Harper Says Canada Must ‘Stay the course’

January 6, 2011 Updated: January 6, 2011

[xtypo_dropcap]P[/xtypo_dropcap]rime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t want an election and is going to “stay the course” and focus on the economy, he said in a minor cabinet shuffle Tuesday.

Peter Kent was the big winner Tuesday, moving from a junior minister at the cabinet table as Minister of State for the Americas to Minister of the Environment, the position Jim Prentice vacated when he left office for a senior role at CIBC in November.

“Peter more than earned this promotion,” said the PM.

Ted Menzies got promoted into cabinet as the Minister of State (Finance) and Diane Ablonczy took Kent’s old job. Recently elected Vaughan MP Julian Fantino took Ablonczy’s old post as Minister of State for Seniors.

But the overall message of the day was that not much had changed and that nothing much should change, including the government of the day.

“This is a time for stability, not for uncertainty, for the reduction of the deficit, not for the expansion of government. In short, for continuing proven approaches that work and have brought us safely thus far, not for economic adventurism,” said Harper.

“This fine tuning of the Ministry will be consistent with our intention to stay the course.”

In the questions from reporters that followed, Harper repeated those last three words over and over again in what appears to be a new mantra for the government: “stay the course.”

The PM said now is not the time for an election and met several questions regarding the potential with variations of his mantra, saying now is the time to govern and focus on the economy.

“And that is exactly what we are going to do.”

If any existing ministers were not planning to run in the next election, Tuesday’s shuffle likely would have shown more movement, although opposition MPs, including Thomas Mulcair, deputy leader of the NDP, suggested those in cabinet may not want to give up the extra pay and car that come with post.

By keeping the shuffle minor, Harper gave the appearance of a stable team ready to keep on working. Whether that is because his team is ready to face an election if called, or because he is ahead in the polls and not expecting an election, the prime minister would not say, joking with reporters that the beauty of it is you can put either interpretation on it.

That said, he wasn’t happy with opposition sabre rattling suggesting an election was possible.
“We don’t like it but we take it seriously.”

Harper is taking some flack for how his cabinet has grown from 11 to 38 ministers. Menzies took questions on that the next day when he announced funding for student work programs. Menzies’ post existed in a form under a previous Liberal government, but is new for the Conservatives.

“We need a good quality team to make sure we stay the course,” said Menzies by way of explanation before deferring the question to his boss.

“You should probably take that up with the prime minister. It was his decision to bring on people that he needed to fill those roles.”

Kent becomes the fifth minister to take the environment post in five years, but he has told reporters he is ready for the job and its challenges.

Coincidentally, Kent was among the first journalists in Canada to report on global warming with an in-depth report on CBC’s The Journal 26 years ago.