OTTAWA (CUP) — After narrowly winning the Federal election, Stephen Harper said his government would “get to work on delivering change,” starting on February 6.
On that day, the Governor General will swear in new MPs, read the speech from the throne, and the Cabinet will be named.
Prime Minister Designate Stephen Harper spoke to journalists in the foyer of the House of Commons on Jan. 27, responding to a select few questions.
“There will be difficult situations, minority governments are never easy, but all parties recognize that Canadians have chosen the second minority parliament in less than two years,” said Harper.
“They want us to get to work on delivering change, and we will be ready to lead that change.”
First in French, then following in English, Harper outlined his plan for the next week, and repeated his priorities from his victory speech election night.
Accountability legislation is Harper’s top priority, which will follow the second Gomery report on February 1. Tax reductions, including the GST, and resolving the fiscal imbalance between the Federal and provincial governments are also on the agenda.
For social issues, Harper said he would implement their day care plan, toughen up the criminal justice system, and consult with the provinces to reduce healthcare wait times. Harper also said he would like to call a free vote on same-sex marriage “sooner, rather than later.”
Harper said he will work on issues that are supported by all parties. Although all parties included a dedicated post-secondary education payment to the provinces in their election platforms, education issues did not make Harper’s list of priorities.
In preparation for the speech from the throne, Harper said he would consult with the other party leaders when drafting the speech.
“I’ll be open to hearing as much input as they want to give, but it will ultimately be my decision,” said Harper.
In Paul Martin’s first term, Harper and Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe introduced amendments to the throne speech, which were accepted by the Liberal party.
After speaking with provincial and several world leaders, including U.S. President George Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox, and Governor of the Bank of Canada David Dodge, Harper said he would be meeting this week with the Chief of Defene Staff Rick Hillier, and the head of the RCMP.
Harper said his conversation with George Bush was largely congratulatory, and he did not discuss any serious issues. Harper had been strongly critical of Paul Martin for failing to discuss many issues with the American president, including softwood lumber, mad cow disease, and the situation in Iraq.
Frank McKenna resigned as Canadian ambassador to the U.S. on January 25. Harper said he would replace the diplomat with someone close to the prime minister. In the past, he had been critical of the political nature of the appointment, saying the job should be a non-partisan position.
Harper said it remains to be seen whether his government will recognize the Palestinian election results.
“We support a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine, but for a nation to be truly democratic that nation must renounce any use of terrorism,” said Harper.
Arctic sovereignty was an important issue for Harper, as he specifically responded to U.S. ambassador David Wilkins’ statement that they don’t recognize Canada’s claims to the Arctic.
Harper said that they would be reinforcing Canada’s presence in the North. “The Canadian government will defend our sovereignty,” said Harper. “We have significant plans for national defence and defence of our sovereignty, including artic sovereignty. We believe we have a mandate for those from the Canadian people, not from the U.S. ambassador to Canada.”