- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill: Supporting the US
- Official Title: Prime Minister
- Government: Well-established Democracy
- Years Left in Office: Indefinite: no term limits
- Political Classification: Center-right
- Education: BS, MS in Economics
- Age: 61 (born April 30, 1959)
Stephen Harper Facts and Information
- Harper's Canada is the biggest trading partner of the US
- Harper's Canada is a staunch ally of the US militarily, and follows most US foreign policy leads
- Harper is a conservative, focusing mostly on economic and military issues over social ones
- Harper is a huge fan of establishing a strong claim to Canada's Arctic waters
North to Alaska! Okay, not that far north. Let’s stop off in Canada to check out the antics of my favorite canuck chappy Stephen Harper. Harper also happens to be the happening Prime Minister of our chilly Canadian cohorts, and he is an interesting cat in his own right. We should include him in our list of folks that shape global events…
Seriously? We have to know the leader of Canada? Absolutely yes my friends! While they are mostly mocked by Americans as a bunch of hockey-playing-maple-syrup-making-free-health-care-having socialist-sissy-marys, the relationship between these two countries is radically important…and thus it behooves you as a smarter, savvier citizen to know Stephen.
What is so important about the relationship? The US and Canada are the largest and most lucrative trading partners in the world. That’s for starters. Canada is the 2nd largest country on the planet, and it shares the largest (mostly) unguarded border in the world with the US. That makes us good friends, and vital partners. Canada has also supported the US in every single conflict in the world in which the US has participated. Every single one. Including the ones still going on right now. Canada is a founding member of the UN, NATO, and NAFTA. To know who leads this country and how he/she works with or against the US is simply a matter of common courtesy. So let’s talk about Stephen.
Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took over the helm of our northern neighbor in 2006, in what was a major shift from 12 years of liberal rule. Thus, he is comparable to the former Bush administration in the US in political outlook. Ideas pirated from his boyhood heroes Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher include: advocating a strong military, provincial(states) rights, free markets and the privatization of government services…always with the “smaller government” mantra on his mind.
However, Harper may have come from more radical-conservative-right roots, but he has mostly played the part of a centrist since he took office, moving Canada firmly to the center-right on the political spectrum…but not to the far right. An economist by training, he is more focused on pushing the conservative agenda for business and military matters as opposed to focusing on social issues (which of course the Americans spend 99% of their time bickering about.) Having said that, Harper is staunchly opposed to gay marriage and a few other staples of the conservative agenda.
But here’s what you really need to know about the guy: he has strengthened the Canada/US relationship, both in trade and in troops. Canada has been by the side of the US in both the Afghan and Iraq campaigns from the start. Harper even became the first Canadian Prime Minister to visit an active war front when he chatted with troops outside Kandahar (he has been to Afghanistan twice so far.) Way to go Steven! He is definitely on the hawkish side, particularly when it comes to supporting the US and NATO in the War on Terrorism, and that is not likely to change. Having said that, he has got no problems working with the Obama administration either on virtually all major issues.
Back in the chilly Canadian homeland, Harper also asserted state’s rights at the expense of the federal government, tried to un-do or at least re-work some of the socialist aspects of the Canadian system, and even has increased trade with the EU and US. Harper (and Canada in general) often becomes a very audible and visible voice supporting other US foreign policy issues too…even when these policies are very unpopular at home. In particular, Canada has been one of the countries holding up any real movement on reducing greenhouse gases via the Kyoto Protocol, even though it would be easy enough for them to do, and in their own self-interest. So why have they drug their feet? To support their US buddies who want to have nothing to do with Kyoto at all…in other words, to kiss US ass.
But hold the phone! While Harper is center-right, he ain’t no patsy to Uncle Sam. There have been several minor trade disputes and one whopper of a territorial dispute between these two countries, and Harper has made it clear that no one?not even the giant US?is stepping on Canadian sovereignty.
What is the whopper? Shortly after Stephen took office, the US made claims that the Northwest Passage (a famous Atlantic-to-Pacific shipping route that runs through northern Canadian waters) was an international waterway, and therefore not subject to Canadian sovereignty. As such, the US claims that part of the Arctic Ocean north of that Passage may be up for grabs—namely, so the US can be the one to grab it! Prime Minister Harper immediately issued a US smack-down, loosely translated as: Bullshit!
How so? Harper held a cabinet meeting in August 2009 in the Arctic town of Inuvik to reaffirm his commitment to defend Canadian Arctic sovereignty. In 2008, Canada conducted its largest military exercise ever in the region and blocked the sale of Canadian radar technology to a U.S. buyer on national security grounds. Ha! Take that Uncle! Harper also committed $40 million to scientific research projects to support its Arctic seabed claims…and has since launched counter-claims that a large swath of the Arctic Ocean (and everything that potentially lies underneath) is Canadian territory, and has also laid plans for the establishment of several Canadian military bases in the area to reinforce this claim. Hoo-yah!
So he is a staunch US ally, but not one to be taken for granted. Of course Harper will continue to support the US militarily and support increased trade with the US. That makes his position in world affairs kind of powerful as a supporting player to the big power. At home, his conservative party does not hold an outright majority in the government, but has been gaining seats since his re-election back in 2008. Not bad for a Canuck! Go Flames! Go flames! Go flames!
Plaidcasts Involving this Leader
- YouTube Interview with Prime Minister Harper (Mar 2010)
- CBC: Interview with Stephen Harper (Part One) (Jan 2011)
- CBC: Interview with Stephen Harper (Part Two) (Jan 2011)
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