Prime Minister Stephen Harper gestures as he delivers a speech to a crowd at an event in Calgary on Tuesday July 11, 2006. ((Canadian Press//Larry MacDougal))

While his mother isn't a big fan of the moniker, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he doesn't mind if the leader of Canada's biggest trading partner wants to call him "Steve."

During an appearance on a Calgary radio program Tuesday, Harper was askedwhat hethought when U.S. President George W. Bush referred to him as "Steve" at least three times during a joint news conference in Washington last week.

"I'm proud to have allies like Steve who understand the stakes of the 21st century," Bush said during the televised news conference.

"It surprised me a bit," Harper laughed during an interview on CHQR Radio. "I'm normally called Stephen… but a few people, close friends of my mine, do call me Steve."

The prime minister joked that his mother isn't a fan of the name.


The prime minister was presented with this special Calgary Stampede belt buckle on Tuesday. ((Canadian Press/Larry MacDougal))

"My mother doesn't like that, and I'm sure that President Bush will be getting a letter," he said with a laugh.

"But I've been called a lot worse than that— including by people who say they like me."

Later that evening at a fundraising barbecue at Calgary's Heritage Park, Harper held up a Calgary Stampede belt buckle enscribed for him.

"You see that, Mother? It says Stephen, not Steve," he said.

"If a guy buys 85 per cent of our exports, and wants to call me Steve, that's OK with me."

Margaret Harper, who was at the barbecue, joked that she would let Bush know she doesn't like her son being called Steve.

"I wrote him a little note… just kidding," she laughed. "It doesn't matter. George probably won't pay much attention to us."

Harper has experimented with the name before, however.

The Parliament of Canada website says that in 1988, Harper ran for the Reform party in Calgary under "Steve Harper."

With files from the Canadian Press