Who he is: Stephen Joseph Harper is the 22nd prime minister of Canada, as well as the leader of the Conservative Party. He is the most recent prime minister who lacks a law degree. In the 2006 federal election, Harper was sworn in as prime minister, winning a minority government.
Harper is the first prime minister of the newly re-formed Conservative Party, created by a merger of the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties. Harper was a founding member of the Reform Party, but ended his first run as an MP there to join and then later to head the National Citizens Coalition.
Stephen Harper is what Americans might term a neocon, which is ironic because Canadians were generally repulsed by George W. Bush's wars and overall aggressive behavior worldwide. But under Prime Minister Harper, Canada has pursued an intrusive policy around the world, following America's lead. This should come as no surprise considering Harper is an active member of the internationist and highly secretive Bilderberg Group.
At home, Harper has tolerated increased aggressiveness in civil policing, including the use of agent provocateurs to break up demonstrations and arrest protestors. His political views and activities might be termed "neocon lite."
Background: Stephen Harper was born on April 30th, 1959 in Toronto, Canada. Harper attended Northlea Public School, John G. Althouse Middle School and Richview Collegiate Institute. He was a member of Richview Collegiate's team on Reach for the Top, a television quiz show for Canadian high school students. In 1978, Harper graduated and then enrolled at the University of Toronto. He dropped out after only two months, moved to Edmonton, Alberta, and found work in the Imperial Oil mail room. He advanced to working on the company's computer systems before taking up post-secondary schooling once more, this time at the University of Calgary, where he received a Bachelor's degree in Economics. In 1993, Harper returned to the University of Calgary to receive his Master's in Economics and, later, to lecture there.
In 1985, Harper was chief aide to Progressive Conservative MP Jim Hawkes, but left that party due to disagreements with the way the government was being run, especially in regard to the administration's fiscal policy and inability to completely revoke the National Energy Program installed by the former ruling Liberal party until 1986. Harper was invited into the Reform Party of Canada by Preston Manning, the founder and leader of the party, and was appointed the Chief Policy Officer in 1987. He ran for the Canadian House of Commons in the 1988 federal election but lost by a huge margin to his former employer, Hawkes. The Reform Party's Deborah Grey was voted in as its first MP in the 1988 by-election. Harper became Grey's executive assistant, chief adviser and speechwriter until 1993.
Harper ran in the 1993 Federal election, once again against Hawkes, and won due to significant Reform breakthroughs in Western Canada. In 1995, Harper and Manning stood together in Montreal to introduce a 20-point plan to "decentralize and modernize" Canada in case there was a "no" victory. In 1994, Harper opposed plans to introduce spousal benefits for same-sex couples, but he was also part of a minority delegate that voted against restricting the definition of marriage to "the union of one man and one woman." He stated that political parties should not take official stances on any "issues of conscience."
On January 14, 1997, he resigned his parliamentary seat due to frictions that had arisen between him and Manning. That same day he was appointed as a vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative think tank and advocacy group. Later that year, he was promoted to president. He became Leader of the Opposition in 2002 and stayed until 2006. Harper was sworn in as Canada's 22nd prime minister on February 6, 2006. On March 25 of 2011, Harper's Conservative government was defeated by a vote of no confidence, however his Conservative Party won a majority in two months later.
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