Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in fine form, Friday evening, in his 'hometown' of Calgary — the host city of the Conservative Party's biennial convention.
In front of a crowd of approximately 3,000 Conservative Party members, MPs, observers and media, Harper gave a barn-burner of a speech meant to re-energize the Tory 'base' in the midst of an ongoing Senate expense scandal that has marred the Harper brand.
The prime minister used much of his allotted 30 minutes of time to talk about his government's past accomplishments. He spoke about cutting personal taxes; he boasted about leading the G-7 in job creation, in battling debts and deficits and in political stability; and he listed successes with regard to public safety.
He went on to restate agenda items outlined in last month's Speech from the Throne highlighting the Canada-EU free trade deal.
He also took shots — a lot of shots — at the opposition NDP and Liberals, chiding them of voting against popular government measures.
Would the NDP have ever made a trade deal with Europe?
The NDP can’t even figure out whether it supports free trade with the United States.
And Justin Trudeau? Could Justin Trudeau run the economy?
In 2015, friends, we’re not choosing the winner of Canadian Idol, we’re choosing someone to lead our economy. The only trade policy Justin Trudeau’s been working on is the marijuana trade!
Aside from the Trudeau/Canadian Idol comment, party delegates cheered loudest when Harper spoke about the Senate. While he didn't say anything new, he did address the big elephant in the convention room.
This is the only party that has tried to reform the Senate.
We were blocked by the other parties in the minority parliaments and now we are being blocked in the courts.
So, friends, it is time for the Senate to show it can reform itself.
Something the vast majority of Conservative senators want to do. Friends, they have begun by demanding greater transparency in senate expenses and what that has shown is that there are a few senators who have collected inappropriate expense reimbursements to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This was done knowingly, or without regard to the rules, over a long period. These senators have shown little or no remorse for these actions.
In private life, you would be fired for doing anything resembling this. And Liberal senators continue to block action.
The Senate should do the right thing, now, and suspend those Senators without pay!
Our opponents...immediately accuse us of being unfair, nasty and ruthless, and they then portray the offenders as victims or, even, martyrs.
Friends, in terms of such opponents, I couldn’t care less what they say, We will do the right thing!
The speech was an important one for Stephen Harper.
A new poll by Nanos Research suggests that "Canadians are more likely to now judge Stephen Harper's performance based on his management of the Senate controversy as opposed to his management of the economy."
And their judgement is soured.
In an email release sent to media, the pollster claims that only 21 per cent of Canadians are satisfied with the prime minister's explanation of his knowledge of the $90,000 cheque written by Nigel Wright to Mike Duffy.
Conservative delegates gathered in Calgary are also increasingly weary.
While it might be premature to suggest that there is a movement afoot to oust Stephen Harper, there is certainly some aggravation on the convention floor.
"A couple of weeks ago, I would have told you that Harper was good for another 15 years, but now, not so much," Hamilton-area delegate John Mykytyshyn told theToronto Star's Tim Harper.
"Maybe he takes a walk in the sand six months from now. Things are heading in the wrong direction for us."
Harper's hoping that, with his speech on Friday, he'll change the minds of the Mykytyshyn's of the Conservative party.
He obviously didn't change the minds of members of the opposition parties who were in attendance at the convention as 'observers.'
"I think it was a very disappointing speech for most Canadians," Liberal MP Joyce Murray told Yahoo Canada News.
"The prime minister is out of touch with what people were looking for. They wanted to see him take some personal responsibility for [the Senate scandal] in his office and for his changing story.
"I think it was completely out of touch to be talking about how great the economy is doing when personal debt is growing faster than anytime since the great depression. So he has not addressed what people are wanting to hear him talk about."
Karl Bélanger — NDP leader Thomas Mulcair's principal secretary — echoed Murray's comments.
"I think the prime minister missed a golden opportunity to show some contrition," he told Yahoo.
"After all, he nominated the Senators, he hired the staff that ran the cover-up and he paid the lawyers that cooked up the background deals. Where is the responsibility? Where is the leadership.
"I think Canadians were expecting the prime minister to have heard them. To be listening to what they're saying to him. And he's not doing that."
The conference concludes on Saturday.
(Photo courtesy of Conservative.ca)
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