Your Guide to the Party Leaders

Getting to know Steve, Justin, Tom and Elizabeth

The Conservative Party

Photo from the Conservative Party of Canada

Stephen Harper has been the leader of the Conservative party since 2004, and Canada’s Prime Minister since 2006. When he became the head of the Conservatives he was the party’s first leader after the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party merged together to form one right-wing political party in Canada. He has been the MP for Calgary Southwest since 2002, and was also the MP for Calgary West from 1993-97.

Born on April 30, 1959 (he’s now 56), Stephen was the son of Margaret and Harris Harper, who was an accountant at Imperial Oil. He grew up in Toronto before moving to Edmonton just after high school graduation. In Edmonton he began working in the mailroom of Imperial Oil, and eventually went to the University of Calgary where he completed both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics.

In high school, Stephen was a member of the Reach for the Top team, a trivia show where students competed against other schools. Those who made it to the top then competed on the Knowledge Network. He was also a member of the Young Liberals, but left the party because he didn’t agree with Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Plan.

He married his wife, Laureen, in 1993. They now have two children, Benjamin and Rachel. Sometimes young people will attend Conservative rallies in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Stephen’s two children, and it appears a sort of fan club exists for them. The family owns two cats, Stanley and Gypsy, and the Harpers well known supporters of the Ottawa Humane Society’s Foster programs.

In his leisure time, Stephen enjoys playing the piano, curling, and hockey. He loves hockey so much that he’s written a book about it, called A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey. His favourite team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’s also recently been seen supporting the Toronto Blue Jays.

He’s six feet two inches tall, and has been involved in politics since approximately 1985. He speaks French, English, and is learning Spanish. He’s the first prime minister to employ a personal stylist.

What the Conservatives Stand For

Platforms are long. Here are the highlights of what the Conservatives are saying about several topics. The list is by no means comprehensive.

Front and Centre
Protecting jobs, families, and economy, including 700,000 new homeowners and 1.3 million new jobs. Keeping the economy and Canada safe.

Create 1.3-million jobs by 2020, invest $20-million into lobster industry, continue 15 per cent mineral exploration tax credit.

Increase the government contribution when families who are low and middle-income invest in education savings plans.

Social Programs
Increase Canada Disability Savings Grant, create an endowment fund for museums, and create a tax break on membership fees for organizations like the Royal Canadian Legion and the Lions Club.

Commit $5-million annually towards sustaining bird, moose, and turkey habitats, allow crossbows for hunting birds, create a family bird-hunting permit, and extend partnership with Pacific Salmon Foundation to restore B.C. estuaries.

$9-million over three years towards a tourism program for American recreational anglers, hunters, and snowmobiles.


The Liberal Party

Photo from the Liberal Party of Canada

Justin Trudeau has been the leader of the Liberal party since 2011 and has been the MP for Papineau since 2008. He’s been involved in politics since 1988 and has served as the Liberal Party’s critic for Youth and Multiculturalism, Citizenship and Immigration, and Post-Secondary Education, Youth, and Amateur Sport.

He was born on December 25, 1971 (he’s now 43), to Pierre and Margaret Trudeau. Pierre Trudeau is a former prime minister of Canada. Justin was born in Ottawa and was the second child in Canada’s history to be born while one of his parents was prime minister. His parents separated when he was six years old and he spent a portion of his childhood growing up in Montreal with his father.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from McGill and a bachelor’s in education from UBC. He’s worked as a teacher at West Point Grey Academy and Churchill Secondary School. Trudeau spent some time studying engineering at Universite de Montreal and environmental geography also at McGill. He paused his environmental geography education in order to seek public office.

In 2005 he married his wife, Sophie, and together they have three children: Xavier James, Hadrien, and Ella-Grace Margaret. He speaks English and French and in his leisure time he enjoys outdoor activities (camping, boating, hiking, etc.) and wrestling. He supports the Montreal Canadiens. In 2014 he released his memoir, Common Ground.

He has advocated for various causes including safety in winter sports after his brother was killed in a snowboarding accident. He also spoke out against a zinc mine in the Northwest Territories and was a stark proponent of the national youth program Katimavik when it was terminated by the Conservatives in 2012. The program was started by his father’s government.

Justin has stated that he would form a pro-choice Liberal government, and that any potential candidates would not be green-lighted unless they agreed to vote pro-choice on abortion bills.

Outside of politics Justin has starred in a CBC miniseries called The Great War. He has a tattoo on his left shoulder of the earth surrounded by a Haida raven.

What the Liberals Stand For
Platforms are long. Here are the highlights of what the Liberals are saying about several topics. The list is by no means comprehensive.

Front and Centre
The Liberals are advocating Real Change, largely focusing on the middle class.

