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Harper, Stephen Joseph
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April 30, 1959 -
Stephen Joseph Harper is a Canadian politician and former Prime Minister of Canada. Harper was born on April 30, 1959 in Leaside, ON, a neighbourhood of Toronto, ON. He was the first of three sons of Margaret (née Johnston) and Joseph Harris Harper, an accountant at Imperial Oil. The Harper family traces its ancestry back to Yorkshire, England, with Christopher Harper having emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1784, where he later served as justice of the peace in the area that is now New Brunswick. Harper attended Northlea Public School and, later, John G. Althouse Middle School and Richview Collegiate Institute, both in Etobicoke, near Toronto. An avid follower of ice hockey, he has been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since his childhood, and later became a fan of the Calgary Flames. He graduated from high school in 1978, and was a member of Richview Collegiate's team on Reach for the Top, a televised academic quiz show for high school students. Harper studied at the University of Toronto's Trinity College before moving to Alberta. In an attempt to establish independence from his parents, Harper dropped out of the University of Toronto and then moved to Edmonton, AB, where he found work in the mail room at Imperial Oil. Later, he advanced 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 in 1985. He later returned there to earn a master's degree in economics, completed in 1991. Harper married Laureen Teskey on December 11, 1993, with whom he has two children: Benjamin and Rachel. He is a member of the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance and attends church at the East Gate Alliance Church in Ottawa.
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 executive assistant to Progressive Conservative (PC) Member of Parliament (MP) Jim Hawkes in 1985 but later became disillusioned with the party and the government of Brian Mulroney, citing the administration's economic policy. He left the PC Party the next year. Harper was then recommended by the University of Calgary's economist Bob Mansell to Preston Manning, the founder and leader of the right-wing populist Reform Party of Canada. Manning invited him to participate in the party, and Harper gave a speech at Reform's 1987 founding convention in Winnipeg. He became the Reform Party's chief policy officer, and he played a major role in drafting the 1988 election platform, otherwise known as the Blue Book, which helped form the principles and policies of the party. Harper was influenced by his political mentor, Tom Flanagan, when writing the book. Harper is credited with creating Reform's campaign slogan, "The West wants in!". Harper ran for the House of Commons in the 1988 federal election in Calgary West and lost by a wide margin to Hawkes, his former employer. After Reform candidate Deborah Grey was elected as the party's first MP in a 1989 by-election, Harper became Grey's executive assistant, serving as 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 because of conflicting strategies over the Charlottetown Accord. 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. Harper resigned as the 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. The National Citizens Coalition (NCC) ran a $50,000 print and television campaign against Hawkes but did not endorse Harper directly. As a Reform MP from 1993 to 1997, Harper emerged a prominent member of the Reform Party caucus, active on constitutional issues and 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 has expressed some socially conservative views on certain issues. In 1994, he opposed plans by federal Justice Minister Allan Rock to introduce spousal benefits for same-sex couples. He 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 support the creation of the Canadian Firearms Registry at second reading in 1995, although he later voted against it at third reading stage. He said at the time that he initially voted for the registry because of a poll showing that most of his constituents supported it, and added that he changed his vote when a second poll showed the opposite result. 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 Manning at a time when other Reform MPs had been asked to forego parliamentary perquisites. He was formally rebuked by the Reform executive council despite winning support from some MPs. 