Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed fall election rumours and trumpeted his government's economic track record during a caucus speech on Thursday.

The meeting marked Harper's first public appearance in nearly a month. It comes as new polls suggest that his Conservative government is slipping in popularity amid a widening controversy over their decision to ditch the mandatory long-form census.

Wearing glasses and an open-collared shirt, Harper also took the opportunity to volley a shot at his Liberal rival Michael Ignatieff, who has spent the summer touring the country on a bus tour.

"We know there are some in the opposition coalition again threatening an election, but colleagues, that is not what Canadians want," he said.

"Canadians want us to continue to focus on governing and especially, colleagues, they want us to focus on the economy."

With strong applause from the assembled MPs and senators, Harper said that the economy remains his main focus, as the economic recovery appears to be in a state of flux.

"Canadian solutions are leading the way globally," said Harper, likely referring to the growing clout of Canadian banks, which have managed to dodge much of the disarray plaguing the financial sector for the past two years.

Some pundits had speculated that Harper, who was enjoying a hefty lead in the polls a few months ago, might coast through the summer and then drop a snap election in the fall in a bid to secure an elusive majority government.

But it appears that Harper's fortunes have dipped recently, given the furor surrounding the government's decision to get rid of the mandatory long-form census.

While Industry Minister Tony Clement has mounted a public relations campaign to defend the census decision, his efforts have been swamped by media attention focusing on the form's importance in gleaning reliable demographic data.

The Conservatives and the Liberals are currently locked in a virtual tie, with both parties floating around the 30 per cent mark, according to a recent Ekos poll.

Though Harper has apparently been away from the public for much of the summer so far, he will launch his own cross-Canada tour later this month. It's expected that Harper will focus on the economy during the tour.

With a report from The Canadian Press