Stephen Joseph Harper

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Stephen Joseph Harper

Stephen Joseph Harper PC MP (born April 30, 1959) is the twenty-second and current Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party. Harper became prime minister when his party formed a minority government after the 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 did not seek re-election, and instead joined, and shortly thereafter led, 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 and increased representation in the Canadian House of Commons, with 143 of 308 seats. The 40th Canadian Parliament was dissolved in March 2011, after a no-confidence vote that found the Cabinet in contempt of parliament was passed by the opposition parties.

In the May 2011 federal election, Harper’s Conservative Party won a majority government, the first since the 2000 federal election. His party won 166 seats, an increase of 23 seats from the October 2008 election.

Harper was born in Toronto, the first of three sons of Margaret (née Johnston) and Joseph Harris Harper, an accountant at Imperial Oil. He attended Northlea Public School and, later, John G. Althouse Middle School and Richview Collegiate Institute, both in Central Etobicoke. He graduated in 1978, 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 dropped out after two months. He then moved to Edmonton, Alberta, 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. He later returned there to earn a master’s degree in economics, completed in 1993.

Harper married Laureen Teskey in 1993. Laureen was formerly married to New Zealander Neil Fenton from 1985 to 1988. They have two children: Benjamin and Rachel. He is the third Prime Minister, after Pierre Trudeau and John Turner, to send his children to Rockcliffe Park Public School, in Ottawa. He is a member of the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance and attends church at the East Gate Alliance Church in Ottawa. According to party literature, he is learning Spanish.

An avid follower of ice hockey, he has been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since his childhood in the Leaside and Etobicoke communities in Toronto. He is working on a book of the history of hockey, which he hopes to publish in 2012, and writes articles occasionally on the subject. Harper appeared on The Sports Network (TSN) during the broadcast of the Canada–Russia final of the 2007 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. He was interviewed and expressed his views on the state of hockey, and his preference for an overtime period in lieu of a shoot-out. In February 2010, Harper interviewed former National Hockey League greats Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe for a Saskatoon Kinsmen Club charity event.

Harper taped a cameo appearance in an episode of the television show Corner Gas which aired March 12, 2007. He reportedly owns a large vinyl record collection and is a fan of The Beatles and AC/DC. In October 2009, he joined Yo-Yo Ma on stage in a National Arts Centre gala and performed “With a Little Help from My Friends”. He was also accompanied by Herringbone, an Ottawa band with whom he regularly practises. He received a standing ovation after providing the piano accompaniment and lead vocals for the song.

In October 2010, Harper taped a cameo appearance in an episode of the television show Murdoch Mysteries, which aired July 20, 2011, during the show’s fourth season.

Harper is 6 feet 2 inches (188cm) tall. He is the first Prime Minister to employ a personal stylist, Michelle Muntean, whose duties range from co-ordinating his clothing to preparing his hair and makeup for speeches and television appearances. While formerly on public payroll, she has been paid for by the Conservative Party since “some time [in] 2007”.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Harper#Personal_life
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