Tony Clement

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Posted by motoman 03/26/2009 @ 09:14

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News headlines
Clement 'playing hard ball' with Stelco owner - Canada.com
By Paul Vieira, Financial PostMay 6, 2009 OTTAWA -- Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry, threatened Wednesday to force US Steel Corp. to sell its Canadian assets unless it kept producing in Canada — believed to be the first time Ottawa publicly...
Canada Min Says Govt Won't Bail Out GM Pension Plan - Wall Street Journal
OTTAWA (Dow Jones)--Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement said Wednesday that the government won't bail out General Motors of Canada Ltd.'s pension plan. "I've been very clear from the outset - we're not in the business of bailing out pension plans,...
MP Tony Clement says he's 'always ready' for an election - Gravenhurst Banner
Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement says he thinks the newly minted Liberal party leader is just “sabre-rattling” when he talks about going to the polls in June. Still, Clement said he's always ready for a campaign if need be. Clement was responding to...
Media Advisory: Minister Tony Clement to Announce Canada's New ... - Market Wire (press release)
LONGUEUIL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - May 11, 2009) - The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the CSA President Steve MacLean will introduce the two Canadians that have been...
Ottawa cautious on GM stake talk - Financial Post
Tony Clement, Canada's industry minister, said Tuesday that one newspaper's headline suggesting the Tories were considering an ownership stake in GM "certainly doesn't reflect accurately the stage at which we're at right now....
Bankruptcy may be inevitable for GM, industry minister says - 680 News
Toronto - Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement is suggesting that bankruptcy may be inevitable for General Motors Canada. He stressed that a quick bankruptcy is only one of the possible outcomes, and that nothing has been decided yet....
Right-to-repair battle heats up - Globe and Mail
(John Ulan/The Canadian Press) Industry Minister Tony Clement has said that "maintaining the status quo is not an option," and has pushed for a voluntary agreement, which hasn't happened. Instead, there's a private member's bill being considered by the...
Posted 11 hours ago - The North Bay Nugget
SUNDRIDGE -- Industry Minister Tony Clement announced the re-extension of an amnesty Friday that helps firearms owners comply with gun control laws. Our government continues to support our law-abiding gun owners," said Clement,...
Canada says union must concede more to save GM - Forbes
... the Canadian Auto Workers union and General Motors Corp that was reached in March is no longer sufficient to ensure the viability of GM's Canadian operations and more cuts are needed, Industry Minister Tony Clement told Reuters on Wednesday....
The desperation behind Nortel's Plan B - Ottawa Citizen
Coincidentally, Zafirovski and other top high-tech executives dined Wednesday evening with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Industry Minister Tony Clement. Harper agreed to look into, among other things, his government's procurement bias against...

Tony Clement

Tony Clement

Anthony Peter "Tony" Clement, PC, MP (born January 27, 1961 in Manchester, England) is a Canadian politician, federal Minister of Industry, Minister for the Federal Economic Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor) and member of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Clement had previously served as an Ontario cabinet minister, most recently as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care under Premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves.

Moving to federal politics, he was a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada after its formation from the merger of the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties in 2004. Clement won the seat of Parry Sound—Muskoka in the 2006 federal election, defeating incumbent Liberal cabinet minister Andy Mitchell. The Conservatives formed a government in the election and Clement was appointed as the Minister of Health and Minister for FedNor.

Born Tony Panayi to a Greek Cypriot father and Canadian mother in Britain, Clement emigrated to Canada in childhood with his mother and later adopted his last name from his stepfather, Ontario politician John Clement.

Clement was also an admirer of US President Ronald Reagan and of Margaret Thatcher's government in the United Kingdom.

A graduate of the University of Toronto, he completed degrees in political science in 1983, and law in 1986, and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1988.

Clement became president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario in 1990 and was a close ally of then-party leader Mike Harris. He ran, unsuccessfully, for Metro Toronto Council in 1994 losing to David Miller in the riding of Parkdale-High Park. He served as Harris's Assistant Principal Secretary from 1992 to 1995, and played a leading role in drafting policy directives for the Common Sense Revolution.

He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the provincial election of 1995, defeating incumbent Liberal Bob Callahan by over 6,000 votes in the riding of Brampton South. After serving as a parliamentary assistant for two years, he was appointed Minister of Transportation on October 10, 1997. One of the initiatives under his watch was the completion of Highway 403, which had been discontinuous for decades. He also represented the Progressive Conservative government on a variety of televised discussion panels, and won a reputation as a rising star in the party.

