Harper speech fires up convention crowd

Canada must use its strength to make sure the country's interests are protected globally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tells 2,300 Conservative Party supporters at the party's first convention since winning a majority government last month.

Harper's speech

12 years ago
Duration 36:54
The PM's address to the Conservative convention in Ottawa, Friday

Canada has a purpose now that the country has a Conservative majority government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday night in a speech to 2,300 party delegates.

Harper painted a dark picture of the world around Canada near the end of his mostly upbeat speech, and said there are forces rising that Canada must resist.

"Power is shifting. New forces are coming to the fore," Harper said.

"Some we will be pleased to work with. Some we must resist. In such a world, strength is not an option; it is a vital necessity. Moral ambiguity, moral equivalence are not options, they are dangerous illusions."

Canada won't just "go along and get along" with everyone else’s agenda, he said.

'We know where our interests lie, and who our friends are.'—Prime Minister Stephen Harper

"Now, we know where our interests lie, and who our friends are."

Canada's purpose "is no longer to please every dictator with a vote at the United Nations," Harper said, adding he never understood why others felt that was in Canada's national interest.

"Our party’s great purpose is nothing less than to prepare our nation to shoulder a bigger load, in a world that will require it of us," he said.

Points of pride

Canada's work in Afghanistan and Haiti has been a point of pride for the Conservatives, who have increased defence budgets and plan to outfit the army, navy and air force with new equipment.

Inside the convention

The Conservative Party convention was held at Ottawa's impressive new convention centre — which contains probably the city's longest escalator (pictured). Kady O'Malley has more tweets and photos from the convention in the recap of our live blog here or below.

Another piece of the party's success has been its ability to appeal to families, particularly through tax cuts and credits that Harper highlighted in his Friday night speech: the $100 a month per child Universal Tax Benefit, kids’ sports and artistic activities credits, and income splitting.

"We promised that a Conservative government would work to strengthen families, not to replace them. And so, we took money from bureaucrats and lobbyists and gave it to the real experts on childcare — and their names are Mom and Dad," Harper said.

The prime minister also reiterated the party's commitment to pass its justice legislation within the first 100 days after the return of Parliament, and to kill the long-gun registry this fall.

And he told the crowd that Quebeckers' affection for the NDP will pass, adding, "As many of us know well, no honeymoon passes as quickly as one with the NDP."

His words were greeted with multiple standing ovations from a crowd clearly pleased with the party's win in an election that trounced the Liberals, often called Canada's natural governing party, and left the New Democrats in place as the Official Opposition, thanks in large part to the election of 58 MPs from Quebec.

Harper spoke in front of a blue curtain background as delegates waved Conservative Party and Canadian flags.

But outside, about 200 to 300 protesters  chanted "Harper, you suck" and "No justice, no peace."

The protesters, who say they're opposed to most of Harper's agenda, snarled traffic in Ottawa as they snaked around the city. They arrived at the convention centre after most delegates were already inside waiting for Harper's arrival.

Celebratory mood

Harper's speech continued the celebratory mood that started Thursday night in the nation's capital with speeches by party stars.

The prime minister's televised and webcast speech began half an hour late Friday night, at around 7:30 p.m. ET, though organizers were hoping it would wrap up in time for Canadians to refocus on hockey. Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals was to begin at  8 p.m. ET.

Harper managed to say his trademark ending line, "God bless Canada," at exactly 8:03 p.m. ET.

In her introduction to Harper, Sen. Pamela Wallin said he was one of the most underestimated leaders in Canadian history, describing Harper as "striding valiantly against a sea of criticism."

Talking about change

The party meets again Saturday to vote on policy changes,  including on a resolution by Conservative MP Scott Reid to give more power to bigger riding associations in choosing party leaders.
Valerie Day (left), wife of former Conservative MP Stockwell Day, shares a laugh with Laureen Harper and Prime Minister Stephen Harper at Thursday's convention kickoff. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who the party publicly credits with building its support among ethnic Canadians, told delegates Thursday night  that the party won its majority because Conservative values are Canadian values.

Recapping the election, Kenney says Canadians of all backgrounds are drawn to the party's small-c conservative values.

"They see in our beliefs and priorities the highest aspirations of Canadians," Kenney said. "We don't think only of our rights; we are mindful always of our responsibilities."

"We don't mistake relativism for tolerance, and we're not afraid to call a barbaric cultural practice what it is," he said.

Former cabinet minister Stockwell Day, who retired this spring, gave the keynote address. He urged the party to be compassionate while remembering its values.

In an apparent surprise to Day, his wife Valerie Day climbed onstage Thursday with a red stop sign reading "We love Harper," a take-off on a protest by now-former Senate page Brigette DePape last week during the speech from the throne.

LIVE BLOG: Conservative convention, Day 2