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The Globe and Mail

Tories won't make radical change with majority, Harper vows

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to reporters in Calgary on May 3, 2011, after securing his first majority government.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Stephen Harper said he's taking a no-surprises approach to majority government rather than contemplating any radical shifts in policy now that he has control of the Commons.

The Conservatives won a solid majority on May 2, winning 167 ridings, which gives Mr. Harper a healthy margin over the required 155 seats needed for a majority.

The Prime Minister said he believes Canadians expect the Tories to hew to the platform they campaigned on - and to continue governing the way they did during a half decade of minority government.

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"We got that mandate because of the way we have governed, because of our record," he said during a press conference in Calgary.

"Canadians expect us to continue to move forward in the same way, to be true to the platform we've run on and be true to the kind of values and policies we've laid out before them," the Prime Minister said.

Opposition parties including the Liberals had warned Mr. Harper would tack to the right upon election and his rivals had tried to spook voters with the warning he's slash health care.

The re-elected Prime Minister, however, said he's not going to spring things on Canadians - shying away from the idea of allowing a bigger tier of private health care to develop in Canada.

"One thing I've learned in this business is that surprises are generally not well received by the public and so we intend to move forward with what Canadians understand about us and I think what they're more and more comfortable with."

On the sensitive issue of health care, Mr. Harper was asked for how long he'd commit to increasing health transfers to the provinces at a rate of 6-per-cent annually.

"We have made that our planning assumptions in our budget, in our platform, going forward," he said.

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The Prime Minister said he wants provinces in return to provide "better and clearer results and outcomes for the dollars we are all spending."

He sounded a conciliatory note however. "This is a discussion that will be collaborative. I am not seeking to wave the fingers at provinces. I know that they have an awesome responsibility in delivering the system; they have a lot of challenges.

The Prime Minister was in a relaxed and jovial mood after this win, joking about how his staff tried to convince him to celebrate last night.

"They pulled me up to the room. ... They made me pop this champagne and then after I'd said a few words they passed me the champagne and wanted me to guzzle it out of the bottle," he recalled.

"As some of you may know, I am not much of a drinker, but I did. However they tricked me. There was only like that much in it," he said, holding up fingers to indicate a small amount.

"So much for my wild side."

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Still, Mr. Harper said, he feels the burden that a majority government implies.

"It feels great but at the same time I am very much aware of the immense challenges that lie before us in the government and the responsibility that this office carries with it."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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