Clement was re-elected in the provincial election of 1999, defeating Liberal candidate Vic Dhillon by over 8,000 votes. He was promoted to Minister of the Environment on June 17, 1999, and served in this capacity until May 3, 2000. In this role he established the program known as Ontario's Drive Clean, which mandated periodic emissions tests on vehicles in southern Ontario.

Clement was appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on October 25, 1999, and held this position until February 8, 2001.

On February 8, 2001, Clement was appointed Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. He initiated primary care reform, oversaw the implementation of Telehealth Ontario (a toll-free health information line staffed by registered nurses), and expanded Ontario's hospitals system. He also introduced elements of private delivery within the single-payer public system by approving a private cancer care clinic in Toronto and entered into a public-private partnership for a hospital redevelopment in Brampton. His supporters launded him as an innovative and effective administrator, while critics disapproved of his advocacy of public-private partnerships and gave him the nickname "two-tier Tony".

When Mike Harris resigned as party leader, Clement ran to succeed him in the party's 2002 leadership election. During this campaign, his relationship with rival candidate Jim Flaherty deteriorated significantly. The atmosphere between them became poisoned through a series of personal attacks (some have suggested that Flaherty's campaign was behind a broadside that described Clement's wife as a lawyer for abortion doctors). While both Clement and Flaherty were perceived as being on the right wing of the party, Clement challenged his opponent's policies on the homeless, a proposal to ban teachers' strikes and other issues.

Clement finished third on the first ballot, and threw his support to victorious candidate Ernie Eves on the second. When Eves became Premier, he kept Clement in the Health portfolio.

Clement was especially prominent when Toronto suffered an outbreak of SARS in the summer of 2003, travelling to Geneva in a successful bid to urge the World Health Organization to lift a travel ban to Canada's largest city.

The Eves government was defeated in the 2003 provincial election, and Clement was unexpectedly defeated by Vic Dhillon by about 2,500 votes in a rematch from 1999. Clement afterwards worked as a counsel for Bennett Jones LLP.

Clement first became prominent in federal politics in 2000, sitting on the steering committee for the United Alternative. This initiative was meant to provide a framework for the Reform Party and Progressive Conservative Party to unite under a single banner. It did not accomplish this end, but nonetheless led to the formation of the Canadian Alliance later in the year; Clement served as the Alliance's founding President.

Soon after the election, Clement declared himself a candidate for the leadership of the new Conservative Party of Canada. His support base was undercut by the candidacy of Belinda Stronach, however, and he placed third with only 9% of the party's leadership vote, while Stephen Harper emerged as the winner.

He then sought election as the Conservative Party candidate in Brampton West in the 2004 federal election, but lost to Liberal incumbent Colleen Beaumier by about 3,500 votes.

For his second attempt to win a seat in the Canadian House of Commons, in the 2006 campaign, he switched to the Parry Sound—Muskoka riding where he owned a cottage. On election night, he was declared to be the winner, by 21 votes. Upon conclusion of the judicial recount, Clement was found to have defeated Mitchell by 28 votes: 18,513-18,485.

He was criticized for continuing to hold a 25% stake in a pharmaceutical company (Prudential Chem Inc.) when appointed, a conflict of interest. Clement divested himself of these holdings in October 2006.

Some of Clement's initiatives included establishing the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, announcing a national strategy on Autism, and working towards establishing Canada's first Patient Wait Times Guarantees.

Clement attended the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto in August 2006, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not attend, causing some controversy. Clement was booed by some conference participants, likely because of his role as surrogate for the Prime Minister. He focused most of his time at the conference promising to investigate the failure of the Canada Access to Medicines Regime to effectively fulfill its purpose of sending Canadian-manufactured generic drugs to developing countries, as per the August 30 Agreement at the World Trade Organization. After further criticism on the lack of new announcement on its efforts to combat AIDS, Clement responded saying that the atmosphere at the conference had become too "politicized". On December 1, World AIDS Day, International Cooperation Minister Josee Verner announced a $450 million investment over the next 10 years to fight AIDS.

On September 29, 2007, the CBC reported Clement's new strategy to combat the growing drug abuse problem in Canada. "The party is over" for illicit drug users, he announced, with the new policy aiming towards widespread arrest of drug users, in contrast to the old strategy of targeting dealers. Over 130 physicians and scientists signed a petition condemning the Conservative government's "potentially deadly" misrepresentation of the positive evidence for harm reduction programs. Clement stated that governments in Canada have been sending the wrong message about drug use, and he wanted to clear up the mixed messages going out about illicit drugs.