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. While Harper was out of parliament between 1997 and 2000, 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 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. As president of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) from 1998 to 2002, Harper launched an ultimately unsuccessful legal battle against federal election laws restricting third-party advertising. He led the NCC in several campaigns against the Canadian Wheat Board, and supported Finance Minister Paul Martin's 2000 tax cuts as a positive first step toward tax reform. In 1997, Harper delivered a controversial speech on Canadian identity to the Council for National Policy, a conservative American think tank. He made comments such as "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it", "if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians", and "the NDP [New Democratic Party] is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men." These statements were made public and criticized during the 2006 election. Harper considered campaigning for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 1998, after Jean Charest left federal politics. He eventually decided against running. 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 endorsed Tom Long for the leadership. 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 the death of Pierre Trudeau 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" to stop the federal government from redistributing its wealth to less affluent regions. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein agreed with some of the letter's recommendations, but distanced himself from the "firewall" comments. Harper also wrote an editorial in late 2000 arguing that Alberta and the rest of Canada were "embark[ing] on divergent and potentially hostile paths to defining their country". He said that Alberta had chosen the "best of Canada's heritage—a combination of American enterprise and individualism with the British traditions of order and co-operation" while Canada "appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country... led by a second-world strongman appropriately suited for the task". He also called for a "stronger and much more autonomous Alberta", while rejecting calls for separatism. In the 2001 Alberta provincial election, Harper led the NCC in a "Vote Anything but Liberal" campaign. 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". Stockwell 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. 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. The tone of the leadership contest turned hostile in February 2002. Harper described Day's governance of the party as "amateurish", while his campaign team argued that Day was attempting to win re-election by building a narrow support base among different groups in the religious right. The Day campaign accused Harper of "attacking ethnic and religious minorities". In early March, the two candidates had an especially fractious debate on CBC Newsworld. The leadership vote was held on March 20, 2002. Harper was elected on the first ballot with 55% support, against 37% for Day. Two other candidates split the remainder.
After winning the party leadership, Harper announced his intention to run for parliament in a by-election in Calgary Southwest, recently vacated by Preston Manning. Ezra Levant had been chosen as the riding's Alliance candidate and declared that he would not stand aside for Harper; he later 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 of Canada moderator. Harper told a reporter during the campaign that he "despise[d]" Phipps, and declined to debate him. Harper officially became the leader of the Official 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. In March 2003, their speeches in favour gaining no traction in Parliament, 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. As party leader, Harper sought to merge the Alliance with the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) to create a united right-of-centre party. The possibility of a united conservative party increased after Peter Mackay was elected Progressive Conservative leader in May 2003. On October 16, 2003, Harper and Mackay agreed to merge the two parties to form the Conservative Party of Canada. After 95 percent of Alliance members voted in favour of merging with the PCs and 90 percent of 2,486 PC delegates voted in favour of merging with the Alliance, the Conservative Party of Canada was founded on December 7, 2003. On January 12, 2004, Harper announced his resignation as the leader of the Official Opposition in order to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Harper was elected the first leader of the Conservative Party, with a first ballot majority against Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement on March 20, 2004. Harper led the Conservatives into the 2004 federal election. Initially, new Prime Minister Paul Martin held a large lead in polls, but this eroded because of infighting, Adscam (a scandal that came as a result of a Government of Canada "sponsorship program" in the province of Quebec and involving the Liberal Party of Canada) 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. This, 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 accusing the then prime minister of supporting child pornography, as well as attack ads suggesting that the Conservatives had a secret agenda, caused Harper's party to lose some momentum. 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.
