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Stephen Harper Sworn in as Canada's PM
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Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper sworn in as Canada's 22nd Prime Minister after the Liberal Paul Martin officially handed in his resignation to Governor General Michaelle Jean earlier Monday.

Harper's Conservatives won 124 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, beating the Liberals who got only 103 in the general vote on Jan. 23.

Although the youngest among Canada's four main federal party leaders, Harper is not new to the country's political arena with his 20 years' experience in politics.

In March 2004, Harper was elected leader of the Conservative Party, which was formed in October 2003 through a merger of the Progressive Conservative and Canada Alliance.

He was then plunged into an election in June 2004, in which his party won 99 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons and became the official opposition.

Born in 1959, Harper grew up in the Toronto suburbs of Leaside and Etobicoke. After high school, he worked as a computer analyst in the Alberta oil patch before enrolling at the University of Calgary, where he earned his BA and MA in economics.

Politics beckoned the young man in 1985 when he accepted a job as the executive assistant for Calgary West Progressive Conservative Parliament Member Jim Hawkes. He later worked for Reform Parliament Member Deboarh Grey.

After an unsuccessful attempt at winning the federal riding of Calgary West in 1988, Harper won the seat for the Reform party in 1993. He did a lot of work in advancing fiscal responsibility and developing Reform Party fiscal and taxation policy.

Harper's biggest legacy may be his role in reuniting the right, which was divided into two different parties -- the Progressive Conservative and Canada Alliance. In October 2003, he struck a deal with Progressive Conservative Leader Peter MacKay to merge the two and become the first leader of the new Conservative Party of Canada.

His friend Tom Flanagan once credited Harper with "a rare strategic gift combined with a lot of brain power".

Harper is known for his conservative attitude on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. He has pledged to cut GST (Goods and Service tax), clamp down on crimes and transfer more power from the federal government to provinces.

Harper has denied the Liberal saying that he is pro-American and vowed to uphold Canada's interest in dealing with cross-border issues.

Harper's wife is graphic designer Laureen Teskey. They have a nine-year-old son Benjamin and a seven-year-old daughter Rachel.

(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2006)

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