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The Globe and Mail

Harper visits Governor-General, says he's ready to form government

Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves Rideau Hall after speaking with Governor-General David Johnstonon May 4, 2011.


Stephen Harper said he wanted to get back to the work of governing Canada, and wasted no time Wednesday visiting the Governor-General to announce he was ready to form a government.

But it will likely be a few weeks before Canada's newly minted and returning MPs trudge back to the nation's capital.

First, the Prime Minister has to swear in a new cabinet, and then there's the business of writing a new Throne Speech, the third in just over two years.

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The government is expected to re-introduce the budget it tabled in March that was rejected by the opposition parties with virtually no changes.

It is not yet clear whether Mr. Harper will inject a provision to deny public funding to political parties - a hobby horse of the Prime Minister that he was unable to enact while in a minority - or whether he will merely signal the intention in the Throne Speech.

The government lost four cabinet ministers - three in Quebec - in Monday's election that brought Mr. Harper his first majority government. The biggest loss was Lawrence Cannon at Foreign Affairs, but he will also need a new a Veterans Affairs minister to replace Jean-Pierre Blackburn.

And Mr. Harper has two big holes to fill with the departure of stalwart ministers Stockwell Day at Treasury Board and Chuck Strahl at Transport and Infrastructure.

The Prime Minister still has a competent front bench returning, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Industry Minister Tony Clement, House Leader John Baird, Jason Kenney at immigration, Rob Nicholson at Justice and Peter MacKay at Defence.

Insiders say no decision has been made whether the coming shuffle will see a wholesale make-over or will be largely designed to fill the vacancies.

It is almost certain that Mr. Flaherty will remain at Finance, however, given that his budget is being re-introduced.

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Mr. Harper campaigned throughout on the budget provisions, avoiding any new promises that had not been advocated in the Flaherty blueprint.

He is also expected to introduce a number of tough-on-crime measures bundled into an omnibus bill, including legislation to give citizens greater leeway in protecting themselves against criminals, something Mr. Harper promised in the campaign.

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