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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty walks down from Parliament Hill with Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon to the National Press Theatre to deliver his economic statement in Ottawa Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

In Depth

The 39th Parliament

Timeline of Harper's government

Last Updated Aug. 27, 2008

July 30, 2008

During a speech delivered to Conservative party members in Quebec, Stephen Harper challenges Liberal Leader St�phane Dion to "fish or cut bait" on his threats of forcing a fall election.

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June 11, 2008

Stephen Harper apologizes in the House of Commons to former students of residential schools for aboriginal children � in the first formal apology from a Canadian prime minister for the federally financed program.

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May 26, 2008

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier resigns from cabinet over a security breach involving classified documents. The resignation came ahead of the airing of a French-language television interview with Bernier's former girlfriend, Julie Couillard, in which she revealed the minister had left a secret document in her apartment sometime in April that she later returned to Foreign Affairs.

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April 15, 2008

Elections Canada, with assistance from the RCMP, executes a search warrant on the Conservative party headquarters in Ottawa. Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan says the search was "in relation to the issue of the campaign financing questions and our approach on spending."

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March 13, 2008

A Conservative motion to keep Canadian soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan, until December 2011 passed by a vote of 198 to 77 in the House of Commons, with Tories and Liberals voting in favour. It was a confidence motion that carried the possibility of triggering an election if it hadn't passed.

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March 5, 2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, is accused of leaking information about U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama's controversial NAFTA views during the federal budget lock-up in February.

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Feb. 29, 2008

The opposition Liberals demand an RCMP probe into allegations that Stephen Harper's Conservatives offered Independent MP Chuck Cadman an inducement � the continuation of a $1-million life insurance policy � to bring down the minority Liberal government in May 2005.

Feb. 26, 2008

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivers the government's third budget, one that was short on big spending pledges but which he called "prudent" in the face of a possibly slowing economy.

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October 30, 2007

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tables his fall economic statement, which calls for $60 billion in personal and corporate tax cuts over the next five years. A further cut in the GST to five per cent, effective Jan. 1, 2008, is proposed.

Other measures include:

  • A cut in personal income taxes retroactive to Jan. 1, 2007, dropping the lowest marginal tax rate by 0.5 per cent to 15 per cent.
  • A drop in the corporate income tax rate to 19.5 per cent in 2008, falling in steps to 15 per cent by 2012.
  • An almost $700 jump in the basic personal tax exemption to $9,600 — retroactive to Jan. 1, 2007 — and an increase to $10,100 in 2009.
  • A cut in the small business income tax rate to 11 per cent by Jan. 1, 2008. This reduction was originally scheduled for 2009.
  • A $10-billion reduction in the national debt.

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Oct. 16, 2007

The Conservative government unveiled its top priorities for the upcoming parliamentary session, promising major tax cuts, a vote to extend the Afghan mission until at least 2011 and new crime legislation.

This throne speech set up a dramatic confrontation in the House, as the Liberals were forced to decide between supporting the agenda or forcing a snap election.

A week later, the Liberals abstained from a final vote on the throne speech, allowing the minority government to continue.

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Oct. 3, 2007

During a rare news conference, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that while Canada's involvement in the NATO mission in Afghanistan can only continue past February 2009 with parliamentary approval, Canada has a "moral responsibility" to continue military deployment until Afghanistan can be responsible for its own stability.

Harper says he doesn't need full consensus to continue the mission past February 2009, only enough parliamentary support for a vote to pass.

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Sept. 17, 2007

The Conservative Party scores a victory against the Bloc Québécois in a Quebec byelection in the rural riding of Roberval. Conservative candidate Denis Lebel secures almost 60 per cent of the vote, while first-time runner C�line Houde loses more than 18 percentage points for the Bloc.

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Sept. 9, 2007

Stephen Harper says he "profoundly disagrees" with a decision by Elections Canada to allow Muslim women to vote with their faces covered by burkas or niqabs. Speaking at a news conference at the end of the APEC summit in Sydney, Australia, Harper says Elections Canada is subverting the will of Parliament by permitting women to cover their faces at polling stations.

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Sept. 4, 2007

Stephen Harper asks Governor General Micha�lle Jean to prorogue Parliament, cutting short the session that was set to resume Sept. 17. MPs are recalled for Oct. 16 to start a second session of the 39th Parliament with a speech from the throne.

The prorogation paves the way for a possible non-confidence vote in Parliament and a fall election.

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Aug. 14, 2007

An embattled Gordon O'Connor is replaced as defence minister by the more popular Peter Mackay in a mid-August cabinet shuffle. Seven other cabinet members also swap portfolios in the shuffle.