Two months after the federal election, Harper privately met Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe and New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton in a Montreal hotel. On September 9, 2004, the three signed a letter addressed to the governor general, Adrienne Clarkson, stating, "We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority." On the same day the letter was written, the three party leaders held a joint press conference at which they expressed their intent to co-operate on changing parliamentary rules, and to request that the governor general consult with them before deciding to call an election. At the news conference, Harper said, "It is the Parliament that's supposed to run the country, not just the largest party and the single leader of that party. That's a criticism I've had and that we've had and that most Canadians have had for a long, long time now so this is an opportunity to start to change that." At the time, Harper and the two other opposition leaders denied trying to form a coalition government. Harper said, "This is not a coalition, but this is a co-operative effort." On October 4, Mike Duffy, who was later appointed as a Conservative senator by Harper, said: "It is possible that you could change prime minister without having an election." He added that some Conservatives wanted Harper to temporarily become prime minister without holding an election. The next day, Layton walked out on talks with Harper and Duceppe, accusing them of trying to replace Paul Martin with Harper as prime minister. Both Bloc and Conservative officials denied Layton's accusations. On March 26, 2011, Duceppe stated that Harper had tried to form a coalition government with the Bloc and NDP in response to Harper's allegations that the Liberals may form a coalition with the Bloc and the NDP. The Conservative Party's first policy convention was held from March 17 to 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 abandoning debate over the two controversial issues, they 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 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He 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 Commission, 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 Martin's Liberals 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 Martin 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 the debate, the Liberals stayed in power. At the time, some considered the matter to be a constitutional crisis. The Liberals' support dropped sharply after the first report from the Gomery Commission was issued, but rebounded soon after. Later that month, Harper introduced a motion of no confidence on the Martin 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 had been proved true, the actions may have been grounds for charges as a criminal offence as under the Criminal Code, 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". 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 concluded their investigation stating that there was no evidence for pressing charges. Harper denied any wrongdoing and subsequently filed a civil libel suit against the Liberal Party. Because libel laws do not apply to statements made in Parliament, the basis of the lawsuit was that statements made by Liberal Party members outside the House of Commons and in articles which appeared on the Liberal Party website made accusations that Harper had committed a criminal act. 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 2006 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. Immediately prior to the Christmas break, in a faxed letter to NDP candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis, RCMP commissioner 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 civil servant in the Department of Finance, was charged with criminal breach of trust. No charges were laid against 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. Harper was sworn in as Canada's 22nd prime minister on February 6, 2006. After the election, the Conservative party were charged with improper election spending, in a case that became known as the In and Out scandal. It dragged on for years, but in 2012 they took a plea deal, admitting both improper spending and falsifying records to hide it. Starting in 2006, the Harper government implemented policies that had the effect of reducing transparency. During Harper's government, scientists employed by the government were not able to speak with the media and inform the public of their findings without government permission, the government made significant cuts to research and other forms of data collection, and significant destruction and inaccessibility of government-held data and documents occurred.
During the 2008 federal election, after a 5-week-long campaign, the Conservatives increased their seat count in Parliament to 143, up from 127 at the dissolution of the previous Parliament; however, the actual popular vote among Canadians dropped slightly by 167,494 votes. As a result of the lowest voter turnout in Canadian electoral history, this represented only 22% of eligible Canadian voters, the lowest level of support of any winning party in Canadian history. Meanwhile, the number of opposition Liberal MPs fell from 95 to 77 seats. 155 MPs are required to form a majority government in Canada's 308-seat parliament, relegating Harper to minority government once again. On December 4, 2008, Harper asked Governor General Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament to avoid a vote of confidence scheduled for the following Monday, becoming the first Canadian prime minister to do so. The request was granted by Jean, and the prorogation lasted until January 26, 2009. The opposition coalition dissolved shortly after, with the Conservatives winning a Liberal supported confidence vote on January 29, 2009. On December 30, 2009, Harper announced that he would request the governor general to prorogue Parliament again, effective immediately on December 30, 2009, during the 2010 Winter Olympics and lasting until March 3, 2010. Harper stated that this was necessary for Canada's economic plan. Jean granted the request. In an interview with CBC News, Prince Edward Island Liberal MP Wayne Easter accused the prime minister of "shutting democracy down". Tom Flanagan, Harper's University of Calgary mentor and former chief of staff, also questioned Harper's reasoning for prorogation, stating that "I think the government's talking points haven't been entirely credible" and that the government's explanation of proroguing was "skirting the real issue—which is the harm the opposition parties are trying to do to the Canadian Forces" regarding the Canadian Afghan detainee issue. Small demonstrations took place on January 23, 2010 in 64 Canadian cities and towns and five cities in other countries. A Facebook protest group attracted over 20,000 members. A poll released by Angus Reid on January 7, found that 53 per cent of respondents were opposed to the prorogation, while 19 per cent supported it. 38 per cent believed Harper used the prorogation to curtail the Afghan detainee inquiry, while 23 percent agreed with Harper's explanation that the prorogation was necessary economically. Harper, on January 29, 2010, advised the governor general to appoint new Conservative senators to fill five vacancies in the Senate, one each for Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick, and two for Ontario. This changed the party standings in the Senate, which had previously been dominated by Liberals, to 51 Conservatives, 49 Liberals, and five others. Harper's Cabinet was defeated in a no-confidence vote on March 25, 2011, after being found in contempt of Parliament. Harper thus, in accordance with constitutional convention, advised the governor general to call a general election. This was the first occurrence in Commonwealth history of a government in the Westminster parliamentary tradition losing the confidence of the lower house on the grounds of contempt of parliament. The no-confidence motion was carried with a vote of 156 in favour of the motion and 145 against.
