Peter MacKay

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Posted by motoman 03/05/2009 @ 16:12

Tags : peter mackay, cabinet, politics, canada, world

News headlines
Canada's Peter Mackay has Mr. Potatohead moment on Can-Pak policy - The Spoof (satire)
OTTAWA, CANADA: Canadian Defence Minister Peter Mackay flew to Islamabad and promptly put his big gumboot in his mouth when he announced that Canada is "considering lifting an 11-year ban on arms sales to Pakistan". Unfortunately, his "I'm-so-impotent"...
CAPTURED PIRATES - Globe and Mail
Defence Minister Peter MacKay discussed the issue while speaking aboard HMCS Winnipeg off the coast of Oman. Until now, captured pirates have been disarmed and released and legal critics have said the move is at odds with the practice of other Western...
Canada resumes military training program with Pakistan: MacKay - The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canada will resume an officer-training program with Pakistan's military that has been suspended for more than a decade, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Tuesday. Canada severed its military-to-military relations with Pakistan in 1998 when...
Canada plans to resume arms sale to Pakistan - Thaindian.com
Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who is currently in Pakistan, told a Canadian newspaper that his government might soon end its 11-year embargo on the sale of arms to Islamabad. “Doing military business in the future, and trade in particular,...
Minister Peter MacKay Announces 2009 Canada Day Poster Challenge ... - Market Wire (press release)
CANNING, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwire - May 22, 2009) - On behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, Minister for the Atlantic Gateway,...
Simms Looking for Answers From MacKay - VOCM
He says while he's heard cadet enrollment is down, he wonders why two new flying schools in Ontario and Saskatchewan have been added by DND. Simms says the contract is important to the local economy and he's asked Defence minister Peter MacKay for a...
Canada May End Ban on Military Sales to Pakistan, Star Reports - Bloomberg
By Theophilos Argitis May 20 (Bloomberg) -- Canada is considering lifting its ban on the sale of military technology to Pakistan, the Toronto Star reported, citing an interview with Defense Minister Peter MacKay. Mackay is impressed with Pakistan's...
Pakistan 'most dangerous country in the world' - AFP
OTTAWA (AFP) — Extremist attacks across nuclear-armed Pakistan in recent years have made it "the most dangerous country in the world," Canada's Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Monday. "I'm extremely concerned," MacKay told a press conference....
Aid may be coming for Atlantic lobster fishermen hit by low prices ... - The Canadian Press
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said discussions were taking place to determine the best way to assist fishermen who have been hit by record-low prices of under $3 a pound. "We're trying to put something together that will allow for short-term relief,"...
Canadian Defense Minister to visit Pakistan - Xinhua
ISLAMABAD, May 16 (Xinhua) -- A four-member Canadian defense delegation, led by Defense Minister Peter MacKay will pay a visit to Pakistan, the News Network International (NNI) news agency reported on Saturday. The delegation will arrive on Monday on a...

Conservative Party of Canada

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, 22nd Prime Minister of Canada

The Conservative Party of Canada (French: Parti conservateur du Canada), colloquially known as the Tories, is a major political party in Canada, formed by the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party. The party is positioned in the center-right of the Canadian political spectrum. The party currently forms the Government of Canada, and is led by the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper.

The Conservative Party is political heir to a series of conservative parties that have existed in Canada, beginning with the Liberal-Conservative Party founded in 1854 by Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier. The party later became known simply as the Conservative Party after 1873. Like its historical predecessors and conservative parties in some other commonwealth nations (such as the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom), members of the present-day Conservative Party of Canada are sometimes referred to as "Tories". The modern Conservative Party of Canada is also legal heir to the heritage of the historical conservative parties by virtue of assuming the assets and liabilities of the former Progressive Conservative Party upon the merger of 2003.

The first incarnations of the Conservative Party in Canada were quite different from the Conservative Party of today, especially on economic issues. The early Conservatives were known to espouse economic protectionism and British imperialism, by emphasizing Canada's ties to the United Kingdom while vigorously opposing free trade with the United States of America; free trade being a policy which, at the time, had strong support from the ranks of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Conservatives also sparred with the Liberal Party due to its connections with French Canadian nationalists including Henri Bourassa who wanted Canada to distance itself from Britain, and demanded that Canada recognize that it had two nations, English Canada and French Canada, connected together through a common history. The Conservatives would go on with a popular slogan "one nation, one flag, one leader" and supported policies such as the assimilation of French Canadians, aboriginals, and immigrants.

The Conservative Party's popular support waned (particularly in western Canada) during difficult economic times from the 1920s to 1940s, as it was seen by many in the west as an eastern establishment party which ignored the needs of the citizens of Western Canada. Westerners of multiple political convictions including small-"c" conservatives saw the party as being uninterested in the economically-unstable Prairie regions of the west at the time and instead holding close ties with the business elite of Ontario and Quebec. As a result of western alienation both the dominant Conservative and Liberal parties were challenged in the west by the rise of a number of protest parties including the Progressive Party of Canada, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and the Social Credit Party of Canada. The Progressives once outpaced the Conservatives, and, in 1920, became Official Opposition, though soon after, the Progressive Party folded. Former Progressive leader John Bracken became leader of the Conservative Party in 1942 subject to several conditions, one of which was that the party be renamed the Progressive Conservative Party. Meanwhile, many former supporters of the Progressive Party shifted their support to either the federal CCF or to the federal Liberals. The advancement of the provincially-popular western-based conservative Social Credit Party in federal politics was stalled, in part by the strategic selection of leaders from the west by the Progressive Conservative Party. Conservative leaders such as John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark were seen by many westerners as viable challengers to the Liberals who traditionally had relied on the electorate in Quebec and Ontario for their power base. While none of the various protest parties ever succeeded in gaining significant power federally, was damaging to the Conservative Party throughout its history, and allowed the federal Liberals to win election after election with strong urban support bases in Ontario and Quebec. This historical tendency earned the Liberals the unofficial title often given by some political pundits of being Canada's "natural governing party". Prior to 1984, Canada was seen as having a dominant-party system led by the Liberal Party while Conservative governments therefore were considered by many of these pundits as caretaker governments, doomed to fall once the collective mood of the electorate shifted and the federal Liberal Party eventually came back to power.

In 1984, the Progressive Conservative Party's electoral fortunes made a massive upturn under its new leader, Brian Mulroney, an anglophone Quebecker and former president of the Iron Ore Company of Canada, who mustered a large coalition of westerners aggravated over the National Energy Program of the Liberal government and Quebeckers who were angered over Quebec not having distinct status in the Constitution of Canada signed in 1982. This led to a huge landslide victory for the Progressive Conservative Party. Progressive Conservatives abandoned protectionism which the party had held strongly to in the past and which had aggravated westerners and businesses and fully espoused free trade with the United States and integrating Canada into a globalized economy. This was accomplished with the signing of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of 1989 and much of the key implementation process of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which added Mexico to the Canada-U.S. free trade zone.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, federal conservative politics became split by the creation of a new western-based protest party, the populist and social conservative Reform Party of Canada created by Preston Manning, son of Alberta Social Credit Premier Ernest Manning. The party was very controversial in Canadian politics. It advocated deep decentralization of government power, abolishment of official bilingualism and multiculturalism, democratization of the Canadian Senate, opposed abortion, opposed extending rights to homosexuals and suggested a potential return to capital punishment, and advocated significant privatization of public services. Despite controversial aspects of Reform, Westerners felt betrayed by the federal Conservative Party, seeing it as catering to Quebec and urban Ontario interests over theirs. In 1989, Reform made headlines in the political scene when its first MP, Deborah Grey, was elected in a by-election in Alberta, which was a shock to the PCs which had almost complete electoral dominance over the province for years. Another defining event for western conservatives was when Mulroney accepted the results of an unofficial Senate "election" held in Alberta, which resulted in the appointment of a Reformer, Stanley Waters, to the Senate.

By the 1990s, Mulroney had failed to bring about Senate reform as he had promised (appointing a number of unelected Senators in 1990). As well, social conservatives were dissatisfied with Mulroney's social progressivism. Canadians in general were furious with high unemployment, high debt and deficit, unpopular implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1991, and the failed constitutional reforms of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords. In 1993, support for the Progressive Conservative Party collapsed, and the party's representation in the House of Commons dropped from an absolute majority of seats to only two seats. The 1993 results were the worst electoral disaster in Canadian history, and the Progressive Conservatives never fully recovered.

In 1993, federal politics became divided regionally. The Liberal Party took Ontario, the Maritimes and the territories, the separatist Bloc Québécois took Quebec, while the Reform Party took Western Canada and became the dominant conservative party in Canada. The problem of the split on the right was accentuated by Canada's single member plurality electoral system, which resulted in numerous seats being lost to the Liberal Party, even when the total number of votes cast for P.C. and Reform Party candidates was substantially in excess of the total number of votes cast for the Liberal candidate.

With the right-wing vote split, the Liberal Party won three successive majority governments which led the Reform Party and elements of the Progressive Conservative Party to advocate "uniting the right" which was completed in 2003, when the Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party) and Progressive Conservative parties agreed to merge into the present-day Conservative Party, with the Alliance faction conceding its populist ideals and some social conservative elements.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and many other high-profile former Progressive Conservatives, including the former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney see the Conservative Party today as a natural evolution of the conservative political movement in Canada. MacKay has suggested that the Conservative Party is a reflection of the reunification of conservative ideologies under a "big tent." MacKay has often said that fractures have been a natural part of the Canadian conservative movement's history since the 1890s and that the merger was a reconstitution of a movement that has existed since the Union of Upper and Lower Canada.

On October 15, 2003, after closed-door meetings were held by the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative Party, Stephen Harper (then the leader of the Canadian Alliance) and Peter MacKay (then the leader of the Progressive Conservatives) announced the "'Conservative Party Agreement-in-Principle", thereby merging their parties to create the new Conservative Party of Canada. After several months of talks between two teams of "emissaries", consisting of Don Mazankowski, Bill Davis and Loyola Hearn on behalf of the PCs and Ray Speaker Senator Gerry St. Germain and Scott Reid on behalf of the Alliance, the deal came to be.

On December 5, the Agreement-in-Principle was ratified by the membership of the Alliance by a margin of 96% to 4% in a national referendum conducted by postal ballot. On December 6 the PC Party held a series of regional conventions, at which delegates ratified the Agreement-in-Principle by a margin of 90% to 10%. On December 7, 2003, the new party was officially registered with Elections Canada. On March 20, 2004, Stephen Harper was elected leader.

The merger was the culmination of the Canadian "Unite the Right" movement, driven by the desire to present an effective right-wing opposition to the Liberal Party of Canada, to create a new party that would draw support from all parts of Canada and would not split the right-wing vote. The splitting of the right-wing vote contributed to Liberal victories in the 1993 federal election, 1997 federal election and the 2000 election.

The merger process was controversial. David Orchard had a written agreement from Peter MacKay at the 2003 Progressive Conservative Leadership convention excluding any such merger and led an unsuccessful legal challenge to it. Orchard (under the Progressive Conservative party leadership election rules) is still owed at least $70,000 by the newly merged Conservative Party. This debt has been recognized as legitimate by the Conservative Party lawyers; however, its reimbursement is on hold pending the outcome of legal matters between the party and Orchard.