On May 29, 2008, Clement announced that the federal government would oppose Vancouver's safe injection site Insite and would appeal a recent court ruling allowing the site to stay open. Clement's position is that "supervised injection is not medicine; it does not heal the person addicted to drugs. Injection not only causes physical harm, it also deepens and prolongs the addiction. Programs to support supervised injection divert valuable dollars away from treatment. And government-sponsored supervised injection sends a very mixed message to young people who are contemplating the use of illicit drugs." In his ruling, Mr. Justice Ian Pitfield upheld arguments that Insite provided vital health services to addicts by reducing the possibility of drug overdoses, curbing the risk of transmitting infectious diseases and giving users access to counselling that may lead to abstinence. As a result, Insite's injection-drug users have the right to protection from drug laws under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees everyone "life, liberty and security of the person," . The federal government was given until June 30, 2009, to redraft laws against possession and trafficking of illegal drugs to accommodate Insite's operation. Without that adjustment, those key sections of the law are unconstitutional, Judge Pitfield said.

On October 30, 2008, Clement was sworn into the office of Industry Minister. This includes the appointment to the Office of the Registrar General of Canada.

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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 PC 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 won by 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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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 reconstituted Conservative Party, following a merger of the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance Parties.

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's Conservative Party won a stronger minority 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 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 in Ontario, 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 have been deployed as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force 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. In February, Obama made his first foreign visit, as president, to Ottawa, in which he affirmed support for free trade with Canada, as well as complimenting Canada on its involvement in Afghanistan.

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, becoming the first Canadian PM ever to do so. 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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Ontario general election, 2003

Ontario general election, 2003

The Ontario Legislature after the 2003 election.

The Ontario general election of 2003 was held on October 2, 2003, to elect the 103 members of the 38th Legislative Assembly (Members of Provincial Parliament, or "MPPs") of the Province of Ontario, Canada.

The election was called on September 2 by Premier Ernie Eves to capitalize on an increase in support for the governing Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in the days following the 2003 North American blackout. The election was won, however, by the Ontario Liberal Party, led by Dalton McGuinty.

In 1995, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party or "Tories" under Mike Harris came from third place to upset the front-running Ontario Liberal Party under Lyn McLeod and the highly unpopular governing Ontario New Democratic Party under Bob Rae to form a majority government. The Harris government was far more activist than earlier Ontario PC governments, and over the next two terms moved to cut personal income tax rates by 30%, closed almost 40 hospitals to increase efficiency, cut the Ministry of the Environment staff in half, and undertook massive reforms of the education system including mandatory teacher testing and student testing in public education and public tax credits for parents who sent their children to private schools.

In the 1999 provincial election, the Tories were able to ride a strong economy and a campaign aimed at proving rookie Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty was "not up to the job" to another majority government. However, the Walkerton Tragedy, where a contaminated water supply led to the deaths of 7 people and illness of at least 2,300 were linked in part to government environment and regulatory cutbacks, the government was badly damaged. A movement to provide tax credits to parents with children in private schools also proved to be unpopular.

In September 2001, Harris announced his intention to resign and the PC party called a leadership convention for 2002 to replace him. Five candidates emerged: former Finance Minister Ernie Eves who had retired earlier that year, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Environment Minister Elizabeth Witmer, Health Minister Tony Clement and Labour Minister Chris Stockwell. The resulting leadership election was divisive in the PC Party, with Flaherty adopting a hard-right platform and attacking the front-running Eves as "a pale, pink imitation of Dalton McGuinty" and a "serial waffler." At one point, anti-abortion activists apparently supporting Flaherty distributed pamphlets attacking Tony Clement because his wife worked for hospitals that performed abortions. At the convention, Eves was able to win on the second ballot after Elizabeth Witmer and Tony Clement both endorsed him.

Eves took office on April 15, 2002, and promptly re-aligned his government to the political centre. The party would negotiate a deal with striking government workers, dramatically cancel an IPO of Hydro One, the government's electricity transmission company, and defer planned tax breaks for corporations and private schools for a year. With polls showing the Conservatives moving from a 15 point deficit to a tie in public opinion with the Liberals, the media praising Eves' political reorientation of the government, and the opposition Liberals reeling from the seizure of some of their political turf, the time seemed ripe for a snap election call. Many political observers felt that Eves had the momentum to win an election at that time.

However, several factors likely convinced Eves to wait to call an election. First, in 1990, the Liberals had lost the election in part due to perceptions that they called the election early for purely partisan reasons. Since then, the shortest distance between elections has been four years less five days (Ontario has since moved to fixed date election dates). Second, the PC Party was exhausted and divided from a six-month leadership contest. Third, the move to the centre had created opposition in traditional Conservative support. Financial conservatives and businesses were angered over Eves' cancellation of the hydro IPO. Others felt betrayed that promised tax cuts had not been delivered, seemingly breaking the PCs' own Taxpayer Protection Act, while private school supporters were upset their promised tax credit had been delayed for a year.