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April 26, 2007

Environment Minister John Baird announces a new federal environmental action plan, named Turning the Corner, after a Liberal-sponsored private member's bill passes in Parliament, giving the Tory government 60 days to clarify it's environmental stance.

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March 19, 2007

The second Conservative budget unleashes a raft of spending aimed at the provinces, environmental alternatives and suburban families. Many call it an election budget, but the initial political impact is dulled when Quebec Premier Jean Charest, on an election campaign trail, turns around and gives away the province's so-called fiscal-imbalance payment as a tax cut.

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Jan. 26, 2007

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issues a formal apology to Maher Arar and awards him $10 million in financial compensation. A judicial inquiry found the RCMP provided U.S. authorities with incorrect information about Arar, which led to his abduction to a Syrian jail where he was tortured.

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Jan. 4, 2007

John Baird, MP for the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean, takes over as environment minister in place of the embattled Rona Ambrose, who was widely viewed as doing a poor job selling the government's Clean Air Act. Vic Toews is removed from the justice portfolio and Stephen Harper creates six new secretaries of state, bringing the cabinet up to 33.

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Nov. 22, 2006

Stephen Harper proposes a motion to recognize Quebecers as constituting a nation within a united Canada. He makes the move in anticipation of a similar motion from the Bloc Québécois, which initially slams Harper's resolution, saying Quebec's destiny is up to Quebecers. Former Parti Québécois premier Bernard Landry thanks Harper for helping Quebec on the road to sovereignty.

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Oct. 31, 2006

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announces that the federal government will begin taxing existing income trusts in 2011 and new income trusts immediately. The new tax faces harsh criticism from Bay Street investors, who say Harper's government is breaking a campaign promise.

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Oct. 18, 2006

Ontario MP Garth Turner is suspended from the federal Conservative caucus. Caucus chair Rahim Jaffer said Turner's suspension came, in part, because of critical comments Turner made about the party on his blog.

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Sept. 18, 2006

A new session of Parliament begins with a heated debate on gun control following the Dawson College shooting in Montreal that left one teen dead and 19 wounded.

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June 6, 2006

The Conservative budget passes through the House without opposition in an apparent scheduling mix-up. No one stood to speak when the budget came up for its third and final reading, so it was passed with unanimous consent and no recorded vote.

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May 16, 2006

A House of Commons committee rejects Prime Minister Harper's choice to lead the new public appointments commission because of concerns over the person's views on immigration. In a 6-5 vote, opposition members of the committee asked Harper to withdraw the name of former energy executive Gwyn Morgan. Morgan told a Toronto audience two months earlier that multiculturalism could become a value that divides Canadians rather than unites them. In 2005, Morgan linked gang violence to immigration from places such as Jamaica and Indochina. The public appointments commission is a major part of the Conservatives' accountability program and is supposed to make the process of appointing people to major government jobs more transparent.

April 5, 2006

The government lays out its agenda in its first throne speech. As expected, the plan is to address the party's top priorities, including cutting the GST, child-care money for parents, tougher sentences for violent crimes, new rules on government accountability and an apology for those who paid the Chinese head tax. The other parties complain the speech is short on detail.

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April 3, 2006

Hours before Parliament's official opening, Harper tells a meeting of the Canadian Professional Police Association that his government will introduce legislation to set mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and marijuana grow ops, repeal the faint hope clause and replace statutory release with "earned parole." Harper also says his government will not re-introduce Liberal legislation to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of marijuana.

April 1, 2006

Harper tells CBC Radio's The House that, "ultimately, there will have to be constitutional changes." He says he will act not "just to accommodate Quebec but also to accommodate demands we have from the West and from other parts of the country."

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Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says Hamas must change its policies.(CP)

March 29, 2006

The federal government severs relations with the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says Canada will not give "a red cent to Hamas. This is a terrorist organization."

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March 23, 2006

Two Canadian hostages in Iraq are freed by a British-led multinational force after four months in captivity. James Loney and Harmeet Sooden are rescued along with Briton Norman Kember. The body of a fellow hostage, American Tom Fox, was found two weeks earlier in Baghdad.

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March 22, 2006

The opposition parties warn Harper that his government should not count on their support in the House of Commons. Opposition Leader Bill Graham says it may be up to the Bloc and the NDP to ensure passage of the government's throne speech. Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe indicates he would be willing to support the government as long as Quebec's interests are addressed.

