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Parliament on pause

PM hails accomplishments on eve of protests Add to ...

The economy remains the government's top priority, Stephen Harper says, as there is still danger Canada could be pulled back into recession through no fault of its own.

Addressing his caucus on the eve of his party's fourth anniversary of winning government, the Prime Minister said the "international economy remains fragile."

He argues lots of work lies ahead.

"As you all know, we have been focused almost entirely on the delivery of stimulus measures since Canada was dragged into the global recession a little over a year ago," he said, noting that his government will see the spending plan through to its conclusion, prepare to reduce the deficit when the recession ends and build new jobs for the future.

His address sounded much like an election stump speech as his troops gave him standing ovation after standing ovation.

It is not usual that reporters are allowed into a caucus meeting but for so many reasons today - to show the Tories are at work, despite the prorogation controversy and to celebrate their fourth anniversary - the press was able to cover the Prime Minister's opening remarks.

Before cameras were allowed in, national caucus chairman Guy Lauzon was overheard giving directions to his caucus members, warning them to "be on their best behaviour" and to cover up any sensitive documents so that they don't end up on the "front page of The Globe and Mail."

He also told his caucus colleagues to stand up, clap and show the Prime Minister a "warm welcome" when he entered the room.

Mr. Harper, meanwhile, used his speech to politely gloat.

"They predicted it could not last," he said about the minority government he won in January, 2006. "They gave us 18 months but we survived and persevered … and tomorrow we enter our fifth year of service to Canadians."

He listed a catalogue of achievements for his government, including beefing up the Canadian Forces and "giving them equipment they needed and the respect they deserved."

For that he received a standing ovation, as he noted the investment in the military has resulted in the rapid deployment of humanitarian aid to Haiti.

In addition to marking the Tory election anniversary, tomorrow is expected to see thousands of Canadians - including opposition leaders Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton -take to the streets to express displeasure with Mr. Harper's decision to shut down Parliament.

The House was to have resumed sitting Monday until the Prime Minister's opted last month to prorogue until after the Vancouver Olympics. Liberals and New Democrat plan to report for work anyway, while the Conservative government will host a Haiti reconstruction conference in Montreal as Mr. Harper prepares to travel to the Word Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

(Photos: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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