Harper ready 'to hit the ground running'

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says his party plans to get straight to work if sent back to Ottawa next Monday with a majority in Parliament.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says his party plans to get straight to work if sent back to Ottawa next Monday with a majority in Parliament.

"Should Canadians honour us with re-election next Monday, the business of government will continue Tuesday," Harper told supporters during a campaign stop in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Monday. "We will be able to hit the ground running."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Laureen Harper pass a DHC-3 Otter as they're given a tour of an air museum in Sault Ste Marie, Ont., Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Sounding confident as the sands of public opinion appear to shift beneath his rivals in the final week of the campaign, Harper repeated his party's four priorities: jobs and maintaining economic growth, support for senior citizens, continued six-per-cent annual increases for health care and bundling crime-reduction bills into one.

Recent polls have suggested rising support for the New Democratic Party at the expense of the Liberals in British Columbia and the Bloc Québécois in Quebec.

At a rally later in the day in Windsor, Ont., Harper took aim at Layton's gains, saying the NDP leader and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff feel they "can work with each other and replace us, even if they lose the election."

"Of course, it's not quite as obvious of who's supposed to be working for whom as it was a week ago," quipped Harper, who then presented the option of a "stable majority" Conservative government that he said would keep taxes low for families and bring in more "real, practical benefits" to help them make ends meet.

No decision on more foreign telecom ownership

Harper also said he would consult widely when appointing new justices to the Supreme Court of Canada. He also insisted a re-elected Conservative government would not require a constitutional change to enact its long-sought changes to the Senate, such as having senators elected to the Red Chamber with term limits.

"I think these are good, logical changes, and as I say, we will work within the constitution," he told reporters.

Asked about the Tories' plans for allowing greater foreign ownership of companies in Canada's telecommunications sector, Harper offered no specifics on the extent to which that might change in the event of a Conservative majority.

"We’re guided by two things: first of all to ensure whatever changes we make, they are oriented toward providing more choice and options and competition and competitive prices for consumers," he said. "And also that we do not lose a strong telecommunications sector here in this country. So we are proceeding very cautiously."

The Conservative government has previously shown strong signs of wanting to open up the sector to more competition.

It overruled the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last year to allow Globalive Wireless Management, an Egyptian-controlled company, to hold a licence to provide wireless phone service, competing with Rogers, Telus, and Bell Canada.

Harper also batted down a suggestion that his party needs to change the tone of Parliament or its use of attack ads to keep up the pressure on the Liberal and NDP opposition.

"Politics is a lot of give and take," he said, "and we're in a vigorous campaign."