At the time of the merger four sitting Progressive Conservative Members of Parliament — André Bachand, John Herron, former Tory leadership candidate Scott Brison, and former Prime Minister Joe Clark — decided not to join the new Conservative Party caucus, as did retiring PC Party president Bruck Easton. Clark and Brison argued that the party's merger with the Canadian Alliance drove it too far to the right, and away from its historical position in Canadian politics. Brison, at first, voted for and supported the ratification of the Alliance-Tory merger, then crossed the floor to the Liberals . Soon afterward, he was made a parliamentary secretary in Paul Martin's Liberal government, and became a full cabinet minister after the 2004 federal election. Herron also ran as a Liberal candidate in the election, but did not join the Liberal caucus prior to the election. He lost his seat to the new Conservative Party's candidate Rob Moore. Bachand and Clark both retired from Parliament at the end of the session.

One former Alliance MP, former Alliance leadership candidate Keith Martin, also left the party on January 14. He retained his seat in the 2004 election, running under the Liberal banner. In the 38th Parliament (2004-2005), Martin served as parliamentary secretary to Bill Graham, Canada's minister of defence. He was reelected a second time in the 2006 general election.

Additionally, three senators, the late William Doody, Norman Atkins, and Lowell Murray, declined to join the new party and continue to sit in the upper house as a rump caucus of Progressive Conservatives. The Martin Liberals exacerbated the Tory split in the Senate by appointing, in February 2005, provincial Progressive Conservatives Nancy Ruth and Elaine McCoy as senators and additional members of the rump PC Senate caucus. Ms. Ruth, however, later did join the new Conservative party in March 2006.

In the early months of the Conservatives' existence two Conservative MPs also became publicly disgruntled with the leadership, policy, and procedures of the new party. Former Progressive Conservative MP Rick Borotsik became openly critical of the new party's leadership during its initial months of existence and officially retired from politics at the end of the parliamentary session of spring 2004.

Former Canadian Alliance MP Chuck Cadman rejected the new party's riding nomination procedures in March after losing his local riding's Conservative nomination to an outside challenger. His membership in the Conservative party was revoked in late May. Cadman ran as an independent candidate in the federal election of June 2004. He was re-elected as the only independent in the new parliament but died of cancer in July 2005.

Additionally, after the 2004 federal election, Tory Senator Jean-Claude Rivest left the Conservatives to sit as an independent member of the Senate, citing his concerns that the new party was too right-wing and insensitive to Quebec needs and interests.

With 17,296 votes and 56.23% party support, Stephen Harper was chosen as leader of the new party in the March 20, 2004 leadership election, defeating former Ontario provincial PC Cabinet minister Tony Clement (2,887 votes, 9.4%) and former Magna International CEO Belinda Stronach (10,613 votes, 34.54%) on the first ballot.

Some Conservative activists had hoped to recruit former Ontario Premier Mike Harris for the leadership but he declined, as did New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. Outgoing Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay also announced he would not seek the leadership of the new party as did former Democratic Representative Caucus leader and Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament (MP) Chuck Strahl. Jim Prentice, who had been a candidate in the 2003 PC leadership contest, entered the Conservative leadership race in mid-December but dropped out in mid-January due to an inability to raise funds so soon after his earlier leadership bid.

Two months after Harper's election as national Tory leader, Liberal Party of Canada leader and Prime Minister Paul Martin called a general election for June 28, 2004. However, in the interim between the formation of the new party and the selection of its new leader, factional infighting and investigations into the Sponsorship Scandal significantly reduced the popularity of the governing Liberal Party. This allowed the Conservatives to be more prepared for the race, unlike the 2000 federal election when few predicted the early election call. For the first time since the 1993 federal election, a Liberal government would have to deal with a united conservative front. The Liberals attempted to counter this with an early election call, as this would give the Conservatives less time to consolidate their merger.

During the first half of the campaign, polls showed a rise in support for the new party, leading some pollsters to predict the election of a minority Conservative government. An unpopular provincial budget by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty hurt the federal Liberals' numbers in Ontario, as did a weak performance from Martin in the leaders' debates. The Liberals managed to narrow the gap and eventually regain momentum by targeting the Conservatives' credibility and motives, hurting their efforts to present a reasonable, responsible and moderate alternative to the governing Liberals.

Several controversial comments were made by Conservative MPs during the campaign. Early on in the campaign, Ontario MP Scott Reid indicated his feelings as Tory language critic that the policy of official bilingualism was unrealistic and needed to be reformed. Alberta MP Rob Merrifield suggested as Tory health critic that women ought to have mandatory family counseling before they choose to have an abortion. BC MP Randy White indicated his willingness near the end of the campaign to use the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to override the Charter of Rights on the issue of same-sex marriage, and Cheryl Gallant, another Ontario MP, compared abortion to terrorism. The party was also criticized for issuing press releases accusing both Paul Martin and Jack Layton of supporting child pornography, although both releases were recalled within a few hours.

Harper's new Conservatives emerged from the election with a larger parliamentary caucus of 99 MPs while the Liberals were reduced to a minority government of 135 MPs, requiring the Liberals to obtain support from at least twenty-three opposition MPs in order to guarantee the passage of Liberal government legislation. The Conservatives' popular vote, however, was actually lower than the combined Alliance and PC popular vote in the 2000 federal election.

In 2005, some political analysts such as former Progressive Conservative pollster Allan Gregg and Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert suggested that the then-subsequent election could result in a Conservative government if the public were to perceive the Tories as emerging from the party's founding convention (then scheduled for March 2005) with clearly defined, moderate policies with which to challenge the Liberals.

The convention provided the public with an opportunity to see the Conservative Party in a new light, appearing to have reduced the focus on its controversial social conservative agenda (although most Conservatives continue to oppose same-sex marriage). It retained its populist appeal by espousing tax cuts, smaller government, a grassroots-oriented democratic reform, and more decentralization by giving the provinces more taxing powers and decision-making authority in joint federal-provincial programs. The party's law and order package was an effort to address the perception of rising homicide rates, which had gone up 12% in 2004. Statistics Canada.

On May 17, 2005, MP Belinda Stronach surprised many when she crossed the floor from the Conservative Party to join the Liberal Party.

In late August and early September 2005, the Tories released ads through Ontario's major television broadcasters that highlighted their policies towards health care, education and child support. The ads each featured Stephen Harper discussing policy with prominent members of his Shadow Cabinet. Some analysts suggested at the time that the Tories would use similar ads in the expected 2006 federal election, instead of focusing their attacks on allegations of corruption in the Liberal government as they did earlier on.

An Ipsos-Reid Poll conducted after the fallout from the first report of the Gomery Commission on the sponsorship scandal showed the Tories practically tied for public support with the governing Liberal Party , and a poll from the Strategic Counsel suggested that the Conservatives were actually in the lead. However, polling two days later showed the Liberals had regained an 8-point lead .

On November 24, 2005, Opposition leader Stephen Harper introduced a motion of no confidence which was passed on November 28, 2005. With the confirmed backing of the other two opposition parties, this resulted in an election on January 23, 2006, following a campaign spanning the Christmas season.

The Conservatives started off the first month of the campaign by making a series of policy-per-day announcements, which included a Goods and Services Tax reduction and a child-care allowance. This strategy was a surprise to many in the news media, as they believed the party would focus on the sponsorship scandal; instead, the Conservative strategy was to let that issue ruminate with voters. The Liberals opted to hold their major announcements after the Christmas holidays; as a result, Harper dominated media coverage for the first few weeks of the campaign and was able "to define himself, rather than to let the Liberals define him". The Conservatives' announcements played to Harper's strengths as a policy wonk , as opposed to in the 2004 election and summer 2005 where he tried to overcome the perception that he was cool and aloof. Though his party showed only modest movement in the polls, Harper's personal approval numbers, which had always trailed his party's significantly, began to rise relatively rapidly.

On December 27, 2005, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced it was investigating Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's office for potentially engaging in insider trading before making an important announcement on the taxation of income trusts. The revelation of the criminal investigation and Goodale's refusal to step aside dominated news coverage for the following week, and it gained further attention when the United States Securities and Exchange Commission announced they would also launch a probe. The income trust scandal distracted public attention from the Liberals' key policy announcements and allowed the Conservatives to refocus on their previous attacks on corruption within the Liberal party. The Tories were leading in the polls by early January 2006, and made a major breakthrough in Quebec where they displaced the Liberals as the second place party (after the Bloc Québécois).

In response to the growing Conservative lead, the Liberals launched negative ads suggesting that Harper had a "hidden agenda", similar to the attacks made in the 2004 election. The Liberal ads did not have the same effect this time as the Conservatives had much more momentum, at one stage holding a ten-point lead. Harper's personal numbers continued to rise and polls found he was considered not only more trustworthy, but also a better potential Prime Minister than Paul Martin. In addition to the Conservatives being more disciplined, media coverage of the Conservatives was also more positive than in 2004. By contrast, the Liberals found themselves increasingly criticized for running a poor campaign and making numerous gaffes.

On January 23, 2006, the Conservatives won 124 seats, compared to 103 for the Liberals. The results made the Conservatives the largest party in the 308-member House of Commons, enabling them to form a minority government. On February 6, Stephen Harper was sworn in as the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada, along with his Cabinet.

The Federal Accountability Act in response to the sponsorship scandal, President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable John Baird introduced the bill to the Canadian House of Commons on April 11, 2006. The bill was passed in the House of Commons on June 22, 2006, and was granted royal assent on December 13, 2006.

On October 31, 2006, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that the government would begin taxing income trusts in 2011, which backtracked on one of their campaign promises. There had been an increasing number of corporations converting to income trusts which would result in them paying lowered taxes; Flaherty argued that income trusts would cost the government hundreds of millions in lost revenue and shift the burden onto ordinary people. Subsequent to the October 31 announcement by Flaherty, the TSX Capped Energy Trust Index lost 21.8% in market value and the TSX Capped Income Trust Index lost 17.6% in market value by mid November 2006. In contrast, the TSX Capped REIT Index, which is exempt from the 'Tax Fairness Plan', gained 3.2% in market value. According to the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors, this translates into a permanent loss in savings of $35 billion to Canadian income trust investors. The Conservatives are supported on the matter by the NDP.

On November 22, 2006, Harper introduced his own motion to recognize the Québécois as forming 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.

During three by-elections held on September 17, 2007, mayor Denis Lebel captured the seat of Roberval for the Conservatives, taking it from the Bloc, while Bernard Barre ran a close second in Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot. This raised the Conservative total in the House of Commons to 126 members. Some believe these results indicate that the Conservatives have consolidated their position as the main federalist option in Quebec, outside of Montreal.

Conservative Industry Minister Jim Prentice introduced Bill C-61 - a copyright reform bill which was widely criticized for lack of consultations before the bill was introduced. Prentice has stated that he believes C-61 is the right way to go with respect to copyright reform..

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 RCMP searched Conservative party headquarters in Ottawa on April 15, 2008 at the request of Elections Canada. Elections commissioner William Corbett requested the assistance of the Mounties. Elections Canada is probing Conservative party spending for advertisements during the 2006 parliamentary election campaign.

The Conservative Party of Canada, having reached the $18.3-million advertising spending limit set out under the Canada Elections Act, transferred cash to 66 local campaign offices. The local campaigns sent the money back to national party headquarters to buy local television and radio advertisements for their candidates.

Financial agents for at least 35 of those Conservative candidates later asked to be reimbursed for those expenses. Candidates who get 10 per cent of the votes in their riding get a portion of their election expenses returned from Elections Canada. Elections Canada refused, saying the party paid for the ads, not the candidates. The Conservatives maintain they didn't break any rules.

On May 26, 2008, the Conservative Party recognized in a private-members bill the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine as an act of genocide. The famine, orchestrated by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, has been recognized as genocide by a dozen countries—although some historians disagree.