On May 2, 2011, after a five-week campaign, Harper led the Conservatives to their third consecutive election victory—the first time a centre-right party has accomplished this in half a century. The Conservatives increased their standing in parliament to 166, up from 143 at the dissolution of the previous parliament. This resulted in the first centre-right majority government since the Progressive Conservatives had won their last majority in 1988. The Conservatives also received a greater number of total votes than in 2008. Notably, the Conservatives had a significant breakthrough in southern Ontario, a region where neither they nor the Reform/Alliance side of the merger had done well in the previous two decades. They managed to win several seats in Toronto itself; no centre-right party had won seats in the former Metro Toronto since 1988. The election ended five years of minority governments, made the New Democratic Party the Official Opposition for the first time, relegated the Liberals to third place for the first time, brought Elizabeth May as Canada's first Green Party Member of Parliament, and reduced the Bloc Québécois from 47 to 4 seats. After the election, the Conservatives were accused of cheating in the Robocall scandal, mainly suppressing votes by directing voters to bogus polling stations. There were complaints in 247 of Canada's 308 ridings, but only one person was charged; Conservative staffer Michael Sona was convicted and jailed. Ahead of the Canada 2011 Census, the government announced that the long-form questionnaire (which collects detailed demographic information) will no longer be mandatory. According to Minister of Industry Tony Clement, the change was made because of privacy-related complaints and after consulting with Statistics Canada. However, the federal privacy commissioner reported only receiving three complaints between 1995 and 2010, according to a report in the Toronto Sun. Munir Sheikh, the chief statistician of Canada—appointed on Harper's advice—resigned on July 21, 2010, in protest of the government's change in policy. Ivan Fellegi, a former chief statistician, criticized the government's decision, saying that those who are most vulnerable (such as the poor, new immigrants, and aboriginals) are least likely to respond to a voluntary form, which weakens information about their demographic. The move was opposed by some governmental and non-governmental organizations. In 2010, Canada lost a bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. While initially blaming the loss on his rival Ignatieff, Harper later said that it was due to his pro-Israeli stance. Harper then said that he would take a pro-Israeli stance, no matter what the political cost to Canada. Harper backed Israel's 2014 war in Gaza and condemned Hamas. In December 2012, Canada became the first signatory to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol under the Harper government. Under the Canada Elections Act, a general election had to take place no later than October 19, 2015. On August 2, 2015, at Harper's request, Governor General David Johnson dropped the writs of election for October 19, 2015. In that election, Harper's Conservative Party was defeated by Justin Trudeau's Liberals, and became the Official Opposition, dropping to only 99 seats out of 338. This was mainly because of a collapse of Conservative support in southern Ontario, a region that swung heavily to them in 2011. They lost all of their seats in Toronto, and won only three seats in the Greater Toronto Area. They were also shut out of Atlantic Canada—the first time in decades that there were no centre-right MPs from that region. Harper was re-elected in Calgary Heritage, essentially a reconfigured version of his former riding. Harper resigned as leader of the Conservative Party and returned to the backbench. During the Harper government, Harper made drastic cuts to scientific research and data collection. Over 2,000 scientists were dismissed and funding was cut from world renowned research facilities. Cuts were also made to many essential programs, some so deep that they had to shut down entirely, including the monitoring of smoke stack emissions, food inspections, oil spills, water quality, and climate change. The government closed a number of government libraries without consultation on the closings or the process involved. The manner in which it was done received significant criticism because it left the remaining information in disarray, inaccessible for research. It was not possible for government-employed scientists to openly speak about the government policy that prohibited communication with the media. However, following the election of a new government in 2015, several scientists who were or had been employed by the government came forward to confirm the allegations made by anonymous sources during the Harper years
