PM talks tough in campaign-style return to Ottawa
Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to take a tough position on Ukraine and Islamic State, while protecting the Canadian economy, as he unveiled his government's fall agenda to a crowd of Conservative MPs and party supporters.
Speaking in a flag-draped Ottawa conference hall, the prime minister told the crowd that Canada would not back down in the face of global threats.
"We live in an uncertain world, indeed, a dangerous world," Harper said. "But the measure of good government, the true test of leadership, lies not in achieving success in times of stability and peace but in doing so during times of risk and danger."
As he spoke, Harper, dressed in a sport jacket and open–collared shirt, appeared relaxed as he paced the hall floor, his hands in his pockets. CTV News Channel’s parliamentary reporter Mercedes Stephenson remarked the speech had all the tones of a re-election campaign.
"There was a very interesting feel to this. We don't typically see the prime minister bring Parliament back in the fall in that way, with the huge Canadian flag behind him and a big group of people," she told CTV News Channel.
"It looked like a political pep rally; it sounded like a campaign speech."
In his address, Harper said he would not back down over the crisis in Ukraine, nor recognize the illegal occupation of Crimea, saying Canada would not rest "until the people of Ukraine are free to choose their own destiny."
Canada would also stand with its allies in fighting terrorism in the Middle East and the threat of Islamic State militants, he said.
"Canadians are rightly sickened by their savage slaughter of anyone who doesn’t share their twisted view of the world," Harper said.
"We know their ideology is not the result of 'social exclusion' or other so-called 'root causes.' It is evil, vile and must be unambiguously opposed."
He said Canada would continue to stand by Israel, "through fire and water," because Israel's fight is Canada's fight.
"Israel is the front line," he said. "And anyone among the free and democratic nations that turns their back on Israel, or turns a blind eye to the nature of Israel's enemies does so, in the long run, at their own peril."
The prime minister also promised his government would continue to create jobs and lower taxes and to maintain Canada's economy as "the envy of the world."
Harper's speech came at the start of the fall sitting of Parliament -- likely the last before a federal election is called. That means, for the opposition parties, the pressure is on to try to command headlines, CTV political analyst Scott Reid says.
"They know that in the spring, the Conservatives hold the cards. They'll bring in their big budget, they'll balance the books, they'll cut taxes," he told Canada AM Monday.
Reid suggests political-watchers keep an eye on the NDP and their leader Thomas Mulcair, who is currently third place in opinion polls, behind Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Harper.
NDP vows to 'fight inequalities'
The NDP too appear to be in full election mode, as they begin to release their platform along with a new election slogan: "Change that’s ready."
The party confirmed Monday that it will use its first opposition day of the fall sitting to introduce a motion calling for a minimum federal wage.
The motion would call for all Canadian workers under federal jurisdiction to make no less than $15 per hour, NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice told reporters in Ottawa.
“We will see if the Conservatives and the Liberals are serious about the fact that we all have to fight against inequalities and help Canadian workers and families,” Boulerice said.
The Quebec MP acknowledged that the move is “a symbolic gesture” because it would not apply to all workers across the country.
“It raises the bar,” Boulerice said. “It affects a goal for all Canadians and Quebec societies together that we should push toward a workplace where if you work full time, you are over the poverty line.”
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