Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told his party's annual summer caucus meeting that Canadian solutions are "leading the way globally" on financial regulation, economic stimulus and deficit reduction.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses the Conservative caucus in Ottawa on Thursday.

The prime minister made a brief speech to caucus members on Thursday, touting the Conservative government's recent achievements — including hosting the G8 and G20 summits in June and successful visits by the Queen, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In his first public comments in a month, Harper also hailed the government's prevention of a global bank tax proposal at the G20 meeting, as well as getting G20 leaders to commit to reduce deficits in half within the next three years.

Harper said Canadians want the government to focus on the economy, and in a dig at rival parties, he suggested the "opposition coalition" was again threatening an election campaign. 

"Colleagues, that is not what Canadians want," he said.

The prime minister made no mention of the furor over his government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census next year, and did not take questions from the assembled media after his speech.

Day defends crime rate comments

Harper also did not address comments by Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, who claimed earlier this week the number of unreported crimes committed against Canadians is going up at an "alarming rate" — despite Statistics Canada reporting the volume and severity of crime reported to police across the country dropped again last year.

Day, who spoke to reporters earlier in the day, did not back down from his earlier assertion, saying the increase in unreported crimes was "clearly reported" by Statistics Canada.

"When it’s in the thousands, that to me is serious," he said. "It may not be to some people, but it’s serious to me."

It comes as a new poll by Ekos research suggests the Conservatives' support over Michael Ignatieff's Liberals appears to have dried up, with both parties virtually tied at the same level of support.

The move to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary survey has drawn condemnation from opposition parties, statisticians, public policy organizations, religious groups, as well as some provinces and municipalities.

Critics argue the data collected from a mandatory form is crucial to their decision-making, but the government has insisted Canadians should not be coerced under threat of jail or fines to answer "intrusive" questions to representatives of the state.

Both the short-form survey and the long-form agricultural survey will remain mandatory for the next census in spring 2011.