OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General Michaelle Jean shook hands Wednesday with the crowd as tens of thousands of Canadians - many dressed in red and white - celebrated Canada Day on Parliament Hill,

Harper told the crowd that "142 years ago today the most peaceful, prosperous and enduring democracy the world has ever known was born. I speak of course of your country, of my country, of our country, Canada."

Harper said it's a day to reflect on the wisdom of the country's ancestors who built the country, and to give thanks to those "who continue to defend our values and our interests here and around the world - the brave men and women in the uniform of the Canadian Forces."

The prime minister noted that Canadians have faced a challenging year but they are resilient. He also put in a plug for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver-Whistler.

Approximately 50,000 people packed the lawn of Parliament Hill to partake in the festivities.

Before he made his way to the microphone, Harper chatted about the weather as he shook hands with flag-waving crowds lining the barricades en route to brief television interviews.

As a throng of revellers decked out in red and white strained to take pictures behind him, Harper told reporters that after the ceremony, he'll be going to his official country retreat at Harrington Lake to spend the rest of the day with his family and friends.

"My wife, the last couple of years, has set up this big tarp and everybody goes rolling down the hill into the lake. It's kind of a water slide we put up there," Harper said.

Asked if there would be footage of him trying it out, the prime minister laughed and said "any pictures of with me going down the tarp will be carefully censored."

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean was greeted by the prime minister, his wife Laureen and their children, Rachel and Ben, as she arrived in an open landau.

She chatted for a few minutes with each and complimented Rachel's pretty summer dress.

"The sun is coming!" the governor general said, raising a fist in triumph as she waved to the crowds who yelled "Happy Canada Day!"

"Thank you!" she shouted back, asking "Where are you from?" to some of the people she passed en route to inspecting the guard.

Meanwhile, in Halifax, 3,000 people turned out in the rain and fog to watch the National Band of Naval Reserve and the International Tattoo choir perform and a flyby by 12 Wing Shearwater.