In the fall of 2002, the opposition Liberals began a round of attacks on perceived PC mismanagement. First, Jim Flaherty was embroiled in scandal when it was revealed that his leadership campaign's largest donor had received a highly lucrative contract for slot machines from the government. Then, Tourism Minister Cam Jackson was forced to resign when the Liberals revealed he had charged taxpayers more than $100,000 for hotel rooms, steak dinners and alcoholic beverages. The Liberals showed the Tories had secretly given a large tax break to the Toronto Blue Jays, a team owned by prominent Tory Ted Rogers.

At the same time, both the New Democrats and Liberals criticized the government over skyrocketing electricity prices. In May 2002, the government had followed California and Alberta in deregulating the electricity market. With contracting supply due to construction delays at the Pickering nuclear power plant and rising demand for electricity in an unusually warm autumn, the spot price for electricity rose, resulting in consumer outrage. In November, Eves fixed the price of electricity and ended the open market, appeasing consumers but angering conservative free-marketers.

That winter, Eves promised a provincial budget before the beginning of the fiscal year, to help hospitals and schools budget effectively. However, as multiple scandals in the fall had already made the party unwilling to return to Question Period, they wished to dismiss the Legislative Assembly of Ontario until as late as possible in the spring. The budget was instead to be announced at the Magna International headquarters in Newmarket, Ontario rather than in the Legislature. The move was met with outrage from the PC Speaker, Gary Carr who called the move unconstitutional and would rule that it was a prima facae case of contempt of the legislature. The controversy over the location of the budget would far outstrip any support earned by the content of the budget.

The government faced a major crisis when SARS killed several people in Toronto and threatened the stability of the health care system. On April 23, when the World Health Organization advised against all but essential travel to Toronto to prevent the spread of the virus, Toronto tourism greatly suffered.

When the spring session was finally convened in late spring, the Eves government was forced through three days of debate on the contempt motion over the Magna budget followed by weeks of calls for the resignation of Energy Minister Chris Stockwell. Stockwell was accused of accepting thousands of dollars in undeclared gifts from Ontario Power Generation, an arms length crown corporation he regulated, when he travelled to Europe in the summer of 2002. Stockwell finally stepped aside after dominating the provincial news for almost a month, and would not seek reelection.

By the summer of 2003, the Progressive Conservatives received an unexpected opportunity to re-gain popularity in the form of the 2003 North American blackout. When the blackout hit, Eves initially received criticism for his late response; however, as he led a series of daily briefings to the press in the days after the blackout, Eves was able to demonstrate leadership and stayed cool under pressure. The crisis also allowed Eves to highlight his principal campaign themes of experience, proven competence and ability to handle the government. When polls began to register a moderate increase for the Conservatives, the table was set for an election call.

In 1995 and 1999, the Progressive Conservatives ran highly focused, disciplined campaigns based on lessons learned principally in US states by the Republican Party. In 1995, the core PC strategy was to polarize the electorate around a handful of controversial ideas that would split opposition between the other two parties. The PCs stressed radical tax cuts, opposition to job quotas, slashing welfare rates and a few hot button issues like opposing photo radar and establish "boot camps" for young offenders. They positioned leader Mike Harris as an average-guy populist who would restore common sense to government after ten lost years of NDP and Liberal mismanagement. The campaign manifesto, released in 1994, was titled the "Common Sense Revolution" and advocated a supply side economics solution to a perceived economic malaise.

In 1999, the PCs were able to point to increased economic activity as evidence that their supply side plan worked. Their basic strategy was to again polarize the electorate around a handful of controversial ideas and their record while preventing opposition from rallying exclusively around the Liberals by undermining confidence in Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty. They ran a series of negative television ads against McGuinty in an attempt to brand him as "not up to the job." At the same time, they emphasized their economic record, while downplaying disruptions in health care and education as part of a needed reorganization of public services that promoted efficiency and would lead to eventual improvements.

Heading into 2003, Tom Long refused to work for Ernie Eves. Most speculated that Long saw Eves as too wishy-washy and not enough of a traditional hard-right conservative. Jaime Watt took Long's position as campaign co-chair and more or less all the same players settled into the same spot. A few new faces included Jeff Bangs as campaign manager. Bangs was a long-time Eves loyalist who had grown up in his riding of Parry Sound.

The Progressive Conservatives once again planned on polarizing the electorate around a handful of hot button campaign pledges. However, with their party and government listing in public opinion polls, they found their only strong contrasts were around the experience and stature of Premier Eves. Their campaign slogan "Experience You Can Trust" was designed to highlight Eves' years in office.

