By RON FANFAIR
The national economy has flourished in the past 12 months, the best of the four-and-a-half years since Canadians elected a Tory minority government in January 2006, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Tories were re-elected in October 2008 after Harper called an early election in hopes of securing a majority. However, the party again fell short of the 155 seats it needed to govern on its own.
Speaking to party supporters while on a one-day visit to the Greater Toronto Area last week, Harper pointed to this country’s overwhelming success in this year’s Vancouver Winter Olympics, Canada’s hosting of the G-8 and G-20 summits and the signing of new business initiatives with both India and China to increase two-way flows of investment.
“From child and maternal health to fiscal consolidation and deficit reduction to financial sector reform, we made real progress with…Canadian solutions leading the way for the world,” he said. “This is all very different from this time last year when all the headlines were about the global economic freefall and no one seemed to know when it was going to end.
“Of course, as it turned out, Canada was already beginning to turn the corner, thanks to your strong Conservative team. I think if there is one thing all of us should be most proud of is our success in steering this country through the worst global crisis since the Second World War…Our economy has regained almost all of the jobs lost during the recession. We are virtually the only advanced country in the world even to be close to that…We will go on to balance our budget years before anybody else.”
Harper, however, warned Canadians not to become complacent because the global economy remains fragile.
He also said he supports legislation to provide the fastest growing provinces, including Ontario, with more seats in the House of Commons and an elected Senate.
“The Senate has to be reformed,” Harper said. “It must have limited terms of office. Forty five years are just too long… My commitment is clear. If any province holds a democratic election to pick a senator to fill a vacancy, I will appoint the winner of that election.”
Currently, senators must be at least 30 years old and can hold their seats until they reach age 75, thus allowing for the possibility of 45-year terms.
With two elections in the last 56 months, Harper said his government is not seeking another election in the near future.
“Canadians don’t want an election either,” he said. “People want us to focus on the number one priority and that’s the economy of the country and that’s what the Conservative government is doing. When an election does come, Canadians will have a pretty clear choice. It will be a choice between a coalition government or it will be a stable, Conservative majority government in this country.”
Former ambassador to Afghanistan and new Tory candidate in Ajax-Pickering Chris Alexander, 41, introduced Harper. Alexander showed up at the event with Toronto-born National Basketball Association (NBA) player Jamaal Magloire who lives in the riding.
A career diplomat, Alexander is a graduate of both McGill and Oxford universities.
Ajax-Pickering was a solid Tory riding from 1952-1968 and also in the 1980s. In the last election, 36-year-old Liberal Mark Holland defeated Conservative party candidate Rick Johnson by 3,204 votes.