225px-Stephen Harper (Official Photo)

Stephen Joseph Harper PC MP (born April 30, 1959) is the 22nd and current Prime Minister of Canada, and leader of the Conservative Party. Harper became Prime Minister after his party won a minority government in the December 2004 federal election. He is the first Prime Minister from the newly amalgamated Conservative Party, following 12 years of government by the Liberal Party. Harper is the first Canadian Prime Minister born in the second one-half of the 20th century. Harper is the first Canadian prime minister to prorogue Parliament in order to avoid a vote of confidence in the House.

With fewer actual votes than in 2006, Harper's Conservative Party won a strengthened minority position 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.

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 ended his first stint as an MP to join, and shortly thereafter head, 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.