Each plank was targeted at a key Tory voting bloc: homeowners, seniors, religious conservatives, parents and law-and-order types.

Eves' campaigning followed a straight-forward pattern. Eves would highlight one of the five elements of the platform and then attack Dalton McGuinty for opposing it. For instance, he would visit the middle-class home of a visible minority couple with two kids and talk about how much money they would get under his mortgage deducatability plan. That would be followed by an attack on McGuinty for having a secret plan to raise their taxes. Or he would campaign in a small town assembly plant and talk about how under a "Made-in-Ontario" immigration plan fewer new Canadians would settle in Toronto and more outside the city, helping the plant manager with his labour shortage. Then he would link McGuinty to Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chrétien and say McGuinty supported the federal immigration system that allows terrorists and criminals into the country.

The Tory television advertising also attempted to polarize the election around these issues.

In one of the ads, a voice-over accompanying an unflattering photo of the Liberal leader asks "Ever wonder why Dalton McGuinty wants to raise your taxes?" The ad then points out that McGuinty has opposed Tory plans to allow homeowners a tax deduction on mortgage interest and to give senior citizens a break on their property taxes.

In another ad, the voice-over asks "Doesn't he (McGuinty) know that a child's education is too important to be disrupted by lockouts and strikes?" It says that McGuinty has sided with the unions and rejected the Tory proposal to ban teacher strikes.

Armed with a majority, the Tories were hoping to hold the seats they already had, while targeting a handful of rural Liberal seats in hopes of increasing their majority. They campaigned relatively little in Northern Ontario, with the exception of North Bay and Parry Sound, both of which they held.

The first half of Dalton McGuinty's 1999 campaign was widely criticized as disorganized and uninspired, and most journalists believe he gave a poor performance in the leaders' debate. However, McGuinty was able to rally his party in the last ten days. On election day, the Liberals won 40% of the vote, their second best showing in almost fifty years. Perhaps more importantly, nine new MPPs were elected, boosting the caucus from 30 to 36, including dynamic politicians like George Smitherman and Michael Bryant.

In 1999, the Liberal strategy had been to polarize the electorate between Mike Harris and Dalton McGuinty. They purposely put out a platform that was devoid of ideas, to ensure the election was about the Tory record, and not the Liberal agenda. To an extent, they succeeded. Support for the NDP collapsed from 21% to just 13%, while the Liberals climbed 9%. However, while they almost cornered the market of those angry at the Tories, they could not convince enough people to be angry at the Tories to win.

McGuinty replaced many of his young staff with experienced political professionals he recruited. Three he kept in key positions were Don Guy, his campaign manager and a pollster with Pollara, Matt Maychak, his director of communications, and Bob Lopinski, his director of issues management. To develop his platform, he added to this a new chief of staff, Phil Dewan, a former policy director for Premier David Peterson and Ottawa veteran Gerald M. Butts. He also sought out Peterson-era Ontario Minister of Labour Greg Sorbara to run for president of the Ontario Liberal Party.

Early on, McGuinty set down three strategic imperatives. First, no tax cuts. This ran against the conventional wisdom of politics that you had to offer tax cuts to win; everyone from Mike Harris to Bill Clinton had campaigned on reducing the tax burden on the middle class. But McGuinty was determined that Ontario voters would accept that the money was needed to restore public health care and education services. Second, a positive tone. McGuinty wanted to avoid the typical opposition leader role of automatically opposing whatever the government announced, and instead, set the agenda with positive alternatives. While attacking your opponent was important, that would be left to caucus surrogates. Third, one big team. At the time, the Ontario Liberal Party was riven into factions. Peterson-era people distrusted more recent arrivals. Jean Chrétien supporters fought with Paul Martin supporters. McGuinty set a tone that divisions were left at the door.

The emphasis on building the team was highly successful as job that in 1999 were done by one person were now assigned to groups of four or six or eight. Dewan brought on board veterans of the Peterson regime such as Sheila James, Vince Borg and David MacNaughton. From Ottawa, campaign veterans such as Warren Kinsella, Derek Kent and Gordon Ashworth signed on to help oust the Ontario Tories from power.

The Liberal strategy was the same as in 1999: polarize the election between the Conservatives and Liberals to marginalize the NDP and then convince enough voters that the Conservatives had to go. With polls showing more than 60% of voters reporting it was "time for a change", the Liberals campaign theme was "choose change". The theme summarized the two-step strategy perfectly: first, boil the election down to a two-party choice and then cast the Liberals as a capable and trustworthy agent of change at a time when voters were fed up with the government.

