Not any more

Harper promises not to ‘cause’ an election

In Canada on December 18, 2010 at 10:59

Harper promises not to ‘cause’ an election

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 23, 2010.

Chris Wattie/Reuters

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 23, 2010.

Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News · Friday, Dec. 17, 2010

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has categorically denied he plans to call — or provoke — an early election.

Mr. Harper made the pledge in a taped interview with CTV News, to be broadcast on Christmas Day.

A brief clip released by the network Friday showed Harper being pressed on speculation that Canadians could be going to the polls early in 2011.

Mr. Harper insisted that if this happens, it will be because the opposition parties defeat the government in the House of Commons, thereby sparking a campaign.

“I’m not going to cause an election,” Mr. Harper said

“I’m not going to call an election. And we’re not bringing forward some kind of poison pill to provoke an election. We are committed to governing. We don’t need an election. We’re in a fragile global recovery. Canada is in a very good position for the long term but we need to stay focused on that and not screw around with a bunch of political games.”

The prime minister’s comments offer the clearest sign yet that he does not intend to take advantage of his party’s increasing popularity by plunging Canadians into a spring campaign. A recent poll by Ipsos Reid found that Harper’s Tories have opened up a 10-point lead over their nearest rivals, with 39% of Canadians saying they would vote for the Conservatives and 29% saying they would support Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals.

In media interviews this week as the House of Commons adjourned for a six-week break, Ignatieff was coy about whether he would try with other opposition parties to defeat the government over the budget, but stressed that his party is ready for an election in 2011.

In the interview with CTV, Mr. Harper insisted it’s the opposition parties that need to be asked about the possibility of an election next year.

“They’re the guys who keep threatening it,” said Mr. Harper.

“I think Canadians understand it’s not the time for political games. We’re focused on the economy. It’s a very challenging situation globally. We’re doing relatively well but we could throw that away with the wrong decisions.”

Mr. Harper also flatly dismissed recent speculation that the government plans to prorogue Parliament instead of returning as scheduled on Jan 31. He said his government has a “forward-looking agenda,” and he confirmed that he will shuffle his cabinet in early January.

But he said he only has a “couple of outstanding holes to fill”(created in part, by the resignation of former Environment Minister Jim Prentice) and that the shuffle will not be extensive.

“By and large, I am happy with my team. They work hard, they know their files, they work with integrity and so they will be leading us forward.”

Mr. Harper said his government will table a budget which is focused on the economy, job creation, and the gradual elimination of the deficit. He said that while Canada is in the red, its deficit levels are only a fraction of those in other countries.

He promised that his government will not reduce the deficit through “deep, slash and burn” cuts, particularly in areas such as health and education.

“But obviously we’ve got to make sure our spending is in priority areas and it’s not growing. And if we do that in the next few years, we should see enough economic growth to close that deficit gap. That’s what we need to do in Canada. It’s not a matter of dramatic, draconian cuts but it will be a matter of discipline over some period of time.”

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