Invest $1.3-billion over three years to create jobs for young Canadians, reduce trade barriers particularly in North America, triple federal investment in public transit infrastructure, invest in social infrastructure, and cancel tax breaks for the wealthy and increase them for the middle class. They’re proponents of running a temporary deficit in order to finance their various platform commitments.

Create a Prime Minister’s Youth Advisory Council, implement the Teacher and Early Childhood Educator School Supply Tax Benefit, educate youth on voting,

Increase access to government information, introduce a Prime Minister’s question period, end prorogation of parliament and the use of omnibus bills, reform the electoral system away from first-past-the-post, end partisanship in the Senate, bring back longform census, and make StatsCan independent.

Social Programs
Return eligibility for retirement to 65, enhance the Canada Pension Plan, implement monthly Canada Child Benefit, create a National Early Learning and Child Care Framework to increase access to childcare, invest $150-million in annual funding for the CBC, improve access to mental health care and reduce the cost of prescriptions, bring back home delivery mail service, make changes to the Employment Insurance program, and prioritize investment in affordable housing and seniors programs.

Protect marine and coastal areas, invest in ocean science, protect the marine environment from oil spills, phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, make changes to Canada’s environmental assessment bodies to increase credibility, increase low-cost access to National Parks and programs that educate people in how to camp, investment in clean technologies, and make government science available to the public.

Provide funding to support Indigenous communities in preserving and promoting their cultures and languages, invest in First Nations education and $500-million into education infrastructure, invest in postsecondary education for Indigenous students, and launch a public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Ensure an equal number of men and women in the Liberal cabinet and implement gender-based analysis in policy-making. Trudeau has also stated that his Liberal MPs must commit to voting pro-choice on abortion bills, and has identified himself as a feminist.

Invest $100-million annually in support for veterans’ families, invest $25-million to expand Permanent Impairment Alliance, invest $80-million per year towards Veterans Education Benefit, and increase overall financial support to veterans.

Bring in 25,000 refugees from Syria, invest $100-million to increase refugee processing, and give a $100-million contribution to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, doubling the budget for family-class immigration processing, increase family unification in immigration, repeal parts of Bill C-24 that create two-tier citizenship, and lift the Mexican visa requirement.



Photo from the New Democratic Party of Canada

Tom Mulcair was born in Ottawa on Oct. 24, 1954 (he’s now 60). He was raised in Gatineau and Laval, which contributed to his fluent bilingualism, and has been involved in politics since approximately 1983. From 1994 to 2007 he was a provincial member of the national assembly of Quebec in a Liberal Party of Quebec seat. He was the minister of sustainable development, environment, and parks, supporting the Kyoto protocol and drafting a bill to amend the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to include the right to live in a healthy environment, which passed. He has been the NDP MP of Outremont since 2007 and the leader of the NDP since 2012. He was also the first NDP MP to be elected during a federal election.

He has degrees in both common and civil law from McGill. He started law school at 18 and paid his way through by working construction jobs, tarring and graveling roofs. He’s also taught law and in 1985 started a private law practice.

He grew up as the second oldest of nine siblings. His parents are Jeanne, a teacher, and Harry Donnelly Mulcair, who worked in insurance.

He has been married to his wife Catherine since 1976 and they have two children, Matt and Greg. Matt has two children himself, with his wife Jasmyne. Tom and Catherine met at a wedding when they were teenagers and married just a few years later at the age of 21.

Tom supports the Montreal Canadiens and has written a book called Strength of Conviction. He has both French and Canadian citizenship.

Last year for Halloween he dressed up as an Angry Bird, likely playing up the “Angry Tom” rhetoric.

Front and Centre
The NDP’s slogan is Ready For Change and they’re looking to get Canada on track by helping families and strengthening the middle class, growing the economy, and protecting the environment.

Expand promotion of Canadian wood products to new markets, support forestry research and development, create up to 900,000 training and work transition opportunities, increase manufacturing jobs, reduce small business taxes from 11 per cent to nine per cent, invest $1.3-billion a year over the next 20 years in transit, create opportunities for 40,000 young people, build and repair jobs, create 54,000 jobs, and build 10,000 affordable housing units.

Immediately phase out interest on federal student loans and increase available grants for students who need them.

Social Programs
Protect EI premiums, make prescription drugs more affordable, improve mental health care services for young Canadians, increase access to family doctors, provide $15 a day child care, strengthen Pension Plan, return retirement age to 65, lift 200,000 seniors out of poverty, hire 7,000 family doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals, and launch a national alzheimer’s and dementia strategy.

Provide funding for energy efficient home renovations, stop the muzzling of scientists, establish a cap-and-trade system that sets emission limits on polluters, invest in renewable energy production, and increase legislation to protect lakes and rivers.

Bring more American tourists north, invest in destination Canada.

