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Summit preparations

PM stresses need for 'not controversial' <br/>maternal-health solutions Add to ...

Stephen Harper again dismissed the idea of access to safe abortion as part of his G8 maternal health initiative, telling a group of young Canadians today there are other "not controversial" procedures that can help women and children in developing countries.

Oh, and he took a swipe at the national media's political coverage, calling any reporting on subjects other than the economy a "sideshow" (Helena Guergis? Secret Afghan detainee documents?). He said, too, that he would not have been able to jam with Canadian icon Bryan Adams if he was not Prime Minister.

Mr. Harper was participating in a question-and-answer session with 120 members of the G8/G20 National Youth Caucus, who are on Parliament Hill today in advance of their participation in and preparations for parallel youth G8 and G20 summits. They coincide with the global leaders' gatherings in Muskoka and Toronto next month.

To add to the theatre - and message control - Senator Mike Duffy acted as the moderator. As he has in the past, the former CTV broadcaster fielded the questions and providing some of his own for the Prime Minister.

Mr. Harper, meanwhile, listed off clean drinking water and some vague pre- and post-birth interventions that can help mothers and their babies when asked about his G8 maternal health plan. "There are things that can be done, not controversial things, things that are not expensive. They can make a real significant difference in the lives of people around the world."

Not only was Mr. Harper asked about the best part of his job - that was the Bryan Adams answer and the fact he gets to travel around Canada and meet so many different people. But the economy, the recession and the recovery was on the minds of most of the young Canadians in attendance.

And that's what the Prime Minister said he and his cabinet are focused on, too. "Given the shock we had to the global financial system, given still the struggling situation in many financial sectors around the world … we just can't afford to take our eye off the ball," he said.

"Our number one focus, week in and week out, remains the economy. When we sit down as a caucus or when sit down in cabinet that's 80 per cent of our discussion. Everything else that often gets so much attention from your former media colleagues, Mike, these are sideshows. The economy is what matters."

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