1 min

The new Mr Right

Harper promises to stay out of your life

Credit: Xtra files

Stephen Harper – destructive force or all round great guy? The newly elected leader of the Alliance Party garners varied reactions from fellow politicians.

“He’s an extreme libertarian whose policies, if implemented, would have a devastating impact on the social, economic and political framework of this country,” says NDP MP Svend Robinson.

James Moore, an Alliance MP from BC, says Harper’s mainstream. “Stephen is a great guy. He’ll focus the party on policy and bring the right balance. He’s a mainstream, nationalist, small-C conservative not beholden to any group.”

Harper, 42, won the leadership race last month on the first ballot beating out former leader Stockwell Day, as well as contenders Grant Hill, and Diane Ablonczy. His decisive win points to a new direction for the Alliance Party, currently the official opposition.

Harper is a bit of an unknown when it comes to queer issues, although he did hire John Collison as his main media spokesperson during the leadership campaign. Collison was fired in 1999 from his job at a Winnipeg radio station for homophobic comments he made on air.

“In terms of gay and lesbian issues he feels the state should say out of people’s lives,” says Robinson. “This falls short of an affirmation of people’s lives. We need an effective government role to fight for equality and against homophobia. Mr Harper feels the Alliance shouldn’t be getting involved in issues like gay rights and abortion.”

Moore is less eager to interpret Harper.

“I’m not comfortable speaking on Stephen’s behalf on moral issues – putting words into his mouth.”

Moore wasn’t resistant to the idea of a citizen’s referendum on gay marriage despite various studies that show the majority of Canadians support the extension of spousal and marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Harper grew up in Toronto (Leaside and Etobicoke) before moving to Alberta to work in the energy industry. He currently lives in Calgary with his wife and their two young children.

An MP from 1993 to1998 (after losing his first election attempt in 1988), Harper was well known for developing the Reform Party’s fiscal and taxation policy. A bilingual MP, Harper also fought against the Charlottetown Accord and campaigned for a united Canada during the Quebec Referendum of 1995.

Harper served as four years as president of the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative citizens advocacy group, until resigning last November to run for the Alliance leadership.