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Harper trumpets a year of being on 'right side' of economic trends

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses his caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 2, 2012.

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper marked the anniversary of his Conservative party's first majority government by telling members of his caucus that Canada must align itself with the economic winners of the world to ensure continuing prosperity.

In a self-congratulatory speech that recited the government successes of the past year, Mr. Harper indirectly addressed the need to build the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline which would carry bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the British Columbia coast for export to markets in Asia.

"The financial and debt crisis of the past few years may not in many countries be a passing phenomenon," said Mr. Harper. "World economic power and wealth are shifting in a way that is historic and we as Canadians must decide that we will be on the right side of that history," he said.

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The latest federal budget "contains provisions of lasting benefit," said Mr. Harper. "It is to sustain a vibrant, growing economy for all Canadians while protecting our environment that we are streamlining our review processes for major economic projects."

The pipeline, which has been targeted for criticism by environmentalists and aboriginal groups, has been a central focus for the Harper government. It would reduce Canada's reliance on the United States as a market for a major natural resource while cementing ties with China, a burgeoning powerhouse.

After a year in which the Conservatives have had their ups and down – passing key elements of their platform while riding out a number of ethical challenges – Mr. Harper said Canadians will judge his government by its economic performance – and will continue to do so in the future.

"Our majority mandate cannot change who were are or how we govern, our values are our values, our commitments to Canadians must be honoured," the Prime Minister said in his 10-minute address.

"But our majority does give us the opportunity to look at the bigger picture and to focus on the longer term," he said. "We therefore use the opportunity to think well beyond today's Question Period, beyond the four-year election cycle."

The Conservative government's economic plan will help "sustain the economy of tomorrow," said Mr. Harper, by helping entrepreneurs, building a faster immigration system and creating new opportunities for employment.

"It is to sustain the welfare and security of future generations that we have placed the two largest items in our government's charge – old age security and health transfers – on a viable basis for a period many decades beyond our own time in office," he said to a loud round of applause from his caucus.

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Anniversaries are pleasant occasions, said Mr. Harper. But they are milestones, he said, that "register not only how far you have come but also how far you have yet to go."

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