Canada's next prime minister, Stephen Harper, is a trained economist who united two right-of-center political factions under a Conservative Party banner three years ago.

Born in Toronto in 1959, Mr. Harper began working as a computer analyst for an oil company in western Alberta province when he was 18. He was first elected to Parliament in 1993, but left four years later to head a conservative lobbying group. He was re-elected in 2002, but lost the 2004 elections after Prime Minister Paul Martin painted him as a hard-line, right-wing opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Mr. Harper is a married father of two. He describes himself as a cautious politician who believes "it is better to light one candle than to promise a million lightbulbs." An avid ice hockey fan, he has been writing a book on the history of the sport.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.