McGuinty backed up his comprehensive platform with a meticulous costing by a forensic account and two bank economists. While the Conservatives had adopted a third-party verification in 1995, they did not in 2003, allowing the Liberals to gain credibility that they could pay for their promises.

In contrast to the Eves campaign, where the leader was both positive and negative message carrier, the Liberals used a number of caucus members to criticize the Harris-Eves government while McGuinty was free to promote his positive plan for change.

The Liberal advertising strategy was highly risky. While conventional wisdom says the only way to successfully respond to a negative campaign is with even more negative ads against your opponent, McGuinty ran only positive ads for the duration of the campaign.

Geographically, the Liberal campaign was able to rest on a solid core of seats in Toronto and Northern Ontario that were at little risk at the beginning of the election period. They had to defend a handful of rural seats that had been recently won and were targeted by the PCs. However, the principle battlefield of the election was in PC-held territory in the "905" region of suburbs around Toronto, particularly Peel and York districts, suburban seats around larger cities like Ottawa and Hamilton and in Southwestern Ontario in communities like London, Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph.

The 1999 NDP campaign received its lowest level of popular support since the Second World War, earning just 12.6% of the vote and losing party status with just nine seats. Several factors led to this poor showing, including a lacklustre campaign, Hampton's low profile and a movement called strategic voting that endorsed voting for the Liberals in most ridings in order to remove the governing Tories. After the election, there was a short-lived attempt to remove leader Howard Hampton publicly led by leaders of the party's youth wing. However, the majority of party members blamed the defeat on NDP supporters voting Liberal in hopes of removing Harris and the Tories from power. As a result, Hampton was not widely blamed for this severe defeat and stayed on as leader.

Under the rules of the Legislative Assembly, a party would receive "official party status", and the resources and privileges accorded to officially-recognized parties, if it had 12 or more seats; thus, the NDP would lose caucus funding and the ability to ask questions in the House. However, the governing Conservatives changed the rules after the election to lower the threshold for party status from 12 seats to 8. The Tories argued that since Ontario's provincial ridings now had the same boundaries as the federal ones, the threshold should be lowered to accommodate the smaller legislature. Others argued that the Tories were only helping the NDP so they could continue to split the vote with the Liberals.

During the period before the election, Hampton identified the Conservative plan for deregulating and privatizing electricity generation and transmission as the looming issue of the next election. With the Conservatives holding a firm market-oriented line and the Liberal position muddled, Hampton boldly focused the party's Question Period and research agendas almost exclusively on energy issues. Hampton quickly distinguished himself as a passionate advocate of maintaining public ownership of electricity generation, and published a book on the subject, Public Power, in 2003.

With the selection of Eves as the PC leader, the NDP hoped that the government's move to the centre in the spring of 2002 would reduce the polarization of the Ontario electorate between the PCs and Liberals and improve the NDP's standing. It was also hoped that the long-standing split between labour and the NDP would be healed as the bitter legacy of the Rae government faded.

The co-chairs of the NDP campaign were Diane O'Reggio, newly installed as the party's provincial secretary after a stint in Ottawa working for the federal party, and Andre Foucault, secretary-treasurer of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers union. The manager was Rob Milling, principal secretary to Hampton. Communications were handled by Sheila White and Gil Hardy. Jeff Ferrier was the media coordinator.

The NDP strategy was to present itself as distinct from the Liberals on the issue of public ownership of public services, primarily in electricity and health care, while downplaying any significant differences between the Liberals and PCs. There was a conscious effort to discourage "strategic voting" where NDP supporters vote Liberal to defeat the Conservatives. The NDP slogan was "publicpower", designed to highlight both the energy issue Hampton had championed and public health care, while promoting a populist image of empowerment for average people.

The NDP campaign was designed to be highly visual and memorable. Each event was built around a specific visual thematic. For instance, in the first week of the campaign, Hampton attacked the Liberal energy platform saying it was "full of holes" and holding up a copy of the platform with oversized holes punched in it. He also illustrated it "had more holes than Swiss cheese" by also displaying a large block of cheese. At another event, Hampton and his campaign team argued that the Liberal positions were like "trying to nail Jello to the wall" by literally attempting to nail Jello to a wall.

The first round of NDP ads avoided personal attacks, and cast leader Howard Hampton as a champion of public utilities. In one 30-second spot, Mr. Hampton talks about the effects of privatization of the power industry and the blackout. "For most of us, selling off our hydro was the last straw," he says. The clip is mixed with images of Toronto streets during power failure.

Geographically, the NDP campaign focused on targeting seats in Scarborough and Etobicoke in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Northern Ontario.