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March 20, 2006

The federal ethics commissioner rules that neither Harper nor International Trade Minister David Emerson broke any rules when Harper invited Emerson to join the Conservatives after the Jan. 23 election. Harper had refused to co-operate with the probe. In a statement after the ruling was released, Harper said it was never an ethics issue. » full story

March 19, 2006

Former prime minister Paul Martin officially resigns as Liberal leader as the party sets a December date for a leadership convention.

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Kabul on May 22, 2007. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

March 14, 2006

Stephen Harper makes and unannounced visit to Afghanistan and meets with Canadian troops in the country. He repeats his government's commitment to the mission; at the end of the trip, Harper tells hundreds of soldiers that Canada won't "cut and run" from the Afghan mission as long as he's in charge.

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March 13, 2006

Michael Wilson, the Mulroney-era Conservative finance minister who introduced the GST, becomes Canada's next ambassador to the United States. He takes over the role from former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, who resigned after the Jan. 23 federal Liberal defeat. One of Wilson's first moves is to play down suggestions that Canada-U.S. relations will be suddenly smoother with a Conservative prime minister in Ottawa and an ex-Conservative politician at the embassy. "We're not going to move into a radically different relationship - I think that would be the wrong way to address it - but I think the tone certainly will be a different tone," Wilson tells reporters.

» full story

March 9, 2006

Opposition MPs blast Stephen Harper for his refusal to co-operate with the federal ethics commissioner over David Emerson's defection to the Conservative camp. NDP MP Pat Martin threatens to hold the prime minister in contempt, later adding that the investigation should be widened to include the floor-crossing of Belinda Stronach to the Liberals in 2005.

» full story

March 8, 2006

Stephen Harper vows to improve relations between Quebec and the federal government. Harper says he'll work to expand Quebec's role on the international scene. In a meeting with Quebec Premier Jean Charest, the prime minister pledges to move ahead with a campaign promise that would give Quebec a greater voice in UNESCO.

» full story

March 7, 2006

Stephen Harper rejects the idea of holding a debate on whether Canadian troops should be in Afghanistan, saying such a move would put the troops in danger. "I'm saying that Canadians don't cut and run at the first sign of trouble," he tells reporters. "That's the nature of this country, and when we send troops into the field, I expect Canadians to support those troops."

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March 3, 2006

Stephen Harper goes on the defensive after the federal ethics commissioner announces an investigation into Harper's decision to bring former Liberal MP David Emerson into his cabinet. The commissioner says he is acting on complaints from opposition members that Emerson was induced to cross the floor and join the Conservatives with the promise of a cabinet seat. A spokesperson for Harper suggests the inquiry is politically motivated.

» full story

March 1, 2006

Liberal-turned Conservative cabinet minister David Emerson issues a written apology to his Vancouver constituents who are upset that he switched parties. In the letter to voters in his riding, the international trade minister also says he stands behind his decision to join the Conservative government.

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March 1, 2006

Justice Minister Vic Toews pledges to follow through on a promise to call a full-blown inquiry into the deadly Air India bombings as soon as possible. But he adds it will be up to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to determine the timeline and framework of the inquiry.

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March 1, 2006

Stephen Harper confirms Marshall Rothstein as Canada's newest Supreme Court judge. Rothstein had makes history earlier in the week when an all-party committee of MPs questioned him during a publicly televised hearing. Rothstein was the first such nominee to undergo a public review by members of Parliament.

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February 25, 2006

Northern leaders leave a meeting with Stephen Harper with the impression that the prime minister will work with them to create a better revenue sharing deal with the northern territories. The federal government currently controls resources in the Northwest Territories, including collecting royalties from mines. The governments are negotiating an agreement to transfer powers and a share of resource revenues to the territories.

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February 24, 2006

A meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the premiers ends without any agreement on new money flowing from Ottawa to the provinces, or resolution to the provinces' concerns over health care, daycare and post-secondary education.

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February 22, 2006

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor unveils his vision for the Canadian Armed Forces, saying it involves more troops in the ranks and closer ties with the United States. "It's about having a three-ocean navy, a robust army and a revitalized air force," he says. "Increasing the strength of the Canadian Forces to at least 75,000 regular force personnel is a clear priority. We will also intend to increase the reserve force by 10,000." Under the plan, Canada will eventually have more than 100,000 full-time and part-time soldiers. The Conservatives also promise to build new icebreakers, buy the air force new planes and boost the military's presence across the country. They pledge $5.3 billion in new defence spending over five years.