On September 7, 2008 Stephen Harper asked the Governor General of Canada to dissolve parliament. The election took place on 14 October. The Conservative Party returned to government with 143 seats, up from the 127 seats they held at dissolution, but short of the 155 necessary for a majority government. This is the third minority parliament in a row in Canada, and the second for Harper.

The Conservative Party pitched the election as a choice between Harper and the Liberals' Stéphane Dion, who they portrayed as a weak and ineffective leader. The election, however, was rocked midway through by the emerging global financial crisis and this became the central issue through to the end of the campaign. Mr. Harper has been criticised for appearing unresponsive and unsympathetic to the uncertainty Canadians were feeling during the period of financial turmoil, but he countered that the Conservatives were the best party to navigate Canada through the financial crisis, and portrayed the Liberal "Green Shift" plan as reckless and detrimental to Canada's economic well-being.

The Conservative Party released its platform on October 7. The platform states that it will re-introduce a bill similar to C-61.

A new cabinet was sworn in on October 30, 2008.

The party’s second convention was held in Winnipeg in November 2008. This was the party’s first convention since taking power in 2006, and media coverage concentrated on the fact that this time, the convention was not very policy-oriented, and showed the party to be becoming an establishment party.

However, the results of voting at the convention reveal that the party’s populist side still had some life. A resolution that would have allowed the party president a director of the party’s fund was defeated because it also permitted the twelve directors of the fund to become unelected “ex-officio” delegates. Some politically-incorrect policy resolutions were debated, including one to encourage provinces to utilize “both the public and private health sectors”, but most of these were defeated.

After the Conservative Party released their economic statement on November 27, 2008, there was a lot of criticism from Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Bloq Québécois. The opposition parties were against the cuts in public funding for political parties, and they alleged that the Conservatives were not doing enough to stimulate the weakening economy. As a result, these parties formed a coalition and planned to bring down the Conservative government through a non confidence vote. Prime Minister Harper asked the Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, to prorogue parliament so that his party could prepare a new budget with the best interests of Canada in mind. The Governor General granted this request December 4th and parliament was prorogued until January 26th, 2009.

The new Conservative Party is an amalgam of two contrasting views about conservatism in Canada. Historically, the Progressive Conservatives touted traditional Red Tory ideals like state funded social programs, rejected closer ties with the United States and attempted to model Canada after centuries-old British institutions. Western Canadian conservatism, embodied in the Canadian Alliance party, was more inspired by Western U.S.-based conservatism; it espoused closer ties with the United States, Blue Tory conservatism, privatization, smaller government as well as reform and overhaul of political institutions (on the American/Australian model) and a decentralized federalism (a limited government in Ottawa with stronger provinces, as also advocated by Brian Mulroney). The new party generally supports a market economy approach to the economic sphere. The Conservative Party also provides a home for a multitude of other conservatives, such as libertarian conservatives, environmental conservatives, Canadian republicans, monarchists, and many others.

Since most of the MPs for the new party as well as the grassroots supporters come from the western provinces, its policy has significant influence from Reform Party of Canada philosophy, even though the new party has shed much of Reform's social conservative image, and is more focused on economic, military, "law and order" and democratic reform/ethics-in-government issues. Unlike the old Progressive Conservatives, it more reflects a strong Blue Tory ideology. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is known as an avid fiscal conservative and a strong supporter for a strong military within the context of a joint command for the Canadian Forces co-operating and co-planning with the U.S. under the umbrella of a central command, modeled after NORAD. He has embraced some social conservative positions, such as opposition to same-sex marriage, though not to same-sex civil unions.

The merger symbolizes the latest chapter in the evolution of conservatism in Canada, as the historical Conservative Party, which was founded by United Empire Loyalists, was vehemently opposed to free trade and further integration with the United States, aiming instead to model Canadian political institutions after British ones. Then under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, the party emphasized market forces in the economy and reached a landmark free-trade deal with the United States. Some critics argue that the current incarnation of conservatism espouses pro-American views, aspires to emulate American capitalism, less government involvement in the economy and more grassroots-oriented Jeffersonian democratic reform.

Being conservative both fiscally and socially, the Conservative Party generally favours lower taxes, smaller government, more decentralization of federal government powers to the provinces modeled after the Meech Lake Accord and a tougher stand on "law and order" issues. It is also opposed to the legalization of cannabis and has had a free vote on whether the House wanted to reopen the issue of same-sex marriage, which was defeated.

The party favors more spending on the military, and harmonizing standards and regulations with those of the United States.

As the successor of the western-based Canadian Alliance, the party also supports reform of the Senate to make it "elected, equal, and effective" (the "Triple-E Senate"). In practice, however, party leader Stephen Harper appointed the unelected Michael Fortier to both the Senate and to the Cabinet on 6 February 2006, the day his minority government took office. On December 22, 2008 the Prime Minister filled all eighteen vacant Senate seats. It was earlier reported in the Toronto Star that this action was "to kill any chance of a Liberal-NDP coalition government filling the vacancies next year".

The party also supports several other substantial reforms to reduce the present power of the Prime Minister's Office, such as establishing fixed election dates every four years and giving individual MPs more leeway in representing their constituents. In addition, in the wake of the sponsorship scandal and the resulting high-profile Gomery Inquiry the Conservative Party advocated government accountability and transparency reforms.

The Conservative Party, while officially having no current provincial wings, largely works with the former federal Progressive Conservative Party's provincial affiliates. There have been calls to change the names of the provincial parties from "Progressive Conservative" to "Conservative". However, there are other small "c" conservative parties which the federal Conservative Party has close ties with, such as the Saskatchewan Party, the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), and to some degree, the right-wing BC Liberals (even though there is an active British Columbia Conservative Party).

The federal Conservative party has the support of many of the provincial Conservative leaders. In Ontario, provincial PC Party leader John Tory and interim provincial opposition leader Bob Runciman have expressed open support for Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada, with former Mike Harris cabinet members Jim Flaherty, Tony Clement, and John Baird now ministers in Harper's government.

Support between federal and provincial Conservatives is more tenuous in some other provinces. In Alberta, relations have been strained between the federal Conservative Party and the Progressive Conservative. Part of the federal Tories' loss in the 2004 election was often blamed on then Premier Klein's public musings on health care late in the campaign. Klein had also called for a referendum on same-sex marriage. With the impending 2006 election, Klein predicted another Liberal minority, though this time the federal Conservatives won a minority government . Klein's successor Ed Stelmach has generally tried to avoid causing similar controversies, however Harper's surprise pledge to restrict bitumen exports drew a sharp rebuke from the Albertan government, who warned such restrictions would violate both the Constitution of Canada and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

After the 2007 budget was announced the two conservative governments in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland accused the federal Conservatives of breaching the terms of the Atlantic Accord. As a result relations have worsened between the two provincial governments, leading Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams to publicly denounce the federal Conservatives, which has given rise to his ABC (Anything But Conservative) campaign in the 2008 election.

While officially separate, federal Conservative Party documents, such as membership applications, can be picked up from most provincial Progressive Conservative Party offices. Several of the provincial parties also contain open links to the federal Conservative website on their respective websites.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper has attended multiple provincial Progressive Conservative party conventions as a keynote speaker and he has encouraged all federal party members to purchase memberships in their provincial conservative counterparts.

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Belinda Stronach

Belinda Stronach

Belinda Caroline Stronach, PC (born May 2, 1966 in Newmarket, Ontario) is a Canadian businessperson, philanthropist and former politician. She was a Member of Parliament (MP) in the Canadian House of Commons from 2004 to 2008. Originally elected as a Conservative, she later crossed the floor to join the Liberals. From May 17, 2005 to February 6, 2006, she was the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal in the government of Paul Martin. According to Canadian protocol, as a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, she is styled The Honourable Belinda Stronach. She is currently Executive Vice-Chairman of Magna International, Canada's largest automobile parts manufacturer, and Chair of The Belinda Stronach Foundation, a charitable organization.

Stronach is the daughter of Magna International founder Frank Stronach, and is the former president and chief executive officer of the company. She graduated from Newmarket High School and attended York University in 1985, where she studied business and economics, but dropped out after one year to work at Magna. She speaks English and German fluently.

Stronach was a member of the board of directors of Magna from 1988 until 2004. She became a vice-president of the company in 1995 and executive vice-president in 1999, until her appointment as president and chief executive officer. She has chaired the boards of Decoma International Inc., Tesma International Inc., and Intier Automotive Inc., all in the auto parts sector. She was a founding member of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council and served on the Ontario Task Force on Productivity, Competitiveness and Economic Progress. She is a director of the Yves Landry Foundation, which furthers technological education and skills training in the manufacturing sector.

In February 2001, she was appointed chief executive officer of Magna, succeeding Donald J. Walker (who became CEO of Magna spinoff Intier Automotive Inc.), and in January 2002, she also became its president. While CEO, the company added 3,000 jobs in Canada, 1,000 of them being in the Newmarket-Aurora area she would later represent in Parliament. Under her leadership Magna had record sales and profits each year. Though he held no formal operational role during that time, Frank Stronach remained as Chairman of the Board.

As a CEO, Stronach was widely viewed as more conciliatory to organized labour than her father, who was noted for his strong opposition to unions at Magna. While head of Magna, she ceased fighting the United Auto Workers in a dispute before the National Labor Relations Board, and the union organized numerous Magna workers in the United States.

In 2001, the National Post named Stronach as the most powerful businesswoman in Canada. In the same year, the World Economic Forum named her a "Global Leader of Tomorrow". Fortune Magazine ranked her #2 in its list of the world's most powerful women in business in 2002. She was also named one of Canada's "Top 40 Under 40". In April 2004, Time Magazine ranked her as one of the world's 100 most influential people.

Stronach is honorary chair of the Southlake Regional Health Centre fundraising campaign and a former honorary chair of the Howdown fundraising campaign. In 2003, she received one of Canada's oldest and most distinguished awards, the Beth Shalom Humanitarian Award, presented in recognition of outstanding achievement in humanitarian service.

On November 9, 2006 she co-chaired the Millennium Promise Convention in Montreal with Canadian television personality Rick Mercer. This event was a national campaign to enlist Canadians to help protect children in Africa from the ravages of malaria. Together, Stronach and Mercer co-founded Spread the Net, a grassroots organization that raises money to buy insecticide-treated bed nets for families in Africa, reducing the risk of acquiring malaria by mosquito bite.

Stronach is twice divorced; her first husband was current Magna CEO Donald J. Walker and her second was Norwegian speed skating legend Johann Olav Koss. She has two children from her first marriage, Frank and Nikki.

On June 23, 2007, the Toronto Star reported that Stronach had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, a form of breast cancer, in April 2007, and had undergone a mastectomy on June 19 in an undisclosed Toronto hospital.

According to a September 14, 2007 article from CTV News, Stronach travelled to the United States for breast cancer surgery in June 2007. According to the article, Stronach's spokesperson Greg MacEachern said that the United States was the best place to have this type of surgery done. The article also says that Stronach paid for the surgery out of her own pocket.

In the 2000 Canadian Alliance leadership election, she supported Preston Manning. In his memoir Think Big, Manning recalls Stronach at his second-ballot campaign launch in Toronto delivering "a substantive introduction in which she clearly explained why she wanted the Alliance and my candidacy to succeed", and he later thanked her for "unflagging support" in that campaign.