The first week of the campaign was dominated by the Conservatives, who launched a series of highly negative attacks at Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty while highlighting popular elements of their platform. On the Saturday of the first week, a round of media-sponsored public opinion polls showed the Liberals 12 point lead reduced to a tie between the Liberals and Conservatives. The Conservative strategy of "going negative" appeared to be working. Combined with Premier Eves' high-profile performance in the blackout, most media commentators believed the Liberals would have to also go negative.

As the campaign entered week 2, it was anticipated that the Liberals would push a series of highly negative ads to combat advertising by the Conservatives that attacked Dalton McGuinty. However, instead they went positive and stayed positive throughout the campaign. It was Eves who went on the defensive as the Liberals worked the media to put the Premier on his heels. Stung by years of arrogance by the PC Party toward reporters, the media were quick to pile on.

After the Liberals Gerry Phillips and Gerald M. Butts accused Eves of having no plan to pay for his $10.4 billion in promises, Eves stumbled when he could not provide his own cost for his promises. "I couldn't tell you off the top of my head," he admitted. Then came a story on the front of the Globe and Mail saying that Ontarians would have to pay "millions" in extra premiums because the election call had delayed implementation of new auto insurance regulations promised by Eves on the eve of the campaign. On Wednesday the government was broadsided when - days after a raid at a meat packing plant exposed the story state of public health at some abattoirs - leaked documents showed the PC government had been sitting on recommendations to improve meat safety, leading to calls for a public inquiry by the opposition parties. The issue was made worse when Agriculture Minister Helen Johns refused all media calls and had to be literally tracked down in her riding by reporters. On Thursday, according to the Green party candidate in Nipissing (Mike Harris's old riding), a donor with Tory connections offered him money to bolster his campaign and draw votes away from the Liberals. The same day, Eves attacked Dalton McGuinty for voting against a bill to protect taxpayers from increased taxes, when it turns out McGuinty in fact voted for that bill. Finally, on the Friday of the second week, the Eves campaign issued a bizarre press release calling Dalton McGuinty an evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet. This moment would prove the defining moment of the campaign. First, it was so memorable and unusual that it served to attract the attention of all Ontarians, including those who don't pay attention to a campaign until its final days. Second, the over-the-top negativity brought to life a key critique of the Liberals, that the Harris-Eves Tories picked fights for no reason and went too far. Third, the hysteria around the comment put the Eves campaign on the defensive in the media at a critical point and prevented them from regaining their footing after a difficult week. Fourth, it polarized the election around the PCs and Liberals, and left the NDP on the sidelines. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Eves team was instantly at each other's throats over who would take the blame for approving the press release.

The Conservatives spent the third week on the defensive and dropping in the polls, unable to recover from the disasters of the second week and fresh new attacks. The Liberals produced documents from the Walkerton Inquiry showing that individual Conservative MPPs were warned about risks to human health and safety resulting from cuts to the Environment Ministry budget. An attack on Dalton McGuinty saying he needed "professional help" forced an apology from the Conservatives to people with mental illness. Tory MPP John O'Toole said the Tory negative campaign was a mistake, putting Eves on the defensive once again. A leaked memo was used by the opposition to accuse the government of threatening public sector workers into not telling the truth at a public inquiry into the government's handling of the SARS crisis. Eves ended the week with another event that backfired, brandishing barbed wire and a get out of jail free card to attack the Liberals as soft on crime. Reporters spent more time focused on Eves' first use of props in the election than on his message.

By the fourth week of the campaign, polls showed the Liberals pulling away from the Conservatives with a margin of at least 10 points. It was widely believed that only a disastrous performance in the leader's debate stood between Dalton McGuinty and the Premier's Office. McGuinty - who had stumbled badly in the 1999 debate - was able to play off low expectations and a surprisingly low-key Eves to earn the draw he wanted. The debate itself was also subject to criticism from the Green Party of Ontario, which denounced a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision not to allow leader Frank de Jong to participate.

The final week of the campaign was marred by more negative attacks from Eves and the Conservatives. At one point, Premier Eves referred to Mr. McGuinty as having a "pointy head", a remark he later conceded was inappropriate. McGuinty was able to extend the bad press from the incident another day when he joked to radio hosts that they needed to be careful "so I won't spear you with my sharp pointy head." McGuinty spent the last days of the campaign travelling through previously rock solid PC territory in ridings like Durham, Simcoe and Leeds-Grenville to large crowds.

For its part, the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) led a theatrical campaign that proved ineffective. Leader Howard Hampton made an appearance in front of the Toronto home of millionaire Peter Munk to denounce Eves' tax breaks, claiming that they would save Munk $18,000 a year. He attempted to nail Jell-O to a wall to dramatize the elusiveness he accused his opponents of regarding hydro privatization. He also used a piece of Swiss cheese to suggest that his opponents' platforms were full of holes.