» full story

February 21, 2006

Prime Minister Stephen Harper praises Quebec for a new health-care plan that includes a role for the private sector. "[Quebec] is demonstrating national leadership, developing a model that will influence other provinces," Harper tells reporters. Harper's comments follow the unveiling of changes to Quebec's health care that would see private-care options used when the public system can't respond fast enough.

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February 21, 2006

Jim Prentice, federal minister of Indian and northern affairs, pledges to create a new plan to improve the quality of water on reserves so no one will have to face unsafe drinking conditions. The promise comes on the heels of a report that showed tap water poses a significant risk in three-quarters of the water systems on Canada's reserves.

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February 20, 2006

Newly appointed Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor says Canada will sign a new Norad treaty within months that expands the air-defence agreement with the United States to include maritime surveillance. He adds that the new North American Aerospace Defence Command treaty would not mean a loss of sovereignty in Canadian waters.

» full story

February 16, 2006

Opposition Leader Bill Graham warns that the Liberals will not prop up the minority Conservative government if it means compromising their values on key issues such as child care and income tax cuts.

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February 16, 2006

Former Tory finance minister Michael Wilson, tapped to become Canada's next ambassador to the United States, tells reporters his first priority is to help resolve the softwood lumber issue. "Softwood lumber is clearly at the top of the heap," Wilson says at a news conference on Parliament Hill. "The fact we don't have a resolution there is impacting the entire relationship."

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February 11, 2006

Embattled International Trade Minister David Emerson refuses to bow to pressure and step down and face the electorate again in a byelection. "We've got at least three, perhaps more, members of Parliament who have crossed the floor or opted to sit as an Independent," he says. "Frankly, my circumstances are not any different than those. As, and when, Parliament changes the rules to apply to all members of Parliament, I will abide by those rules."

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February 10, 2006

Ontario Conservative MP Garth Turner says he expects to face party discipline for his stance on the David Emerson affair (Emerson was a Liberal who crossed the floor to become a Conservative within days of the Jan. 23 election). During the election campaign, Turner commented that anyone who crosses the floor should step down and run in a byelection. Turner continued to hold that opinion after the Conservative election and Emerson's defection. "I think my talking about the need for members of Parliament, in particular members of government to be elected as party representatives was not viewed as being helpful," Turner says later.

» full story

February 9, 2006

The New Democratic Party says it will introduce proposals for a national child-care act when Parliament resumes in April. The move is a push to have Harper's new Conservative government honour agreements the Liberals signed with the provinces in 2005.

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February 9, 2006

David Emerson, the Liberal who became a Conservative within days of the Jan. 23 election, defends his decision to switched parties, saying he was doing the best thing for his constituents. Meanwhile, Liberals in Emerson's Vancouver Kingsway riding demand Emerson repay almost $97,000 in campaign donations. The Conservatives last won the riding in 1958; the Tory candidate got less than 20 per cent of the vote on Jan. 23, compared with 43.5 per cent for Emerson and 34 per cent for the NDP candidate.

» full story

February 7, 2006

Michael Fortier, the new Conservative cabinet minister who had to be appointed to the Senate because he didn't run in the Jan. 23 election, indicates some lingering doubt about accepting his new job. "I didn't run in the election because I didn't want to run in the election," he tells reporters. "This isn't what my family was looking forward to. Even today, it's not easy."

» full story

February 6, 2006

Prime Minister Stephen Harper marks his first day in office by pledging to move ahead with a Conservative child-care plan that includes a $1,200 a year payment for every child under age six. "On the first of July, we will put in place the new universal payment to families with children under six," Harper tells a news conference. He adds that the current national child-care funding deal with the provinces would be phased out by March 31, 2007.

» full story

February 6, 2006

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty reiterates a key Tory campaign pledge that the new government can make tax cuts and boost spending without going into deficit. The Harper government's first federal budget is expected to include one of the Conservatives' first campaign promises - the cutting of the GST from 7 per cent to 6 per cent and eventually to 5 per cent.

» full story

February 6, 2006

Stephen Harper announces his cabinet, naming 27 members to posts, including himself, down from the 39 that former prime minister Paul Martin named in 2004. The new cabinet includes more MPs from Quebec than expected, and fewer women. There are two major surprises in the new cabinet:

  • Former Liberal cabinet minister David Emerson. He is named international trade minister.
  • Michael Fortier, Harper's national campaign co-chair. Fortier, who is not elected, will serve as minister of public works and government services.

» full story

February 6, 2006

Stephen Harper is sworn in as Canada's 22nd prime minister, 14 days after his party's narrow victory paved the way for the first Conservative government since 1993.

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