Not any more

Harper emerges briefly to rally Conservative troops

In Canada on August 5, 2010 at 15:57

Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets members of the Conservative caucus during its summer meeting in Ottawa on Aug. 5, 2010.

Thursday, August 5, 2010 2:25 PM

Harper emerges briefly to rally Conservative troops

Jane Taber

After nearly a month out of the public eye, Stephen Harper emerged Thursday afternoon to dismiss rumours of a fall election and to stress his focus on the economy in an address to his Conservative team.

Wearing his glasses, a navy blazer and blue dress shirt without a tie, Mr. Harper appeared to have stayed out of the sun during his three-week break. There was some speculation he and his family were spending their holidays at Harrington Lake, the Prime Minister’s official summer residence in Quebec’s Gatineau Park.

“We know there are some in the opposition coalition again threatening an election but, colleagues, that is not what Canadians want,” Mr. Harper said at the opening of his party’s summer caucus session.

Tory MPs and Senators applauded.

He said Canadians want his government to continue to govern and that is what he plans to do, focusing especially on the economy.

There was more applause.

Mr. Harper also seemed to suggest more strongly than ever that Canada is out of the recession. Usually, he is careful to caution that the economic recovery is still fragile.

“Canada came out of this recession in a strong position and whether (it’s) financial regulation or economic renewal or reducing the deficit, Canadian solutions open the door to the global economy,” Mr. Harper said in French.

He was met with yet more enthusiastic applause from his caucus.

Later, in English, the Prime Minister repeated that Canada is “emerging” from the recession in a strong global position.

After the speech, however, his spokesman Andrew MacDougall cautioned that “our growth figures from the past few quarters show us having pulled us out of recession, but the recovery is still fragile.”

Mr. Harper has come under fire from the opposition for not addressing the controversial issues of late, including his government’s decision to scrap the compulsory long-form census. Not surprisingly, he made no mention of it in his short remarks. Nor did he mention the kerfuffle over Treasury Board President Stockwell Day’s recent statement about how unreported crime in Canada justifies spending billions of dollars on new prisons.

Instead, Mr. Harper said his government passed a number of initiatives in the spring, including “important legislation to tackle crime,” such as making violent criminals ineligible for pardons.

He was referring to the bill that was passed just before the House rose for the summer, aimed, in part, at denying Karla Homolka a pardon. Ms. Homolka, who served a prison term for her role in the rape and murder of teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, was eligible to apply for a pardon last month.

Finally, the Prime Minister bragged about the successes of the G8 and G20 summits, plus visits by the Queen and the leaders of India and Chinese.

Mr. Harper also noted the announcement of a new governor-general, David Johnston.

Journalists were invited in to the caucus room to hear the remarks and then quickly shooed out after the Prime Minister finished speaking. He is not scheduled to meet with the press today and has not answered reporter questions since July 6. It is not clear when he will.

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