Stephen Harper kicked off the last six months of Commons sittings before an expected mid-term shakeup with a rousing speech reminding his sprawling caucus to keep their focus on Canada’s fragile economy.
The Commons returned on January 28 and Wednesday was the Conservative Party’s first full caucus meeting since the sitting resumed.
It’s hardly a new message but one that is designed to help keep the massive and restless Tory caucus in line as the government dedicates the first part of the new year to a remaining suite of budget measures, criminal justice bills and immigration reform.
Last July the prime minister signalled to fellow Tories that he will enact a major shuffle of his cabinet in mid-2013 and prorogue Parliament to usher in a new Throne Speech outlining what will clearly be a new pre-election agenda. The last election was 2011 and the next federal ballot is expected in 2015; in the coming shuffle Mr. Harper wants to promote strong performers, drop weaker ones and build a team that could fight the next campaign.
Until then, Mr. Harper argued Wednesday, MPs need to keep rowing in the same direction.
He made a point of recalling that it was only last week the Conservative government celebrated the seventh anniversary of its election to power in 2006.
“Seven years ago, for the first time, Canadians placed their trust in us,” he told his 160-member-plus caucus.
“And to that trust, we have been faithful.”
But, he warned them, “we cannot afford to be complacent” in 2013.
“Hear me on this, my friends,” the prime minister told fellow MPs. “For you, for me, for all of us – the economy remains job one.”
“This spring, we must continue to be focused – and we will continue to be ever more tightly, on four priorities, that Canadians care about most: their families, the safety of our streets and communities, their pride in being a citizen of this country, the best country in the world,” and Canadians’ financial security.