Death penalty not on agenda: PM

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has no intention of attempting to change the current law regarding capital punishment, despite his personal belief that the death penalty is sometimes "appropriate."

Harper tells CBC's Mansbridge no radical changes if he wins majority

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has no intention of attempting to change the current law regarding capital punishment, despite his personal belief that the death penalty is sometimes "appropriate."

In the second part of an exclusive interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge, Harper was asked about changes he would make if he had a majority government.

When asked about reopening the death penalty issue, Harper said that he doesn't "see the country wanting to do that."

"I personally think there are times where capital punishment is appropriate," Harper said, but added that he has "no plans to bring that issue forward."


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Asked about abortion, the prime minister said he has spent his political career "trying to stay away" from the issue.

"Many people I know are pro-life," he said. "What I say to people, 'If you want to diminish the number of abortions, you’ve got to change hearts and not laws.' And I’m not interested in having a debate over abortion law."

But Harper did say the Conservatives would abolish the federal long-gun registry if given a majority in Parliament.

Asked by Mansbridge what his "gut feeling" was on whether there will be a federal election in 2011, the prime minister insisted the Conservatives would be ready if the opposition parties trigger one.

"My gut tells me I don't know," Harper said. "It's 50/50. We take the threats from the opposition very seriously. I don't think it's in the country's interest, I don't think it makes any sense to have one right now, but if we're forced into one, we'll be ready."

Needs opposition support

While none of Harper's opposition rivals say they want to force a spring vote, it is uncertain whether his minority government will secure the support of at least one of the three opposition parties to pass the upcoming federal budget.

When pressed by Mansbridge about his earlier pledge not to name senators, Harper said he only made appointments to help pass his party's Senate reform plans, which he said would include term limits and allow Canadians some say in who represents them in the Red Chamber. 

But Harper insisted he is committed to making only "incremental changes" to the Senate that won't "provoke large constitutional negotiations because the public doesn’t want to get into that."

Despite concerns over the often rancorous tone in the House of Commons, Harper said, things have improved  in recent months.

"I thought Parliament was actually, in the fall, pretty productive, pretty well behaved, for the most part," he said. 

"Do I like everything that’s said to me in question period each day? No, but that’s part of being prime minister."