Throughout the summer and into the fall of 2003, talks were undertaken by officials of the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance with respect to a merger of those parties. Vote-splitting between the two right-wing parties had enabled the Liberals to dominate Canadian politics for a decade. Meetings between the parties were overseen by a facilitator, who was later revealed to have been Stronach. She was among many who had called for PC leader Peter MacKay and Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper to undertake the merger talks in the first place.

In 2004, Stronach contested the leadership of the newly formed Conservative Party. As a candidate for leadership of the new party, she drew a great deal of publicity to the race. However, many in the media saw her first foray into politics as sophomoric. Some critics accused her of being a "manufactured candidate", dependent on a high-priced network of professional campaign staff and Magna associates.

Some of the media reaction to Stronach's candidacy was criticized. Casting Stronach as an "heiress" with a "coddled career" — to the point of joking comparisons to Paris Hilton — and the attention paid to her physical appearance and personal life, was described by a commentator as patronizing and sexist. The Canadian media, though generally considered to exercise much greater reserve and discretion about the private lives of public figures than the media of other countries, paid considerable attention to rumours and innuendo about Stronach's personal life, particularly her relationship with Bill Clinton - a story that has received the attention of the New York Times following a dinner at B.L.T. Steak in Midtown Manhattan at which Clinton and Stronach attended.

Supporters touted her youth and style, corporate experience, private life as a "soccer mom", and her potential to win new and swing voters, especially moderate, socially progressive voters in the province of Ontario.

On February 11, 2004, she declined to participate in a debate between the Conservative party candidates, leaving Tony Clement and Stephen Harper to debate each other on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast. She later also skipped a March 14 debate on the Global Television Network. She argued that she ought only to participate in party-sponsored debates, rather than picking and choosing among those organized by outside sponsors. Critics saw this as her way of avoiding a debate with the other two candidates.

In her major speech at the leadership convention on March 19, 2004, she promised to serve only two terms if she became Prime Minister, and to draw no salary. She made a major gesture of "throwing away the script", but then undercut this when she was seen referring to cue cards. On March 20, 2004, she finished second to Harper with 35% of the vote.

In the 2004 federal election, she was narrowly elected as the MP for Newmarket—Aurora by a margin of 689 votes over Liberal Martha Hall Findlay. She was appointed the International Trade critic in the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet.

Before crossing the floor of the House of Commons, Stronach represented the socially liberal face of the Conservative Party. Along with Peter MacKay, she was seen as giving the Conservatives a more progressive image.

Stronach was generally to the left of her Conservative caucus colleagues, supporting abortion rights, gun control and same-sex marriage. During her Conservative leadership campaign, she called for a free vote in parliament, with votes cast individually and not along party lines, on same-sex marriage. She spoke and voted in favour of same-sex marriage when the issue came to the House of Commons in 2005; a position she re-affirmed as a Liberal in 2006. Social conservative elements in Canada were critical of Stronach, calling her a "Red Tory". During Stronach's leadership campaign, REAL Women of Canada said: "If Ms. Stronach is elected as leader of the Conservative Party, social conservatives will no longer have a voice in Canada." Stronach, for her part, promised after the leadership race that she would do her best to keep the party from moving too far to the right. She cited discomfort with Stephen Harper and the Conservatives policies as one of her reasons for crossing the floor.

Stronach supported trade with the United States but said she would like to re-examine and review parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to ensure, in her view, that Canadians can stand on a more equal footing with U.S. competitors. During her leadership campaign she said the country needed to consider changes to the Medicare system that would respect the principles of the Canada Health Act "as our standard, not our straitjacket".

In May 2005, Stronach suggested publicly that forcing an early election, especially before passing that year's federal budget, was risky and could backfire on the Tories. Harper wanted to force an early election in the wake of testimony at the Gomery Commission damaging to the Liberals. The Tories planned to bring down the government by voting against an amendment to the budget that the Liberals had made to gain New Democratic Party (NDP) support. Since this would be a loss of supply, it would have brought down the government.

However, on May 17, 2005, two days before the crucial vote, Stronach announced that she was crossing the floor and joining the Liberal Party. Her decision to join the Liberals was facilitated by former Ontario Liberal Premier David Peterson. Stronach immediately joined the cabinet as minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and minister responsible for Democratic Renewal. In the latter portfolio, she was charged with overseeing the implementation of the Gomery Inquiry recommendations, upon their release.

Stronach's move shifted the balance of power in Parliament and allowed Martin's Liberal minority government to survive for the time being. On May 19, 2005, two crucial confidence motions were voted on in the House of Commons. The first vote, on Bill C-43, the original budget proposal approved by all parties, was passed as expected, with 250 for and 54 against. The second vote was on a new budget amendment (Bill C-48) that included C$4.6 billion in additional spending the Liberals negotiated with NDP leader Jack Layton, to secure the support of NDP MPs. It was on this amendment that the Conservative/Bloc alliance planned to bring down the government. However, the vote resulted in a 152-152 tie. It then fell to the Speaker, Peter Milliken, to cast the deciding vote, which he cast in favour of continuing debate, resulting in the survival of the government. The vote carried with a final count of 153 for and 152 against.

The Liberals used Stronach's defection to paint the Conservative Party as being too extreme for moderate voters in Ontario. The Liberals enjoyed a modest upswing in the polls after earlier being damaged by testimony from Gomery Commission. Some political pundits suggested that shortly after Stronach's defection would have been the ideal time for the Liberals to call the election, as Stephen Harper had lost some of his momentum after narrowly failing to bring down the government. Instead, the Liberals were forced into an election when they were brought down by a vote of non-confidence later that year, after revelations from the Gomery Inquiry damaged their popularity. Columnist Andrew Coyne suggested that while her defection helped the Liberals in the short-run to stay in power, it also made Martin appear as a "grasping conniver willing to do and say anything to hang onto power".

Stronach's party switch mere days before the confidence vote made her the target of criticism within the Conservative Party and in the media in general. Many were cynical about her reasons for leaving and believed that her move to the Liberals was motivated more by ambition than by moral or political principles. In a press conference following the announcement, Harper speculated that Stronach had left the party simply to further her own career. At the same time, others praised Stronach for having the courage to leave a party in which she no longer felt comfortable.

Considerable media attention was paid to Peter MacKay, MP, and the deputy leader of the Conservative Party, with whom Stronach had a relationship of several months. Interviewed the day after Stronach's departure from his party, he stated that he had learned of her intention to cross the floor mere hours before the public announcement. In an interview conducted at his father's farm, MacKay showed discernible emotion.

The day after Stronach crossed the floor, the reaction in Newmarket—Aurora was mixed. Some of her constituents were upset and expressed a sense of betrayal. Protesters picketed her riding office for several days, demanding a by-election. However some of her constituents supported her move because they did not want an election and supported the budget.

Stronach's move to the Liberal Party and the speed with which she was given a senior-level cabinet position renewed calls from both parliamentarians and the general public for legislation to prevent such "party-hopping." One month after Stronach crossed the floor, a private member's bill was tabled that would require a by-election to be held within thirty-five days of a member of parliament quitting a party. According to this proposed legislation, the MP would have to sit as an independent until the by-election. The legislation never became law.

NDP MP Pat Martin requested an investigation of Stronach, speculating that she had been promised a senior cabinet post in return for her defection. The Ethics Commissioner of Canada, Dr. Bernard Shapiro, refused to investigate her floor-crossing, citing that it was a constitutional right of a Prime Minister to appoint opposition members to Cabinet.

The Conservatives targeted Stronach for defeat in the 2006 election as part of their larger goal of a breakthrough in Ontario, especially in the Toronto suburbs (popularly known as the 905s). However, while the Conservatives won a minority government, Stronach defeated her Conservative challenger, Lois Brown, by an eight-point margin.

Some of the criticism of Stronach's party switching also came under fire. Political scientist Linda Trimble has argued that the reaction to Stronach's defection to the Liberals was "offensive and sexist", referring to the comments of two provincial legislature members PC MPP Bob Runciman and Alberta PC Tony Abbott. Runciman told the Toronto radio station CFRB that, "She sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick." He apologized for his comments and later elaborated, saying that Stronach failed to adequately express her reasons for defecting from the Conservative Party. Abbott said that Stronach had "whored herself out for power." He apologized for the statement the next day saying that the term "whoring" had been misunderstood from context, and noting that it could be equally used for men and women.

Women's groups argued that the media also unfairly characterized the transition. The National Post used the front page headline "Blonde Bombshell", and political cartoonists made reference to Stronach prostituting herself to the Liberal party. Stronach's critics downplayed the sexism of their remarks and accused the Liberals of politicizing the issue in order to legitimize her crossing the floor.

Although the Liberals lost the 2006 federal election, Stronach won re-election as a Liberal candidate by a greater margin than she had in the 2004 election as a Conservative.

Following the Liberal's defeat in the 2006 election, Paul Martin announced that he would be stepping down as party leader. It was widely speculated that Stronach would seek the Liberal leadership at the 2006 leadership convention, having been endorsed by such Liberals as Reg Alcock and Brigitte Legault, who heads the Quebec party's youth wing.

However, on April 6, 2006, she announced that she would not seek the leadership, citing her objections to the delegate-based selection process. "I could have raised the money, I was working on my French, but I realized that I was not going to be free to speak my mind on party renewal", said Stronach. She said that renewal would involve giving all party members a direct vote on its direction and leadership, among other things. "If there was a one-member, one-vote system, I would run." However, a report by CTV reporter Robert Fife suggested that her candidacy was hampered by her weak grasp of French, one of Canada's two official languages, and the fact that she believed the Liberals would be defeated in the next election. Several Liberal Party officials had also warned that they would enforce the new rules, which placed limits on donations and spendings by contenders, which would have nullified Stronach's largest advantage over other potential rivals.

On April 11, 2007, Stronach announced that she would not seek re-election, and would instead return to Magna International as Executive Vice-Chairman. This decision came at a time when Magna was in the midst of teaming up with Onex Corporation to consider a bid to buy Chrysler. Stronach further cited her wish to spend more time with her growing children, and the creation of a personal foundation to end poverty and disease in Africa. She retained her seat in Parliament until the federal election in the fall of 2008.

2The office of Minister of Employment and Immigration, and Minister of Labour were abolished and the office of Minister of Human Resources Development went in force on July 12, 1996. Under the new provisions, a Minister of Labour may be appointed. However, when no Minister of Labour is appointed, the Minister of Human Resources Development shall exercice the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Minister of Labour.

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Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper

Stephen Joseph Harper, PC, MP (born April 30, 1959) is the 22nd and current Prime Minister of Canada, and leader of the Conservative Party. Harper became Prime Minister after his party won a minority government in the January 2006 federal election. He is the first Prime Minister from the newly amalgamated 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 is the first Canadian prime minister to prorogue Parliament in order to avoid a vote of confidence in the House.

Harper's Conservative Party won a strengthened minority position in the October 2008 federal election, showing a small increase in the percentage of the popular vote despite fewer actual votes than in 2006, and increased representation in the Canadian House of Commons with 143 of 308 seats.

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.

Harper was born in Toronto, the first of three sons of Margaret (née 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 became involved in politics as a member of his high school's Young Liberals Club. He later changed his political allegiance because he disagreed with the National Energy Program (NEP) of Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government. 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, especially the administration's fiscal policy and its inability to fully revoke the NEP until 1986. He left the PC Party that same year.

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 of Canada 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 Firearms 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.

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 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 reservations about Day's abilities, however, and accused Day of " 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 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 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.

Stockwell Day 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 percent support, against 37 percent 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" 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-center national party in the next federal election. 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.

In March 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.

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.

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.