In December 2015, Harper had set up Harper & Associates Consulting Inc., a corporation that lists him a director alongside close associates Ray Novak and Jeremy Hunt. Harper announced in May 2016 that he planned to resign his seat in the House of Commons during the summer before the fall session of Parliament. On May 26, 2016, he was named as a board member for the Conservative Party’s fundraising arm. The Conservative Fund is noted to have influence on the party operations. Harper and other directors played a role in the removal of Harper–appointed Conservative executive director Dustin Van Vught to avoid backlash from donors and grassroots conservatives. In October 2017, Harper received media attention for criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's handling of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement started by the United States under President Donald Trump, stating that Trudeau was too unwilling to make concessions to the U.S., sided too closely with Mexico, and tried to advance left-wing policies through the renegotiations. On February 2, 2018, Harper revealed in a statement that he knew about the sexual assault allegations against then Conservative MP Rick Dykstra during the 2015 election but could not justify removing him as a candidate because the investigation was closed by police a year before the election. On March 26, 2018, Harper attended the international Fellowship of Christians and Jews Gala at Mar-a-Lago where he stated that he expressed support for US President Donald Trump's speech on Jerusalem. On May 9, 2018, he expressed support for Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran deal by lending his signature to an ad that appeared in The New York Times a day after the decision. On November 19, 2018, Harper appeared on a show hosted by Ben Shapiro, where he made comments on issues such as populism, immigration, and nationalism. The National Post noted that they "echo the argument made in his recently released book, Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption, which urges conservatives to listen to populist grievances, rather than focus on other priorities like tax cuts for the wealthy. In January 2019, Harper appeared on a PragerU video explaining why Donald Trump was elected to the presidency in the 2016 United States election. Then in May 2019, he appeared on another PragerU video explaining reasons to support Israel amid the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. On March 11, 2021, during a virtual gathering hosted by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, Harper claimed that the world has entered into a Second Cold War between the United States and China, and that middle-power countries such as Canada are also a part of the rivalry between the two main powers. In 2021, Harper appeared on the podcast American Optimist, hosted by Joe Lonsdale. In the interview, Harper criticized the Trudeau government's large-scale deficit spending during the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it "overkill". He also criticized "woke culture". On July 25, 2022, Harper endorsed his former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre for the leadership of the Conservative Party. This was the first time Harper endorsed a federal Conservative leadership candidate; he previously chose not to in the 2017 and 2020 leadership elections. In September 2022, Harper attended Elizabeth II's state funeral, along with other former Canadian prime ministers.
Harper received the Woodrow Wilson Award on October 6, 2006, for his public service in Calgary. Time magazine also named him as Canada's Newsmaker of the Year in 2006. 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. On July 11, 2011, Harper was honoured by Alberta's Blood tribe. He was made Honorary Chief of the Kainai Nation during a ceremony, in which they recognized him for making an official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada for the residential schools abuse. Harper issued this apology in 2008. The chief of the tribe explained that he believes the apology officially started the healing and rebuilding of relations between the federal and native councils. Lester B. Pearson, John Diefenbaker, and Jean Chrétien are the only other prime ministers of Canada to have been awarded the same honorary title. On September 27, 2012, Harper received the World Statesman of the Year award through a US group of various faith representatives. In August 2016, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine awarded Stephen Harper with the highest award for foreigners–the Order of Liberty. In December 2019, it was announced by Governor General Julie Payette that Harper had been appointed as a Companion of the Order of Canada. Harper was also made an honourary Doctor pf Philosophy by the University of Tel Aviv in 2014.
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Former Prime Minister of Canada
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RAD, July 2008 version. Canadian Council of Archives.
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Catalogued September 2022.