Prime Minister Stephen Harper has named a Canadian Football League team owner who gave thousands to his 2004 leadership campaign as the latest Conservative senator.

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David Braley, seen in 2002, will sit as a Conservative senator. Braley owns the B.C. Lions and the Toronto Argonauts. ((Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press))

David Braley, a Hamilton-area businessman and owner of the B.C. Lions and the Toronto Argonauts, will immediately replace Ontario Conservative Senator Wilbert Keon, who has reached the mandatory Senate retirement age of 75, Harper announced Thursday.

In a release, the prime minister said Braley "has shown a commitment to both his community and his country through his involvement in sport and philanthropy."

"I look forward to working with Mr. Braley and all of our senators as our government works towards a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate," Harper said.

Braley is a well-known philanthropist who has given millions to numerous charities and hospitals, as well as his alma mater McMaster University.

Records unearthed by Liberal researchers show Braley personally donated $16,500 to Harper's 2004 party leadership campaign, and his auto-parts company, Orlick Industries, donated another $30,000. That made him Harper's single biggest supporter. 

According to the leadership campaign records, Braley also gave Harper's rivals Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement $30,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Harper — who once said he would never appoint senators but instead wanted them elected — has now named 33 Conservatives to the 105-seat upper House in the past 18 months.

Harper has typically waited for a number of Senate vacancies to open up before making a group appointment, but officials in the government say there is too much important legislation to be passed before the summer recess and every Tory vote is needed.

The Conservatives hold a plurality of seats in the Senate, but not an absolute majority.

Born in Montreal and raised in Hamilton, Braley is currently director of the 2015 Pan-American Games and oversaw Toronto's successful bid for the event.

He lives in Hamilton with his wife, Nancy Gordon.

With files from The Canadian Press