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 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 terminally ill, 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 story would have proven true, the actions may have been grounds for charges as a criminal offence since, under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to bribe an MP.

When asked by Vancouver journalist Tom Zytaruk about the alleged life insurance offer then-opposition leader Stephen Harper states on an audio tape "I don't know the details. I know there were discussions" and goes on to say "The offer to Chuck was that it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election". Mr Harper also states that he had told the Conservative party representatives that they were unlikely to succeed. "I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind".

In February 2008 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigated the allegations that Section 119's provisions on bribery and corruption in the Criminal Code had been violated. The RCMP have concluded their investigation stating that there is no evidence for pressing charges.

Prime Minister Harper has denied any wrongdoing and subsequently filed a civil libel suit against the Liberal Party of Canada. While such actions could not be initiated for statements made in the House of Commons, where libel laws do not apply, statements made by Liberal party members outside the House and in articles which appeared on the Liberal party web site made accusations that Mr Harper had committed a criminal act. It is for these statements the Prime Minister filed suit.

The audio expert hired by Harper to prove that the tape containing the evidence was doctored reported that the latter part of the tape was recorded over, but the tape was unaltered where Harper's voice said "I don't know the details, I know that, um, there were discussions, um, but this is not for publication?" and goes on to say he "didn't know the details" when asked if he knew anything about the alleged offer to Cadman.

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 leaked information leading to 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 gave Harper's Conservatives the largest number of seats in the House, although not enough for a majority government, and shortly after midnight on January 24, Martin conceded defeat. Later that day, Martin informed Governor General Michaëlle Jean that he would resign as Prime Minister, and at 6:45 p.m. Jean asked Harper to form a government. Harper was sworn in as Canada's 22nd Prime Minister on February 6, 2006.

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 has indicated a desire to turn the Canadian Senate into an elected rather than an appointed body, often referred to as a Triple-E Senate, an objective previously proposed by the former Reform Party of Canada. On September 7, 2006, Harper became the first Canadian Prime Minister to appear before a Senate committee as he presented his government's case for Senate reform. In his first term in office Harper made only one appointment to the Senate. This resulted in 16 senate vacancies by the time he won his first re-election in October 2008.

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.

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.

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.

The Harper Government received American news coverage during the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential primaries after the details of a conversation between Barack Obama's 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 campaign 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 launched an investigation to find the source. The Opposition, as well as Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, criticized the Government on the issue, stating they were trying to help the Republicans by helping Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination instead of Obama. They also alleged the leak would hurt relations with the United States if Obama ever were to become President. Obama was elected President in November.

On October 14, 2008, after a 5 week long campaign, Stephen Harper won a new mandate as Prime Minister of Canada and increased the number of Conservative members of Parliament to 143 MPs up from 127 MPs at the dissolution of the previous Canadian parliament. Meanwhile, the number of opposition Liberal MPs fell from 95 to 77 seats. It takes 155 MPs to form a majority government in Canada's 308 seat Parliament.

On December 4, 2008, Harper asked Governor General Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament in order to avoid a vote of confidence scheduled for the following Monday. The request was granted by Jean, and the prorogation lasted until January 26, 2009.

In keeping with Harper's election promise to change the appointment process, Rothstein's appointment involved 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 Paul Martin's 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.

On September 5, 2008 Harper nominated Justice Thomas Cromwell of Nova Scotia to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the departure of Justice Michel Bastarache. By and large Cromwell's nomination has been well received, with many lauding the selection, however dissent has been noted surrounding the nomination. First, Harper bypassed Parliament's Supreme Court selection panel which was supposed to produce a list of three candidates for him to chose from. Second, Newfoundland Justice Minister Jerome Kennedy criticized the appointment, citing the Newfoundland government's belief that constitutional convention stipulates that a Newfoundlander should have been named to the Court in the rotation of Atlantic Canadian Supreme Court representation.

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.

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.

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 his children to Rockcliffe Park Public School, in Ottawa. Harper is the first Protestant elected Canadian Prime Minister since Lester B. Pearson, and the first evangelical since John Diefenbaker. He is a member of the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance and attends church at the East Gate Alliance Church in Ottawa.

Harper is an avid fan of ice hockey and has been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since his days as a child growing up in Leaside and then Etobicoke communities in the City of Toronto. Mr Harper is working on a book of the history of hockey and writes articles occasionally on the subject.

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 stands 1.88 metres (6'2") tall.

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.

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Joe Clark

Joe Clark

Charles Joseph "Joe" Clark, PC, CC, AOE (born June 5, 1939) is a Canadian journalist, politician, statesman, businessman, and university professor. He served as the 16th Prime Minister of Canada, from June 4, 1979, to March 3, 1980.

Despite his relative inexperience, Clark rose quickly in federal politics, entering the House of Commons in the 1972 election and winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1976. He came to power in the 1979 election, defeating the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau and ending sixteen continuous years of Liberal rule, making Clark the youngest man to become Prime Minister at 39 years of age. His tenure was brief as he only won a minority government and it was defeated on a motion of non-confidence. Clark subsequently lost the 1980 election and the leadership of the party in 1983.

He returned to prominence in 1984 as a senior cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney's cabinet, retiring from politics after not standing for re-election for the House of Commons in 1993. He made a political comeback in 1998 to lead the Progressive Conservatives before its dissolution, serving his final term in Parliament from 2000 to 2004. Clark today is recognized as a distinguished scholar and statesman, and serves as a university professor and as president of his own consulting firm.

Joe Clark was born in High River, Alberta, the son of Charles A. Clark, who was the publisher of the local newspaper, and Grace Welch. He has a brother, Peter, who later became a lawyer and is now a Judge, presiding in Calgary.

He attended local schools and the University of Alberta, where he earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in political science. While in high school, he gained journalism experience with the High River Times and the Calgary Albertan, and joined the staff of the Gateway, the University of Alberta's campus newspaper as a freshman, eventually rising to editor-in-chief there. He also worked at the Edmonton Journal for one summer, where he met his future biographer, David L. Humphreys. He took a summer job with Canadian Press in Toronto, and for a time seriously considered a professional career in journalism.

He unsuccessfully pursued first-year law studies at both Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was active in student politics, and became president of the Progressive Conservative Youth wing for two terms. He then worked full time for the Progressive Conservative Party.

Clark married Maureen McTeer in 1973, while she was still a law student. The two met when Clark hired her to work in his parliamentary office; McTeer had been a political organizer herself since her early teens. McTeer has developed her own career as a well-known author and lawyer, and caused something of a fuss by keeping her maiden name after marriage. That feminist practice was not common at the time, but was later taken up by other political wives, such as Hillary Rodham Clinton. Their daughter, Catherine, is an art history graduate from the University of Toronto who has pursued a career in public relations and broadcasting.

Clark first became active in politics at the university level. He served as President of the University of Alberta Young Progressive Conservatives, and eventually served as national president for the young PCs group. Clark sparred with future political rival Preston Manning in debate forums on campus between the Young PCs and the Youth League of the Alberta Social Credit Party. Clark encountered another future rival when he met Brian Mulroney at a national Young PCs meeting in 1958.

Clark spent time in France to improve his fluency in the French language, and also took courses in French while he was living in Ottawa. He eventually became comfortable speaking and answering questions in French, which helped his political standing in Quebec.

Clark was keenly aware from a very young age of the politics of Canada. In his youth, Clark was an admirer of Progressive Conservative leader and Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, and he eventually entered politics himself at the provincial level at the age of 28. He was unsuccessful in his first foray into politics as an official constituency candidate for the provincial Progressive Conservatives in the 1967 provincial election. Clark served as a chief assistant to provincial opposition leader and future Premier Peter Lougheed, and served in the office of federal Opposition leader Robert Stanfield, learning the inner workings of government. Clark missed being elected to the Alberta Legislative Assembly in the 1971 provincial election. However, he ran in the federal election held a year later, and was elected to Parliament as the MP for Rocky Mountain, a largely rural riding in southwestern Alberta.

Clark was the first Canadian politician to take a strong stand for decriminalization of marijuana in Canada, and for a guaranteed minimum income for everyone — both positions characteristic of the Red Tories. In many ways his social liberalism was as bold in the 1970s as Trudeau's was in the 1960s. This however put Clark at odds with the right-wing members of his caucus. In particular, during the 1979 election when Clark's riding was merged into the riding of another Tory MP during a redistribution of ridings, the other MP refused to step aside (even though Clark was now party leader), forcing Clark to run in nearby Yellowhead.

Following the resignation of PC party leader Robert Stanfield, Clark sought and won the leadership of the PC Party at the 1976 leadership convention. Initially, the favorite among Red Tories was Flora MacDonald; however she did worse than expected while Clark placed a surprising third in a field of eleven on the first ballot of convention delegates, behind Claude Wagner and Brian Mulroney. MacDonald dropped off after the second ballot, encouraging her supporters to support Clark who quickly became the compromise Red Tory candidate. The party's right-wing rallied behind Wagner. Mulroney, a Quebec businessman with no elected political experience, was unable to expand his base of support significantly. Many delegates were offended by his expensive leadership campaign. As other Red Tory candidates were eliminated during the first four ballots, Clark gradually overtook Mulroney and then Wagner to emerge as the victor on the fourth ballot, by 1,187 votes to 1,122.

Clark, who won the Tory leadership at age 36, remains the youngest-ever leader of a major federal party in the history of Canadian politics. With many veteran Tories having been defeated in the 1968 election, the party effectively skipped a generation by selecting Clark as its new leader.

Joe Clark's rapid rise from a relatively unknown Alberta MP to the Leader of the Opposition took much of Canada by surprise. The Toronto Star announced Clark's victory with a headline that read "Joe Who?" giving Clark a nickname that stuck for years. Much joking was made of Clark's clumsiness and awkward mannerisms. Skinny and tall, he became a frequent target for editorial cartoonists, who delighted in portraying him as a sort of walking candy apple, with an enormous head and floppy dog-like ears. Initially, it seemed unlikely that a man that was the source of so much mockery could ever hope to compete against the confident and intellectual Pierre Trudeau. It also did not help that the Progressive Conservatives lost a string of by-elections on May 24, 1977.

However, Clark remained belligerent in his attacks on the Trudeau government, angrily clashing with the prime minister in Parliament. He hired experienced staffers such as Lowell Murray, Duncan Edmonds, and William Neville, who shaped his policies and ran his office efficiently. He improved his party's standing in national opinion polls. Clark worked very hard, and gradually earned the respect of most people, including his own caucus, by presenting a series of well thought out speeches and questions in Parliament. He benefited when live television came to the House of Commons in 1977, allowing viewers to see that he was evolving into a real rival for Trudeau.

In the latter half of the campaign, the Liberals focused their attacks on Clark's perceived inexperience. Their advertisements claimed "This is no time for on-the-job training," and "We need tough leadership to keep Canada growing. A leader must be a leader." Clark played into their hands by appearing bumbling and unsure in public.

When Clark undertook a tour of the Middle East in order to show his ability to handle foreign affairs issues, his luggage was lost, and Clark appeared to be uncomfortable with the issues being discussed. That incident was widely lampooned by Toronto Sun cartoonist Andy Donato, who frequently portrayed Clark as wearing children's mittens (attached to his suit with idiot strings). During the same tour, while inspecting a military honour guard, Clark turned too soon and nearly bumped into a soldier's bayonet; one of the first major media reports on the incident hyperbolically claimed that he had nearly been beheaded.

