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We still have to prove ourselves: Harper 

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:15 p.m., January 23, 2007]

Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

OTTAWA  — Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a Tory rally in Ottawa that one year after the party's election win the Conservatives still have to prove themselves to the Canadian people.  

"(On election night) Canadians said to us, in effect, 'Show us what you can do and prove to us you can deliver.' Friends, we rolled up our sleeves and we can look back and say with pride, we have delivered," the PM told about three hundred supporters at the ballroom of a downtown Ottawa hotel.

After detailing a lengthy list of the government's accomplishments in its first year in power,  the prime minister said there still remains much work to do with the Canadian public. 

"As we enter our second year in office, Canadians are still saying, 'Show us what you can do.'"

After strong polling numbers in the first months following last year's election victory, the Conservatives now find themselves trailing or being neck-and-neck with the Liberals in virtually all polls. 

A Decima poll released last week showed the Tories trailed the Liberals in all provinces with the exception of the Tory stronghold of Alberta. 

Harper used the rally to bolster the troops in attendance, who were primarily Tory Hill staffers, and to give the media counter programming to the Liberal caucus retreat being held in Quebec City. 

Parliament returns from a lengthy six-week winter recess on Monday. 

It will mark the first time the Tories will face a more organized Liberal caucus after Liberal Leader Stephane Dion revealed the make up of his shadow cabinet last week. 

The opposition parties and pundits are predicting that the environment, especially climate change, will dominate the agenda when MPs return. 

However, the environment was just one item in the list of legislative priorities that PM outlined in his speech on Tuesday. 

The PM said the government will press ahead with three bills aimed at Democratic reform by creating fixed election dates, setting term limits for the Senate and holding elections to fill Senate vacancies. 

And despite recently trying to work more collaboratively with the opposition parties on the environment, the PM signalled that he will continue to press ahead with policies where the three opposition parties have major differences of opinion with the government. 

The PM said the government is "going to continue to keep pushing for passage of our crime bills." 

There are still nine crime bills working their way through Parliament, primarily because of problems opposition parties have with some measures. 

In addition, Harper said he will continue along the foreign policy path that has won him both praise and criticism for taking sides in the Mideast. The PM strongly supported Israel's actions in its war against Hezbollah in the summer and made Canada become the first country in the world to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority after elections gave power to Hamas. 

"Canadians want us to continue speaking plainly and acting decisively," he said, promising he will "continue promoting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law not just as our heritage but as the common destiny of all the peoples of this planet." 

The PM also offered a preview of the upcoming budget -- reportedly to be introduced in late March -- saying it will keep federal spending focused on results "reduce taxes even further for families and individuals" and address the fiscal imbalance.

While Harper was rallying his troops in Ottawa, Dion was doing the same at a Liberal caucus retreat in Quebec City. 

Dion issued a blistering attack on the PM, accusing him of lacking conviction. 

According to Dion, the government's recent increased interest in tackling climate change is motivated by politics, not principle. 

"Canadians will not be fooled," Dion said.

"They will know that there is something Mr. Harper cannot copy. It is the conviction, this conviction that we have as Liberals."

:  Related Links

> One year later, Harper majority not in sight

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