The campaign was contentious on the issues as well, with both the Liberals and Howard Hampton's New Democrats attacking the Tories' record in office. Various scandals and other unpopular moves reduced public opinion of the Tories going into the race, including the Walkerton water tragedy, the deaths of Dudley George and Kimberly Rogers, the possible sale of publicly owned electric utility Hydro One, the SARS outbreak, the decision to release the 2003 budget at an auto parts factory instead of the Legislature, the widespread blackout in August, and the Aylmer packing plant tainted meat investigation. . As one Tory insider put it "So many chickens came to roost, its like a remake of The Birds".

One of the most contentious issues was education. All three parties pledged to increase spending by $2 billion, but Premier Eves also pledged to ban teacher strikes, lock-outs, and work-to-rule campaigns during the school year, a move the other parties rejected. Teacher strikes had plagued the previous Progressive Conservative mandate of Mike Harris, whose government had deeply cut education spending.

Tax cuts were also an issue. The Progressive Conservatives proposed a wide range of tax cuts, including a 20-percent cut to personal income taxes, and the elimination of education tax paid by seniors, two moves that would have cost $1.3 billion together. The Liberals and New Democrats rejected these cuts as profligate. The Liberals also promised to cancel some pending Tory tax cuts and to eliminate some tax cuts already introduced.

CBC Newsworld declared a Liberal victory minutes after ballot-counting began. Ernie Eves conceded defeat only ninety minutes into the count.

The Liberals won a huge majority with 72 seats, almost 70% of the 106 seat legislature. The Liberals not only won almost every seat in the city of Toronto, but every seat bordering on Toronto as well. All seven seats in Peel region went Liberal, as well as previously safe PC 905 seats like Markham, Oakville and Pickering-Ajax. The Liberals also made a major breakthrough in Southwestern Ontario, grabbing all three seats in London as well as rural seats like Perth-Middlesex, Huron-Bruce and Lambton-Kent. If the story of the PC majorities in 1995 and 1999 were the marriage of rural and small-town conservative bedrock with voters in the suburbs, the 2003 election was a divorce of those suburban voters from rural Ontario and a new marriage to the mid-town professionals and New Canadians who make up the Liberal base.

The NDP had a disappointingly confusing election: on one hand, they won seven seats, one fewer than the eight required to keep "official party status", which would give it a share of official Queen's Park staff, money for research, and guaranteed time during Question Period. On the other hand, they increased their share of the popular vote for the first time since 1990. Despite the mixed results, Hampton stayed on as party leader, saying that the party did not blame him for the poor performance in an election where voters were apparently more concerned about defeating the Tories by any means necessary than about voting their conscience. The party was returned to official party status seven months into the session, when Andrea Horwath won a by-election in Hamilton East on May 13, 2004.

The Tories were completely shut out of Toronto, where 19 out of 22 ridings were won by the Liberals, and the remaining three were carried by the New Democrats. Perhaps more ominously for the PCs, they were also shut out of any seats bordering Toronto; only in the outermost and most ethically homogenous suburbs like Aurora and Whitby were high-profile PC cabinet ministers able to retain their seats. With the arguable exception of Elizabeth Witmer, no PC member represents an urban riding. The PC caucus is now overwhelmingly older white men from rural ridings elected in 1995 and ideologically right-wing.

The 38th Parliament of Ontario opened on November 19, 2003 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time with a Throne Speech in which the McGuinty government laid out their agenda.

High school students in every riding in Ontario were allowed to cast ballots in their classrooms as part of a student vote. While their numbers did not count in the official election, they did tell a story all on their own. The student vote reflected change a lot more than the actual result, as well as widespread anti-conservatism. 93 ridings favoured the Liberals in the student vote, nine favoured the New Democrats, and one favoured the Greens, while the Conservatives were shut out. There was also a vote for elementary students.

1 "Before" refers to the party standings in the Legislature at the end of the legislative session, and not to the standings at the previous election.

2 Richard Butson was the sole candidate for the Confederation of Regions Party.

3Ten candidates ran as "Independent Renewal" candidates. This was the Marxist-Leninist Party under another name.

4Candidates from the Independent Reform Party and Communist League also ran as independents.

5Costas Manios ran as an "Independent Liberal" candidate after being denied the opportunity to run for the Liberal Party nomination in Scarborough Centre. Outgoing MPP Claudette Boyer had sat in the house as an "Independent Liberal" from 2001 to 2003.

It is possible that some other candidates listed on the ballot as independents ran for unregistered parties.

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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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Source : Wikipedia