Clark was bilingual but the PC party was also unable to make much headway in Quebec, which continued to be federally dominated by the Liberals. While Clark's 1976 leadership rivals were prominent in that province, Claude Wagner had left politics and recently passed away, while Brian Mulroney was still bitter about his loss and turned down an offer to serve under Clark.

Nonetheless, Clark's Progressive Conservatives won 136 seats to end sixteen continuous years of Liberal rule, falling just short of a majority as they could only get two seats in Quebec. The Progressive Conservatives had also won the popular vote in seven provinces. The Liberals lost 27 seats, including several high-profile cabinet ministers, and Trudeau announced his intention to step down as party leader.

On June 4, 1979, the day before his 40th birthday, Clark was sworn in as Canada's youngest prime minister, after defeating the Liberal Party in the May 1979 general election. Clark was the first Progressive Conservative to head Canada's federal government since the defeat of John Diefenbaker's Progressive Conservative government in the 1963 election.

With a minority government in the House of Commons, Clark had to rely on the support of the Social Credit Party, with its six seats, or the New Democratic Party (NDP), with its 26 seats. At the time, Opposition leader Trudeau said that he would allow the Progressive Conservatives a chance to govern, though he warned the Prime Minister against dismantling Petro-Canada, which was unpopular in Clark's home province of Alberta.

Social Credit was below the 12 seats needed for official party status in the House of Commons. However, the six seats would have been just enough to give Clark's government a majority had the Progressive Conservatives formed a coalition government with Social Credit, or had the two parties otherwise agreed to work together. Clark managed to lure Socred MP Richard Janelle to the government caucus but this still left the PCs short. Clark however decided that he would govern as if he had a majority, and refused to grant the small Social Credit caucus official party status or form a coalition or co-operate with the party in any way.

Clark was unable to accomplish much in office, due to his tenuous minority situation. Though the election had been held in May, Parliament did not resume sitting until October, one of the longest break periods in Confederation. The gas tax in the budget soured Clark's relationship with Ontario Premier Bill Davis, even though both were Red Tories and both were Progressive Conservatives. Even before the budget, the government was criticized for its perceived inexperience, such as in its handling of its campaign commitment to move Canada's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Internationally, Clark represented Canada in June 1979 at the 5th G7 summit in Tokyo. Compared to his predecessor as Prime Minister, Clark reportedly had a better relationship with US President Jimmy Carter, who phoned Clark to wish him luck in the upcoming 1980 election.

During the 1979 election campaign, Clark had promised to cut taxes to stimulate the economy. However, once in office he adopted a budget designed to curb inflation by slowing economic activity, and also proposed an 18 cent per Imperial gallon tax on gasoline in order to reduce the budgetary deficit. Finance Minister John Crosbie touted the budget as "short term pain for long term gain." Though Clark had hoped this change in policy would work to his advantage, it actually earned him widespread animosity as a politician who could not keep his promises, even in such a short period.

Clark's refusal to work with the Socreds, combined with the 18 cent gas tax, led to the defeat of the government in the House of Commons in December 1979. NDP Finance Critic Bob Rae attached a rider to a budget bill declaring that "this House has lost confidence in the government." The five Socred MPs had demanded the tax revenues be allocated to Quebec and when that was turned down, they abstained, which ensured the vote's passage on a 139-133 margin.

Clark was criticized for his "inability to do math" in failing to predict the outcome, not only because he was a minority situation, but also because several members of his caucus would be absent for the crucial budget vote, as one was ill and two were stuck abroad on official business. The Liberals by contrast had assembled their entire caucus, save one, for the occasion.

The no-confidence vote loss was partially welcomed by the PC Party. When a new election was called, Clark expected his party would be able to defeat the demoralized and leaderless Liberals easily, since Trudeau announced his intention to step aside. However, the Progressive Conservatives had misjudged the electorate since they did not commission any polls after August. A November Gallup poll published eight days before the December 11 budget reported that their popularity was down from 36% during the summer to 28%, with the party 19 points behind the Liberals, giving the latter the popular support to initiate the non-confidence motion. After the government fell, Clark's party was caught off guard when Pierre Trudeau quickly rescinded his resignation from the Liberal leadership (as no convention had been held) to lead his party into the subsequent election.

Clark's Tories campaigned under the slogan, "Real change deserves a fair chance," but the broken promises were still fresh in voters' minds. Progressive Conservative Premier Bill Davis's criticism of the gas tax was used in the Liberals' Ontario television ads, and the swing in support from the Tories to the Liberals in that province proved to be decisive in the campaign. Trudeau's Liberals swept his party back into power in the February 1980 election with 146 seats, against 103 for the Progressive Conservatives.

Trudeau commented in his memoirs, published in 1993, that Clark was much more tough and aggressive than past Tory leader Robert Stanfield, noting that those qualities served Clark well in his party winning the 1979 election victory. However, Trudeau also complimented Clark as a respectable leader and a better choice over Brian Mulroney, who had defeated Clark at the leadership convention 1983. Trudeau told his friends that the Tories had chosen the wrong guy. When Mulroney took over the reins of the Progressive Conservatives, Trudeau's Liberals attacked them with the slogan "Bring back Joe!", taking aim at how the Tories had replaced their proven leader with an unknown. In contrast to Clark, Trudeau and Mulroney had become bitter enemies over the Meech Lake Accord, despite never having fought an election.

At Trudeau's funeral in 2000, his son Justin Trudeau related a story in which he had told a joke about one of his father's chief rivals, and his father had corrected him, lectured him sternly on how it was wrong to insult someone just because they disagreed, and then introduced him to the rival. At this point in the ceremony, the CBC cut to an image of a teary-eyed Clark. This and a reference to the rival having a "pretty blonde" daughter, led many to believe that Justin's joke had been about Clark (Clark's daughter Catherine is a blonde close in age to Justin).

Opposition to Clark's leadership began to grow after the fall of the PC minority government, and the party's defeat by a resurgent Liberal Party. There were frequent rumors that several potential challengers were covertly undermining Clark's leadership; though in 1982 Brian Mulroney appeared at a press conference with Clark to say that he was not seeking the leadership of the PC party.

The Liberal Party had regained national prominence by leading the "No" side to victory in the 1980 Quebec referendum and the Constitution patriation. While Trudeau's National Energy Program was hugely unpopular in Western Canada, especially Alberta, it was able to shore up Liberal support in the voter-rich Eastern Canada, particularly Ontario and Quebec, generally having the opposite effect of Clark's proposed gas tax. Difficult budgets and the economic recession resulted in Trudeau's approval ratings declining after the bounce from the 1982 Constitution patriation and showed his party headed for certain defeat by early 1984, prompting him to retire. However, Clark was unable to stay on as Progressive Conservative leader long enough for that to happen.

At the party's 1981 convention, 33.5% of the delegates supported a leadership review; they felt that Clark would not be able to lead the party to victory again. At the January, 1983, convention in Winnipeg, 33.1% supported a review. The fact that Clark had been able to increase his support among party members by only 0.4% was likely a contributing factor to his decision to resign as leader and seek a renewed mandate from the membership through a leadership convention. This was also considering that the governing Liberals under Pierre Trudeau were slipping in polls, and although the PCs had built up a substantial lead in popularity, Trudeau was expected to retire before the election and a new Liberal leader might be able to pull off a victory.

Clark became a leadership candidate, and retained support from most of the Red Tories and other party members who were opposed to the public attacks on Clark's leadership by others in the party. Clark already had most of a campaign team up and running by the time of his calling the leadership convention, as he had mobilized support to help gain in the convention's leadership review, but Mulroney and John Crosbie had been laying the ground work for a campaign for some time, with Crosbie expecting Clark to lose or resign soon, and Mulroney supportive of the anti-Clark movement.

In a rematch of the 1976 convention, Mulroney emerged as the main challenger, gaining the support of the party's right wing who viewed Clark as too progressive and opposed his continued leadership. Other party members felt that the federal Liberal Party's stranglehold on Quebec seats could only be broken by a native from that province, which gave Mulroney considerable support. Media coverage emphasized the pro-business and neo-liberal bent of most of the candidates as a "Changing of the Guard" within the PC party from their more classical conservative and moderate elements. Clark campaign countered this by tring polarize the election between right wingers and a centrist who had been able to win before. The Mulroney campaign responded by continuing their pro-business line.

Several candidates agreed to a "ABC" (Anybody But Clark) strategy for the convention and when news of that back-room deal broke out, support was expected to rally around the party's embattled leader. During delegate voting, Clark led on the first three ballots but his vote total was far short of the 50% required and it dwindled as the convention progressed. He was defeated on the fourth ballot, though he urged his supporters to unite, and agreed to serve under Mulroney.

Many political observers and analysts have questioned Clark's rationale for the decision. One famous incident involved a 1987 state dinner held for Prince Charles. The Prince, who was seated next to Clark at the function, asked him "why 66 percent was not enough?" Clark's wife, Maureen McTeer, elaborated on Clark's decision in her 2003 autobiography, In My Own Name. McTeer suggested that for her husband, anything less than a 75% endorsement would not have been a clear enough mandate to forge onwards from the party membership. Clark feared that the 34% of PC members who did not support him would become his most vocal critics in the upcoming election campaign and his continued leadership would have led to fractures in the party. Clark was convinced that he could win another leadership race and gain a clear level of support once his qualities were compared against the handful of politically inexperienced challengers who coveted his position and who were covertly undermining his leadership.

The Progressive Conservatives, led by Mulroney, went on to win a huge victory in the 1984 election, and Mulroney became prime minister.

Despite their personal differences, Clark ably served in Mulroney's cabinet as Secretary of State for External Affairs. Along with Arthur Meighen, Clark is one of two former Prime Ministers who have returned to prominent roles in Parliament. Clark is the only ex-PM to subsequently serve as a cabinet minister, and he earned much more respect in his latter role.

During his term as External Affairs minister, Clark championed Canada's unabashed disapproval of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Canada was the only G7 nation to take such a resolute stance against the apartheid regime during the 1980s. He also took on the difficult Constitution ministerial portfolio after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and vigorously pursued his task.

He maintained Canada's independent voice politically and socially at a time of increasing economic integration with the US and the rise of more socially conservative right-wing politics there.

Clark later served as the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

With Quebec's constitutional status within Canada a rising issue, he shifted to become the minister responsible for constitutional affairs. The latter position saw him play a leading role in the drafting of the Charlottetown Accord, which was decisively rejected in a nationwide referendum and further hurt the standing of the PC party in polls.

He retired from politics in 1993, side-stepping the near annihilation of the PC party in the 1993 election under the leadership of Mulroney's successor Kim Campbell.

Clark was appointed as Special Representative to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Cyprus from 1993-1996. In 1993, he founded his own consulting firm, Joe Clark and Associates, Ltd., which he still heads. Clark has also served on the boards of directors or advisory boards of several Canadian companies.

In 1994, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Also in 1994, he wrote the book A Nation Too Good To Lose: Renewing The Purpose Of Canada. This book was also published in a French translation.

The 1995 Quebec referendum saw the federal side win by less than one percent of the vote. It was widely seen as being the failure of the Charlottetown and prior Meech Lake accords that had caused it to be so close.

Although Clark and Mulroney had long been perceived as bitter opponents, Mulroney's speech at the 2003 PC leadership convention praised Clark as an honest and admirable leader who had the distinction of being the only prime minister in recent memory who, even when he failed, was always respected, and never hated, by the Canadian public. At the time of his retirement polls showed that he was in fact the single most trusted political personality in Canada. The publication of The Secret Mulroney Tapes shows that Mulroney continued to hold negative feelings towards Clark during the 1980s and 90's.

