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Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers a speech to members of his caucus and supporters in Ottawa September 15, 2014.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Stephen Harper marked the return of Parliament with an election-style rally for Conservative MPs and partisan supporters, a signal the campaign to win the Prime Minister's Office in 2015 has begun in earnest.

He sold himself as a good economic steward and a stronger, more forceful player on the world stage than rival Justin Trudeau, making fun of past comments by the Liberal Leader.

Mr. Harper took the stage at the Ottawa Convention Centre for his annual address to caucus, a statement normally delivered in Parliament's Centre Block. The Conservatives, apparently flush with cash from fundraising, rented the space to serve as this year's venue.

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The Conservative Leader is once again making his stewardship of the economy a central selling point in his re-election campaign, stressing how the Tories have presided over a strengthening job market in recent years and are poised to balance Ottawa's books after years of deficits.

To reinforce the message the party played Bachman-Turner Overdrive's song "Takin' Care of Business" before and after Mr. Harper's address.

"The result is that today, we have emerged from the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression," Mr. Harper said.

"Even as other countries have stagnated, or worse, Canada has created nearly 1.1 million jobs – and they are overwhelmingly private sector, full-time, high-paying jobs."

Mr. Harper promised personal tax cuts for Canadians in the months ahead.

The Tory Leader touted his foreign policy record, including his outspoken stand against Vladimir Putin and the Conservative government efforts to help fight the Islamic State militants wreaking havoc in Iraq. The Tories have dispatched jet fighters, a military vessel and soldiers to Europe and are sending about 70 special forces troops to advise Kurdish forces in Iraq battling the Islamic State.

Mr. Harper tried to draw a contrast with Mr. Trudeau, whom he implied was weak on foreign policy. Mr. Harper didn't name his Liberal rival but jeered at comments Mr. Trudeau has made in the past – statements he suggested to his Conservative audience were naïve and weak.

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"Canadians are rightly sickened by [Islamic State's] savage slaughter of anyone who doesn't share their twisted view of the world," the Prime Minister said.

"We know their ideology is not the result of social exclusion or other so-called root causes," he said, repeating phrases used by Mr. Trudeau in the past including the Liberal Leader's comments on what led to the Boston Marathon bombing.

"It is evil, vile and must be unambiguously opposed," Mr. Harper said of the Islamic State.

Mr. Harper is into his ninth year as prime minister now and the Tories face the risk that voter fatigue with the Conservative Leader will spell his downfall.

Just last week his term in office surpassed Louis St. Laurent's and in a matter of months Mr. Harper's tenure at 24 Sussex will also exceed Brian Mulroney's.

Mr. Harper's pitch to voters is a variation of the appeal he used in the 2011 and 2008 elections: that only he can be trusted to steer Canada through uncertain times.

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Referring to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Harper said "We've been reminded this past summer in so many ways that we live in an uncertain world, indeed, a dangerous world" in 2014.

"The measure of good government, the true test of leadership lies not in achieving success in times of stability and peace, but in doing so during times of risk and danger."

Reinforcing recent party advertising that Canada is "better off with Harper," the Conservative Leader argued against the need for change.

Instead, he said, Canada needs more of his populist agenda, from tough-on-crime measures to interventions in the market that benefit consumers, "to keep this country moving forward in the right direction."

He lauded the government's success in signing free trade agreements with the European Union and South Korea and said the Tories need to remain in power because only they can be trusted to manage Ottawa's finances properly after years of restraint.

"A balanced budget will allow us to continue delivering lower taxes for Canadians, as [Finance Minister Joe] Oliver did on Employment Insurance premiums for small business," Mr. Harper said.

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He vowed tax cuts for Canadians and their families.

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