Call an inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women within 100 days of being in office, begin to act on recommendations made by Truth and Reconciliation Commission, create a committee to make sure federal decisions respect treaty rights.

Restore shelter enhancement program and help women fleeing violence find a new home. The NDP cabinet will be pro-choice.

Better access to treatment for PTSD, improve long-term care options, and increase survivors’ pensions.

Resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees and increase by 9,000 each year for the next four years.


The Green Party

Photo from the Green Party of Canada

Elizabeth May was born on June 9, 1954 (she’s now 61) to Stephanie (sculptor, pianist and writer) and John Middleton May (accountant). Both of her parents were activists. Elizabeth was born in Hartford Connecticut and has a younger brother named Geoffrey. In 1972 her family moved to Margaree Harbour on Cape Breton Island, where they purchased and restored a land-locked schooner that played host to a restaurant and gift shop. The boat was called the Marion Elizabeth.

In 2010 she moved to Sidney B.C., and was elected as the leader of the Green Party in 2011. In 2012 she was elected as the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and became the first candidate to be elected federally as an MP from the Green Party.

Prior to moving to B.C. she briefly enrolled at St. Francis Xavier university, but dropped out in 1974. Returning to Margaree, she took distance classes in restaurant management before attending Dalhousie Law School in 1980. In 1985 she moved to Ottawa and worked with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and helped to found the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund. She also studied theology at Saint Paul University.

She has a daughter, Victoria Cate, whose father is climate change scientist is Ian Burton. He and Elizabeth never married, although they did cohabitate briefly. Victoria’s godfather is Canadian author Farley Mowat, and Elizabeth counts him, Margaret Atwood, and David Suzuki amongst her friends. Bill Clinton is a family friend.

Elizabeth has a long history of being an environmentalist, author, activist, and lawyer. From 1989 to 2006 she was the executive director of the Sierra Club. She has also written eight books, most recently Who We Are: Reflections on My Life and Canada in 2014.

In 2001 she held a 17-day hunger strike on Parliament Hill to raise awareness of high cancer rates near Cape Breton’s Sydney tar ponds.

She has been involved in the environmental movement since 1970 and has previously been a member of the NDP and, briefly, the Liberals. In 2005 she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2010 was named “one of the world’s most influential women” by Newsweek.

What the Greens Stand For
Platforms are long. Here are the highlights of what the Greens are saying about several topics. The list is by no means comprehensive.

Front and Centre
The Green Party advocates for a lot of environmental initiatives and a Canada that works together.

Implement legislation to enhance opportunities for small and local businesses to thrive, fund community supported agriculture, invest in convenient and safe public transport. The Greens oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement.

Abolish tuition fees for students without adequate financial means by 2020, and in the meantime implement a debt-forgiveness program that will eliminate any existing or future student debt above $10,000. They will also abolish charging interest on student loans and increase bursaries.

Green MPs will not heckle in the House of Commons, will restore the long-form census, create a council of Canadian governments, implement proportional representation, end the use of omnibus bills, work to end attack politics, slash the budget of the Prime Minister’s Office by 50 per cent, and publish their expenses online.

Social Programs
Renew Health Accord, increase coverage of prescription medication, public dental coverage for low-income youth, expand CPP, implement a national seniors strategy that includes a housing plan, liveable income, national dementia strategy and pension protection, eliminate poverty, implement affordable childcare, reverse CBC funding cuts, and restore door-to-door mail delivery.

Establish a Canadian Sustainable Generations Fund that will invest in skills-training, education, energy efficiency, etc., a Sustainable Jobs Plan, create a $1-billion per year Green Technology Commercialization Grants program, return to evidence-based policy-making, improve freedom of scientists to research and make sure the public has access to their research, oppose new pipelines and oil tanker projects, and implement a climate change and energy strategy.

Partner with First Nations for responsible resource development, implement findings of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recognize indigenous rights and title, negotiate in good faith to settle land claims, establish treaties and self-government arrangements, pose a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and defend languages and cultures.

Fight gender-based discrimination in the workplace and eliminate the gender wage gap. May has identified herself as a feminist.

Prioritizing roles and missions for Canadian forces that focus on peacekeeping or defensive missions with Canada’s allied countries. Invest in search and rescue missions and park patrols. Improve disaster preparedness capacity. Shift funding away from NATO and towards the United Nations. The Greens will not purchase the F-35 stealth fighter jets.

Secure pensions, reopen Veterans Affairs offices across Canada, and reverse the $200-million cut. Increase access to service dogs to assist in victims of PTSD.

Will reverse two-tier citizenship system and renovate the immigration and refugee protection system to “welcome and integrate new Canadians over the long term.”

Will repeal Bill C-51, the “anti-terror” bill.


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