OTTAWA – Stephen Harper is talking up the economy and playing down an election.
The prime minister told a summer caucus of Conservative MPs and senators Thursday that the economy will be the government’s top priority in the months ahead.
In a brief speech before going behind closed doors, Harper said the economy is recovering and “Canadian solutions are leading the way globally.” But he added that the situation remains fragile.
Harper showed no appetite for a fall election, saying Canadians want him to concentrate on the challenges facing the country.
“We know there are some in the opposition coalition again threatening an election. But, colleagues, that is not what Canadians want,” he said to applause.
“Canadians want us to continue to focus on governing and especially, colleagues, they want us to focus on the economy.”
There had been wide speculation in July that Harper, enjoying a big lead in the polls, might call an autumn election. But new polls suggest the Tory lead has evaporated and the government has fallen below 30 per cent popularity and into a statistical tie with the Liberals.
Harper told his caucus the government has accomplished many things since Parliament adjourned in June, including moving ahead with anti-crime measures and the Economic Action Plan. He also cited the G8 and G20 summits, the Queen’s visit, and visits by the leaders of China and India.
The prime minister heads out next week on a cross-country summer tour expected to focus on the economy.