One of the two PC candidates to survive the 1993 wipe-out, Jean Charest, became leader of the PC party following Campbell's resignation. After leading the party to a modest resurgence in the 1997 election, winning 20 seats, Charest bowed to tremendous public pressure and left federal politics to become leader of the Quebec Liberal Party (unaffiliated with the federal Liberals). The party had no obvious candidate to fill Charest's shoes, and turned to Clark once again in 1998. He was elected by a teleconference of PC members from around the country in which each of the party's riding associations was allocated 100 points. The points for each were riding were then assigned on the basis of each candidate's share of votes within each riding association.

Clark was elected as Member of Parliament for Kings—Hants, Nova Scotia, in a by-election on September 11, 2000, after the incumbent MP, Scott Brison, stood down in his favour. This is common practice when a newly elected party leader doesn't already have a seat in Parliament. For the general election held two months later, Clark yielded Kings-Hants back to Brison and was elected as the MP for Calgary Centre, deep in the heart of Canadian Alliance territory.

Clark ran on his previous experience as Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister. However, he faced a difficult task, with critics and opponents attacking him and the PC Party as a "vote for the past." Jean Chrétien's governing Liberals were running on their successful economic record, and they were poised to regain the support that they lost in 1997, threatening the PC's 1997 gains in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces. Clark was judged by audiences to be the best speaker during the 2000 election debates. The party lost seats to the Liberals, though it managed to hang on to the minimum 12 seats necessary to be recognized in the House of Commons as an official party and therefore qualify for research funding, committee memberships, and minimum speaking privileges. Aside from Clark's Calgary seat (one of only three Alberta seats that did not go to the Canadian Alliance), and one each in Manitoba and Quebec, the party's seats were concentrated in Tory bastions in the Atlantic provinces. Clark continually promoted the idea that the PCs would eventually retake Ontario and form a federal government again. His vision for the party was one that was to the left of the Alliance, but to the right of the Liberals.

He soon realized that there was no chance of dislodging the Liberals as long as the centre-right remained split. However, he wanted a merger on his terms. He got his chance in 2001, when several dissident Alliance MPs, the most prominent one being Alliance deputy leader and party matriarch Deborah Grey, left the Alliance caucus. The dissidents felt that Alliance leader Stockwell Day hadn't learned from mistakes made in the last election. While some of them rejoined the Alliance later, seven of them, led by Chuck Strahl of British Columbia and including Grey, refused and formed the Democratic Representative Caucus. The DRC quickly entered a coalition with the Progressive Conservatives. Clark served as leader of the joint PC-DRC caucus.

This lasted until 2002, when Stephen Harper ousted Day as Alliance leader. Harper wanted a closer union with the PCs, but Clark turned the offer down in April, 2002, and all but two of the DRC members rejoined the Alliance. One of the two, Inky Mark, eventually joined the PCs. Two by-election victories later in 2002 increased the PC caucus to 15 members and fourth place in the Commons.

Clark was selected by the media and many parliamentarians for three years in a row to be Canada's most effective opposition leader between 2000 and 2002, pursuing the Liberal government on issues such as Shawinigate and the Groupaction scandal. In his final mandate, Jean Chrétien repeatedly referred to Clark as the Leader of the Opposition (Clark wasn't), much to the chagrin of the Canadian Alliance politicians who occupied the Opposition Leader's chair during the same period. Indeed, Chretien and Clark had been fellow parliamentarians since the 1970s and they shared a mutual respect despite sitting on opposite benches.

Clark's personal popularity grew as, once again, scandal enveloped Chrétien's Liberal government. Clark was widely trusted by Canadians, but this, in his own words, did not translate into more votes and additional seats. Citing this, Clark announced his intention to step down as PC leader on August 6, 2002, at the PC Party's Edmonton policy convention. It was expected that a pro-Alliance merger candidate would succeed Clark, but Clark was instead replaced by Peter MacKay on May 31, 2003. MacKay had signed a controversial deal with Red Tory rival David Orchard, promising not to merge the PC Party with the Alliance. Clark had always encouraged MacKay to keep Orchard and his followers within the PC camp.

MacKay immediately reversed his position on seeking a merger, and in 2003, 90% of PC Party delegates voted in favor of a merger with the Canadian Alliance. Orchard unsuccessfully tried to block the merger and later joined the Liberal Party.

Overall, Clark's efforts to rebuild the PC party had mixed results. In May 2003, the party finally overtook the New Democratic Party as the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons, after by-election wins in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario. Many of his supporters have suggested his actions helped sustain the relevance of the weakened Progressive Conservative Party during some of its toughest years when its national alternative status was seriously challenged by the prairie populism of Preston Manning and the Reform Party of Canada and the social conservatism of Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance.

At the same time, the party was still $10 million in debt from the 2000 election. The PC Party's membership had also dropped from 100,000 in 1998 to 45,000 card carrying PCs in May 2003. Clark's leadership of the Progressive Conservatives was also the subject of criticism from many United Alternative supporters, who argued that his staunch opposition to a merger with the Reform/Alliance parties helped divide the "conservative" vote during the tenure of Jean Chrétien. Some critics accused Clark of being more interested in helping the interests of his own party and own career than the Canadian conservative movement in general. Others attacked Clark's goal of the PC party regaining its former power as unrealistic.

From a historical perspective, it could be argued that Clark's five year long second leadership and consistent opposition to a merger with the Reform/Alliance was necessary for the latter to water-down its more right-wing policies. This process began with Preston Manning's decision to pursue the United Alternative in 1998, Reform's demise and the Canadian Alliance's rocky birth under Stockwell Day in 2000, and Stephen Harper's policy conventions of 2003 that blurred the policy differences between the Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. Clark's staunch opposition to serious merger talks inadvertently gave Harper 18 months to consolidate power and gain control of the unwieldy Alliance parliamentary caucus and its divided membership, instead of spending that time to promote a merger with Clark's PCs.

On December 8, 2003, the day that the PC Party and the Canadian Alliance were dissolved and the new Conservative Party of Canada registered, Clark was one of three MPs — the other two were André Bachand and John Herron — to announce that they would not join the new caucus. MP Scott Brison had already joined the Liberals.

Clark announced that he would continue to sit for the remainder of the session as a "Progressive Conservative" MP, and retired from Parliament at the end of the session.

Later, Clark openly criticized the new Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2004 election. He gave a tepid endorsement to the Liberal Party in the 2004 election, calling Paul Martin "the devil we know". He criticized the new Conservative Party as an 'Alliance take-over', and speculated that eastern Canada would not accept the new party or its more socially conservative policies against gay marriage and abortion. Clark endorsed former NDP leader Ed Broadbent and other Liberals and Conservatives as individuals, saying that the most important thing was to have "the strongest possible Canadian House of Commons" since neither large party offered much hope. Clark was criticized by some for dismissing the new Conservative Party outright rather than helping to steer it towards a moderate path.

Clark continues to use his experience in foreign affairs. Clark served as Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He served as Distinguished Statesman in Residence, School of International Service, and Senior Fellow, Center for North American Studies, both at the American University, Washington, D.C.. In addition to teaching classes at the American University in Washington, Clark has also written several op-ed pieces for several of Canada's national newspapers since his retirement. In October 2006, Clark took a position at McGill University as a Professor of Practice for Public-Private Sector Partnerships at the McGill Centre for Developing-Area Studies. He also serves with the Jimmy Carter Center, routinely traveling overseas as part of the centre's international observing activities. Clark is a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to promote good governance around the world.

Clark was attacked while walking down the street in Montreal in mid-November, 2007. The attacker first asked him if he was the former prime minister, and when Clark answered that he was, the man struck him and fled. Clark sustained a bloody nose but was not seriously hurt.

As of 2007, Clark has enjoyed the second longest retirement of any Canadian Prime Minister. If he lives past January 12, 2014 he will beat the current record holder, Arthur Meighen.

As a former prime minister, Clark is entitled to carry "The Right Honourable" designation for life. Clark was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. He is a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence. He was honoured as Commandeur de l'Ordre de la Pleiade from La Francophonie. He also holds the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, 125th Anniversary of Confederation Medal Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, and the Alberta Centennial Medal. Clark was the first recipient of the Vimy Award. He is Honourary Chief Bald Eagle of the Samson Cree Nation.

Clark has received honorary degrees from the University of New Brunswick, the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, Concordia University in Montreal, Grant MacEwan College, the University of King's College in Halifax, St. Thomas University of St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

In 2004, Clark's lifetime achievements were recognized with the Award for Excellence in the Cause of Parliamentary Democracy by Canada's Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy.

On Tuesday, May 27, 2008, Clark's official parliamentary portrait was unveiled during a reception ceremony to be hung in Centre Block alongside Canada's past prime ministers.

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Peter MacKay

Peter MacKay speaking in Brazil.

Peter Gordon MacKay, PC, QC, MP (born September 27, 1965) is a lawyer and politician from Nova Scotia, Canada. He is the Member of Parliament for Central Nova and currently serves as Minister of National Defence in the Cabinet of Canada.

MacKay was the final leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (PC Party). On October 15, 2003, he and Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper agreed to merge the two parties, forming the Conservative Party of Canada. In December 2003, members of both parties ratified the merger.

MacKay was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, the son of PC cabinet minister and lumber businessman Elmer MacKay. His mother, Macha MacKay, is a psychologist and peace activist, living in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where Peter grew up with his three siblings. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Acadia University in 1987, MacKay then studied Law at Dalhousie University and was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in June 1991. He worked for Thyssen Henschel, steel producer, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in Düsseldorf and Kassel, Germany.

In 1993, MacKay accepted an appointment as Crown Attorney for the Central Region of Nova Scotia. He prosecuted cases at all levels, including youth and provincial courts as well as the Supreme Court of Canada. MacKay has publicly stated that the major impetus for his entry into federal politics was his frustrations with the shortcomings in the justice system, particularly his perception that the courts do not care about the impact crime has on victims.

MacKay was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the June 2, 1997 federal election for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, a riding in northeastern Nova Scotia. He was one of a handful of newly elected "Young Turk" PC MPs (including John Herron, André Bachand and Scott Brison), who were under 35 years old when elected and were considered the future leadership material that might restore the ailing Tories to their glory days. In his first term of office, MacKay served as Justice Critic and House Leader for the Progressive Conservative parliamentary caucus. MacKay was the Tory member of the Board of Internal Economy and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He also acted as an associate member of the Standing Committees on Canadian Heritage, Finance and the sub-committee on the Study of Sport.

In August 2001, he was one of several PC MPs to engage in open cooperation talks with disaffected Canadian Alliance MPs in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. Eventually a union of sorts was created between the PCs and the newly formed Democratic Representative Caucus (DRC). MacKay was appointed House Leader of the new PC-DR Parliamentary Coalition Caucus when it was formally recognized as a political body on September 10, 2001. The PC-DR initiative collapsed in April 2002, raising questions about Clark's leadership. Clark announced his impending resignation as party leader at the PC Party's bi-annual convention held in Edmonton, Alberta in August 2002. MacKay's name was one of the first to be raised as a possible leadership contender.

MacKay ultimately waited to announce his candidacy until many of the "dream candidates" such as provincial Progressive Conservative Premiers Bernard Lord, Mike Harris and Ralph Klein clearly stated their intentions not to run for the leadership. MacKay formally launched his leadership campaign in his hometown of New Glasgow in January 2003. From the onset of the campaign, MacKay insisted that he was "not a merger candidate," and that his primary goal upon assuming the leadership, would be rebuilding the fractured conservative movement from within the PC tent. For much of the race, MacKay was perceived as the clear front-runner. Several opponents, including United Alternative candidate and former PC Party Treasurer Jim Prentice, social conservative candidate Craig Chandler and Red Tory Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, painted MacKay as a status quo or "establishment" candidate who could effectively question the Prime Minister, but could never be the Prime Minister.

