Saturday, October 11, 2008

Canadian Parties -- The Leaders

With the Canadian general election now three days away, I'll continue my description of their federal political parties, with more detail about the party leaders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the leader of the Conservative Party. He is 49 years old, and has represented the Alberta riding of Calgary Southwest in the House of Commons since 2002. He had previously been MP for Calgary West from 1993 to 1997.

He grew up in and near Toronto, but moved to Alberta during his college years. He received bachelors and masters degrees in economics from the University of Alberta. Harper was associated with the Reform Party from its founding in 1987. He was elected leader of the Canadian Alliance in 2002.

With the Canadian Alliance being the dominant player in the merger that created the Conservative Party, in 2003, Harper was able to win the initial leadership election of the merged party. Consequently, he became prime minister when the Conservatives emerged as the largest party in Parliament, in 2006.

Stephane Dion, 53, became the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2006. He has represented the Quebec riding of Saint-Laurent--Cartierville in the House of Commons since 1996.

Dion was born and raised in Quebec. He received bachelors and masters degrees from Universite Laval, in that province. Dion later studied in France, where Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris awarded him a doctorate. His career was as a university professor and think-tank scholar, before entering public office.

Dion served as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of the Environment in the governments of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Dion's election as Liberal leader followed Martin's defeat in the 2006 general election.

Jack Layton, 58, was elected leader of the New Democratic Party in 2003. His riding is in Ontario, where he was elected in 2004 to represent Toronto-Danforth.

He is a Quebec native, who moved to Ontario in 1970, where he received a PhD in Political Science from York University. His undergraduate education had been at McGill University.

Layton taught political science, and served in local government positions, in Toronto, before moving onto the federal political stage.

Gilles Duceppe, 61, has led the Bloc Quebecois since 1997. He was elected to represent Laurier--Sainte-Marie in 1990. Duceppe originally ran for the House of Commons as an independent, and has since been reelected as a Bloc candidate.

Duceppe worked as a trade union organizer, before entering Parliament.

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