Prime Minister Stephen Harper told his Conservative caucus Wednesday that even with the majority mandate won on May 2, they must listen, adapt and keep earning the trust of Canadians.
Harper made the comments as he addressed the national Conservative caucus who were gathered on Parliament Hill for their first meeting since the election.
Harper opened the meeting by introducing all of his new MPs. He called them up to the podium one-by-one, shook hands with them and posed for photos. Conservatives won 166 seats in the recent election, up from 143 when Canadians went to the polls in 2008 and elected them with a minority mandate for the second time.
"These outstanding Canadians now joining our ranks helped us win our third mandate, our strongest mandate, a majority mandate for Canada," Harper said when he had finished the introductions. "I don't really get tired of using that word," he added, referring to "majority."
He said winning a majority government with so many new MPs is a sign the Conservative Party has become a home for Canadians from all regions and backgrounds and that "Conservative values are Canadian values."
"The Conservative Party is Canada's party," Harper said.
The Conservative MPs are gathering on Parliament Hill for their first full meeting together, just a day before Parliament resumes for a new session. They gave Harper a standing ovation as he made his way to the front of the room to make his brief remarks.
Harper said he promised during the campaign that his government would hit the ground running if it received a renewed mandate, and he said that's exactly what it is now doing. The federal budget introduced in March that formed the bulk of the Conservative election platform will be re-introduced Monday.
"Even as a majority government, especially in fact as a majority government, we must keep working to earn the trust of our fellow citizens. We must continue practicing the lessons of the past five years, holding to our principles, but also listening, caring and adapting," Harper told his MPs.
Calls it a privilege
He encouraged MPs, particularly the newly elected ones, to pause and reflect as they begin their work on Parliament Hill. He recalled his first day in the House of Commons, saying it was both humbling and inspiring.
"What a privilege it is for all us members of Parliament to have such a role in building this magnificent country, our Canada," he said.
The brief speech was a historic address for Harper and his party. The Conservative Party was formed in 2003 after the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance, and since coming to power in 2006, Harper had presided over a minority government. The May 2 election gave him his long-sought majority government.
Harper has kept a busy schedule in the last week leading up to Wednesday's caucus meeting and the opening of Parliament Thursday. On Monday, he made a quick trip to Afghanistan after wrapping up a two-day visit to Greece. He went to Greece straight from last week's G8 summit in Deauville, France.
The Conservatives also have a busy week next week. Their budget will be delivered Monday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and on Thursday, Conservatives from across the country will meet in Ottawa for the party's three-day convention.
Flaherty has already said Monday's budget will be almost identical to the one tabled by the Conservatives in March, with only a few changes. It will contain a plan to scrap the per-vote subsidy for political parties, and a compensation deal for Quebec worth more than $2 billion for harmonizing its sales tax with the GST in the 1990s.