MacKay's campaign was largely based on his charisma and popularity rather than on policies or new directions. The leadership campaign was challenging for MacKay who described it near the end as "bitter and resentful." His leadership opponents questioned him on a number of issues and from both the progressive and conservative sides of the party's political spectrum. His perceived waffling on the merger issue, his inability to make clear statements on key PC foreign policy platforms and his tough "law and order" stances on justice issues were all challenged by his competitors. Ultimately, MacKay is largely viewed by political analysts as a Blue Tory. While his fiscal conservatism has never been questioned, he remains ambiguously unsupportive of social issues such as same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana, which alienated him somewhat from the influential Red Tory wing of the PC Party. MacKay generally takes a conservative view towards foreign policy issues, his support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq being a prime example.

MacKay entered the first ballot of the PC leadership convention held on May 31, 2003 with roughly 41% of the delegates supporting him. However, on the second ballot, MacKay's support dropped to 39%. On the third ballot, MacKay's support reached 45% but many of his supporters were convinced that he had hit his popular peak. Some analysts noted that the eliminated third-place challenger David Orchard, drew his 25% bulk of delegate supporters largely from the Western prairie provinces. All camps were aware that Orchard would likely walk out of the convention if he failed to win the leadership again, freeing up his delegates to vote as they wished. The second-place candidate, Calgary lawyer and former PC Party Treasurer Jim Prentice, was viewed as a logical choice for Orchard's western supporters once Orchard was eliminated. However, as the results of the third ballot were called, MacKay's campaign manager, Tory Senator Noel Kinsella, hastily arranged a backroom meeting between MacKay, Orchard and their campaign advisors. During the meeting, MacKay reached a deal with his rival and Orchard emerged from the room urging his delegates to support MacKay. Press officials immediately demanded to know what had inspired Orchard's surprise move. Orchard repeatedly referred to a "gentleman's agreement" made between himself and MacKay that had led to his qualified support.

At first MacKay seemed to be willing to adhere to the deal. In June, several Clark appointed personnel were let go from the party's main office and MacKay appointed new experienced staff whose loyalties were more closely linked to himself and former Prime Minister and PC Party leader Brian Mulroney. MacKay also appointed a couple of low level staff workers who had been supportive of David Orchard's leadership bid. In July, MacKay struck up a "Blue Ribbon PC Policy Review Panel" made up of Tory MPs, Senators and Orchard himself, that was to be chaired by Tory MP Bill Casey, in order to reexamine the party's policies on NAFTA. The Committee was scheduled to hold talks across the country and make a report to the leader by January 2004.

By mid-July, political opponents and fellow Tories began attacking MacKay over the "Orchard deal." MacKay's conservative rival Stephen Harper suggested that the PC Party had hit rock-bottom when its policies and directions would be beholden to a "prairie socialist." The secretive nature of the deal also led to concerns from within the party's headquarters and constituency associations. David Orchard was seen by many within the party as an "outsider" who was attempting to turn the Progressive Conservative Party into the "Prairie Co-operative Party." Some felt that MacKay's credibility and leadership were undermined by the unscrupulousness of the deal and that electoral expectations were low for the upcoming election that was expected to occur in less than a year's time. As media personality Rex Murphy noted in a Globe and Mail column, MacKay's leadership arrived "stillborn" and that perhaps for the first time in recent memory, a party immediately emerged from a leadership convention grievously weakened and even less united than when it entered the convention.

The decline in MacKay's popularity upon assuming leadership of the PC Party could be reflected in the fact that an August 17th Ipsos-Reid public opinion poll suggested that by August 2003 the party's national support had dropped to 12% from 19% in May 2003 (the same disappointing level of support the party received in the 2000 election). This could be compared to the increases in support enjoyed by both the Liberal Party of Canada (44%) and the Canadian Alliance (15%). In the same poll, only 5% of Canadians viewed MacKay as a possible future Prime Minister, below Stephen Harper (6%), Jack Layton (17%) and Paul Martin (54%).

Under intense pressure from advisors and public musings that the divided PCs would be marginalized in a future election between a relatively stable western-based CA under Stephen Harper and the massively popular Paul Martin Liberals (although Jean Chrétien remained the Liberal leader until November 2003, he had announced he would not run again), MacKay encouraged talks between high-profile members of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. It should be noted that the PC Party, whose leadership MacKay assumed, was experiencing serious difficulties in raising campaign funds, keeping members and was still faced with paying down the remainder ($6 million) of the party's staggering $10 million dollar debt borrowed for the previous election. According to a strict interpretation of the "Orchard deal", talks regarding merger were permitted, only a full-fledged merger or the running of joint candidates was forbidden. By September 2003, Orchard became openly critical of MacKay's facilitation of merger talks and criticized MacKay for not getting the PC Party into an election footing for a vote that was widely expected to occur in Spring 2004, another stipulation of the agreement.

On October 15, 2003, the merger talks culminated in MacKay and Alliance leader Stephen Harper signing an Agreement in Principle on the establishment of the Conservative Party of Canada, whereby the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance would merge to form a new Conservative Party of Canada. While MacKay was roundly criticized in some Red Tory circles for permitting a union under his watch, MacKay's efforts to sell the merger to the PC membership were successful: 90.4% of the party's elected delegates supported the deal in a vote on December 6, 2003.

MacKay announced on January 13, 2004, that he would not run for the leadership of the new Conservative Party. On March 22, he was named deputy leader of the new party by newly-elected leader Stephen Harper. He was easily re-elected in the June 28, 2004 federal election in the newly redistributed riding of Central Nova.

On September 29, 2005, the Premier of Nova Scotia, John Hamm, announced his intention to resign. There was speculation that MacKay would return to the province to pursue provincial politics and enter the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party leadership race to become the Premier. MacKay would have been considered a front-runner in the race, however, he decided to remain with the Federal Conservatives.

The Liberal government lost a motion of non-confidence on November 28, 2005. In the resulting January 2006 election, the Conservative Party was elected with a minority government. MacKay was one of very few Conservatives in the entire country to lose support. He did manage to retain his seat by a comfortable margin against NDP candidate Alexis MacDonald.

MacKay's longtime fiancée was Lisa Michelle Merrithew, daughter of former Mulroney cabinet minister Gerald Stairs Merrithew. They reportedly ended their engagement in 2004. MacKay was then romantically linked to fellow MP Belinda Stronach in published reports. In an interview in the Toronto Star on January 8, 2005, Stronach confirmed that she and MacKay were dating. Stronach, elected as a Conservative in the 2004 election, crossed the floor to the Liberal Party on May 17, 2005. She declined to comment on what impact this would have on their relationship.

On May 18, 2005, MacKay told the CBC that his relationship with Stronach was indeed over, and that it had come as a surprise to him that she had crossed the floor. According to Don Martin, a National Post columnist who wrote a biography titled : "Belinda: the Political and Private Life of Belinda Stronach" in September 2006, MacKay reacted "with volcanic fury" when he learned about her defection.

On October 19, 2006, there was a debate on the Conservative Party's clean air plan taking place when MP Mark Holland said that a Liberal colleague, David McGuinty asked MacKay about the impact of pollution on humans and animals by asking, "What about your dog?". This was intended as a jab at MacKay in reference to the time he was photographed on his father's farm with the animal after his relationship with Belinda Stronach had ended. Holland claims this is when MacKay allegedly made reference to Belinda Stronach's empty chair (she was absent that day) and said "You already have her." Holland lodged a complaint with the Commons Speaker and has demanded an apology be made by him. Stronach has said that the comment was disrespectful to both herself and Canadian women, and has herself asked for an apology. MacKay has denied referring to Stronach as a "dog". The alleged comment was not heard by Speaker of the House Peter Milliken and it was not recorded in the official Hansard. Afterwards, Milliken and his staff said that he could not hear the remarks on the tape recording.

MacKay had his driver's licence suspended for two weeks starting May 21, 2005 after being caught speeding twice on November 11 and December 23, 2004.

In his spare time, MacKay has served on volunteer boards including New Leaf and Tearmann House. He has also been active in Big Brothers-Big Sisters, the Pictou County Senior Rugby Club and the YMCA.

A sports enthusiast, MacKay is active in local adult rugby, baseball, football and hockey teams in Pictou, Nova Scotia.

Following the Conservative victory in the 2006 election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named MacKay as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; he was also tasked to be the political minister for both his home province, and for neighbouring Prince Edward Island, just as his father Elmer had done between 1988 and 1993.

During the first mandate, his biggest issue was the Lebanon-Israel-Hezbollah crisis that occurred in July 2006. The government decided to evacuate thousands of Canadians from Lebanon to safer locations and many back to Canada. MacKay responded to critics saying that the process was slow, that the boats (those which were used to evacuate) had limited capacity. MacKay's statements in support of the Israeli during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict created a national debate in Canada, especially among Arabs and Muslim Canadians who opposed MacKay's position. During this period MacKay and the Conservative Party of Canada joined the Bush Administration in opposing the United Nation's call for a ceasefire. MacKay also referred to the popular Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah as a "cancer" in Lebanon during this period.

On August 14, 2007, Stephen Harper shuffled MacKay from Foreign Affairs to Defence, replacing Gordon O'Connor.

On November 6, 2007, while attending a meeting at Forward Operating Base Wilson, 20 kilometres west of Kandahar City, Mackay was unharmed as two rockets struck the base at about 11 a.m. local time. Mackay described the incident: "There was an explosion. It was a loud bang," said MacKay. "When it happened, we heard the explosion, we heard the whistle overhead, we were told to get down and we did.". The incident happened on the same day that a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in Baghlan in the northeastern part of the country killing at least 35 including several politicians. While Taliban insurgents were suspected of being behind the bombing, it was not believed to be related to the attack in Kandahar .

In 2008 MacKay announced a broad exhaustive and very expensive program to upgrade the Canadian military's equipment, spending over $400 billion over 25 years. Unlike every previous spending announcement of its kind, no "white paper" or detailed breakdown of this number was available nor was any claimed to exist. This led to widespread speculation that an election was coming. Stephen Harper did in fact declare Parliament "dysfunctional" in August 2008 and called on Governor-General of Canada Michaelle Jean to dissolve parliament for the Canadian federal election, 2008. The opposition objected but did not offer to form another government. The announcement MacKay and Harper had made together in his riding was widely thought to have been an attempt to induce Central Nova voters to choose MacKay over Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada and endorsed against MacKay by the Liberal Party of Canada.

During the 2008 election, MacKay retained his seat but Elizabeth May ran a strong second, both of them far ahead of the New Democratic Party of Canada candidate.

The Conservative Party of Canada failed to gain a majority during that election, which played a role in triggering the 2008–2009 Canadian parliamentary dispute.

In an interview with Steve Murphy of CTV Atlantic on December 3, 2008, MacKay directly contradicted Harper's claim in the House that Stephane Dion had "no right" to assume the role of Prime Minister of Canada without an election. MacKay acknowledged under direct questioning by Murphy that the majority of members of the House of Commons have the right to replace the Prime Minister with neither an election nor the largest party in that House. He further acknowledged that the Governor-General of Canada would have the formal authority to refuse any request to hold an election no matter what the circumstances.

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Source : Wikipedia