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Harper marks five years in power without unveiling future goals

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses before speaking at a rally to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Conservative parties minority government in Ottawa January 23, 2011.

Blair Gable/Reuters/Blair Gable/Reuters

Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn't unveil any new initiatives or goals for his government Sunday when he delivered a celebratory speech to mark five years in power.

He told a crowd of supporters at a hotel in Ottawa that it was time to pause and take stock, to look back with satisfaction and perhaps a little pride at the government's achievements in cracking down on crime, rebuilding the demoralized and neglected armed forces and, in particular, delivering strong, stable economic management during turbulent times.

Now is not the time for Canada to change course, he said.

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"Canada's recovery, Canada's future is not locked down," the Prime Minister said. "What is important now, what is absolutely crucial is that we do not tamper with the policies that are working. We must carry on doing what we are doing."

That means wrapping up stimulus spending and gradually bringing down the deficit, he said. It also means not spending money on new initiatives Canada can't afford and saying "No" to raising taxes.

The government could fall over the next federal budget, expected to be delivered in March. But the Prime Minister's speech was more about the past than the future.

In the past few days, he said he had been thinking about the night five years ago when it became clear the Conservatives were going to form the next government. It was a humbling, even intimidating moment, he said.

"You realize that in some ways the futures of the kids in every Canadian family are partly in your hands."

He thanked his wife, Laureen, and his two children, Ben and Rachel, for everything they have put up with and also thanked his supporters for their dedication and hard work.

"We are not in Ottawa for what we are owed and what we think we can get. If anybody is, they are in the wrong party. For Conservatives it is about public service and public service means private sacrifice."

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Canada is in better shape than it was five years ago, he said. Canadians pay lower taxes and are safer. The Conservatives will continue to be tough on criminals, he stressed. It may cost money to take the "bad guys" out of circulation, he said, but it is worth it.

The military will continue to enjoy strong government support, Mr. Harper said, because it is important that Canadian soldiers be properly equipped to do their jobs.

He also highlighted a number of initiatives the government hasn't given up on.

"We are in this minority government. We haven't been able to pass what we want to pass. But that doesn't mean we have forgotten … there will be an elected senate and we will get rid of that wasteful, ineffective long-gun registry."

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About the Author

Anne McIlroy has been a journalist for more than 25 years. She joined the Globe in 1996, and has been the science reporter as well as the parliamentary bureau chief. She studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. More

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