POLITICS

What Canadians Want To Know About Stephen Harper

09/03/2015 01:10 EDT | Updated 09/03/2016 05:59 EDT
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Conservative Leader Stephen Harper might be disappointed to learn that the most common questions about him are not about how well he's managed Canada's economy — or what he's done to protect Canada from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Canadians, according to their internet searches, are much more interested in his personal life. 

Google Canada has revealed the five most searched questions about each of the main party leaders, based on search data from the six months leading up to the election call last month.

Today, CBC News delivers answers to the most searched questions about Harper. We started last week with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, and we'll look at the other leaders in the coming days.

Here's what Canadians wanted to know about Harper.

1. How long has Stephen Harper been prime minister?

Answer: Nine years and 209 days, as of today, Sept. 3. That's considerable by most standards, but if Harper is re-elected in October — and serves a full four-year term — he will vault up the list to become the fifth longest serving prime minister in Canada's history.

That would push former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien down to the No. 6 spot. 

Regardless of the outcome in this election, Harper has one title under his belt: he is already the second longest serving Conservative prime minister in Canada's history. The longest serving? One of Harper's political idols, Sir John A. Macdonald, the country's first prime minister, who served 18 years and 359 days over an impressive six mandates.

2. How tall is Stephen Harper?

Many Canadians asked Google about Harper's physical stature.

Harper is definitely not pint-sized. He's about six feet two inches tall, and according to data compiled by British newspaper the Guardian, he is one of the tallest world leaders ever. Two notable world leaders who surpass him in stature: Abraham Lincoln (even without his top hat) and Cuba's Fidel Castro, who in his prime was a towering six feet four inches tall.

But, according to Google, Harper's height is matched by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

Harper has passed along his height to his son, Ben, who is an accomplished varsity volleyball player at Queen's University in Kingston. Ont.

 

3. Where was Stephen Harper born?

Despite getting his political start as a founding member of the Reform Party — which was based on western Canadian populism — Harper was born in Leaside, a leafy suburb northeast of Toronto's downtown core, a community quite different from those found on the Prairies that are close to his political heart.

As a teenager, Harper's family then moved to Etobicoke, another suburb of the Big Smoke to the west. Both communities are now part of Toronto proper.

It was in high school, at Richview Collegiate Institute, that Harper made a more prominent public debut. He appeared in an episode of the CBC quiz show Reach for the Top in 1978, but his team lost to Vincent Massey Collegiate — although his contemporaries say he was the best player.

After dropping out of the University of Toronto's prestigious Trinity College — after only a few weeks of classes — he headed west to Edmonton in 1978, to work as an office clerk in the offices of Imperial Oil. He never looked back. 

4. What episode of Murdoch Mysteries is Stephen Harper in? 

Googlers also wanted to know about Harper's television drama career.

Harper appeared in an episode of the police procedural Murdoch Mysteries in 2010. But you might not have even noticed — he had a 90-second cameo where he played the role of a desk sergeant. 

When producers of Murdoch Mysteries visited Parliament Hill to film a scene, they broke the news to Harper that the CBC had purchased the series from its original television network. Harper joked, "I'll watch it anyway."

But that wasn't Harper's first appearance in a Canadian TV series. In March 2007, shortly after being elected, Harper had a small role on the sitcom Corner Gas. The role wasn't much of a stretch — Harper played himself — and he didn't hesitate to slag the outgoing Liberal government for its inaction on the epidemic of gopher deaths on the Prairies.

"I like prairie dogs and I like gophers," Harper said, deadpan, facing a faux scrum of reporters, "but sadly, neither were given the respect they deserve under the previous Liberal government." 

5. When did Stephen Harper apologize for residential schools? 

On June 11, 2008, in what could be considered the most solemn moment of his tenure as prime minister, Harper rose in the House of Commons to formally apologize to victims of federally financed residential school system.

It was the first formal apology from a sitting prime minister for the horrors many residential schools inflicted on its aboriginal pupils.

Chrétien had offered a "statement of reconciliation" years earlier, but was rebuffed by indigenous leaders who dismissed the move as insincere.

"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country," Harper said to applause.

"The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language," Harper said.

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