said he opposes a “new deal” for municipalities: “That the federal government should have its own "New Deal" with municipalities is not a view I would subscribe to.” (Stephen Harper, Report Newsmagazine, June 24, 2003)
“If Ottawa begins transferring cash directly to municipalities don’t be surprised to see "national standards" and other mandates imposed on cities in pretty short order.” (Stephen Harper, Address to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, June 2, 2003)
“[W]hat we clearly need is experimentation - with market reforms and private delivery options within the public system. And it is only logical that, in a federal state where the provinces operate the public health care systems and regulate private services, that experimentation should occur at the provincial level.” (Stephen Harper, Speech in Charlottetown, June 27, 2001)
"One of the things that we suggested specifically was that the Alberta Government take on the Canada Health Act." (Stephen Harper, CBC Newsworld, December 4, 2001)
“Monopolies in the public sector are just as objectionable as monopolies in the private sector. It should not matter who delivers health care, whether it is private, for profit, not for profit or public institutions, as long as Canadians have access to it regardless of their financial means.” (Stephen Harper, Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, Oct. 1, 2002)
“Harper also believes that our health care will continue to deteriorate unless Ottawa overhauls the Canada Health Act to allow the provinces to experiment with market reforms and private health care delivery options. He is prepared to take tough positions including experimenting with private delivery in the public system.” (Stephen Harper, Leadership Campaign Policy Statement, www.harperforleader.com, February 2002)
“So why is the federal government going to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to run an inquiry into the health care system? The answer is likely so that it can insist upon finding a "national solution" - precisely the opposite of what the system needs. … Given such a challenge, what we clearly need is experimentation - with market reforms and private delivery options within the public system. And it is only logical that, in a federal state where the provinces operate the public health care systems and regulate private services, that experimentation should occur at the provincial level.” (Speech in Charlottetown, June 27, 2001)
“We do not think this government or any government should be in charge of raising our children. We see what happens over there when government is in charge of raising children.” (Stephen Harper, Hansard, October 6, 2004)
“[T]he solution that we need to this problem is not a high spending solution, it's a low-tax solution…I believe it involves giving money directly to parents to make child care choices and not creating expensive bureaucracies that are subjected to inter-government wrangling.'' (Stephen Harper, Canadian Press, February 11, 2005)
“These proposals included cries for billions of new money for social assistance in the name of “child poverty” and for more business subsidies in the name of “cultural identity”. In both cases I was sought out as a rare public figure to oppose such projects.” (Stephen Harper, The Bulldog, National Citizens Coalition, February 1997)
“[T]his country cannot enhance its cherished place in this world by losing its special position on this continent. We cannot let our military sovereignty in NORAD wither away. We cannot watch our economic security in NAFTA weaken. So I tell you that on our common interests with the United States, including on missile defence, our Conservative government will take Canada back to the table.” (Stephen Harper, 2005 Conservative Convention Speech Speaking Notes, March 18, 2005)
“…we must take seriously our own and continental security, rather than just push the entire burden on to the United States. We need to engage actively in the continental missile defence program to ensure Canada has a voice in its own air security.” (Stephen Harper, National Post, May 23, 2003)
“After all, enforced national bilingualism in this country isn’t mere policy. It has attained the status of a religion. It’s a dogma which one is supposed to accept without question. … [M]ake no mistake. Canada is not a bilingual country. In fact it is less bilingual today than it has ever been...As a religion, bilingualism is the god that failed. It has led to no fairness, produced no unity, and cost Canadian taxpayers untold millions.” (Stephen Harper, Calgary Sun, May 6, 2001)
"Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society…It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff." (Stephen Harper, BC Report, January 11, 1999)
"Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy…These achievements are due in part to the Reform Party…” (Stephen Harper, Speech to the Colin Brown Memorial Dinner, National Citizens Coalition, 1994)
"It's actually not a label I love…I am more comfortable with a more populist tradition of conservatism. Toryism has the historical context of hierarchy and elitism and is a different kind of political philosophy. It's not my favourite term, but we're probably stuck with it." (Stephen Harper, Hamilton Spectator, January 24, 2004)
“But I'm very libertarian in the sense that I believe in small government and, as a general rule, I don't believe in imposing values upon people.” (Stephen Harper, National Post, March 6, 2004)
Economic conservatism, Harper says during an interview in his Calgary office, is libertarian in nature, emphasizing markets and choice. Libertarian conservatives work to dismantle the remaining elements of the interventionist state and move towards “a market society for the 21st century.” (Stephen Harper, Toronto Star, April 6, 1997)
"You’ve got to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into western Canadian society." (Stephen Harper, The Report newsmagazine, January 22, 2001)
"I think people should elect a cat person. If you elect a dog person, you elect someone who wants to be loved. If you elect a cat person, you elect someone who wants to serve." (Stephen Harper, Interview with Kevin Newman, Global National April 5th, 2006)
Update May 2011
The Conservative Party finally won a majority government as of May 2nd 2011. Now Stephen Harper and the Conservatives can unleash all of their more controversial ideas and force them through parliament. See The Canadian Political Spectrum.