Economy, not politicking a priority: PM

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make some minor cabinet changes early in the new year, but says he’s not going to call or cause an election.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make some minor cabinet changes early in the new year, but says he’s not going to call or cause an election.

In a year-end interview with CTV News, Harper said he’s concentrating on the economy, not politicking.

“I’m not going to cause an election,” he said. “I’m not going to call an election and we’re not bringing forward some kind of poison pill to provoke an election.”

He said there’s no need for one.

“We are in a fragile global recovery. Canada’s in a very good position for the long term, but we need to stay focused on that and not screw around with a bunch of political games.”

It’s a similar mantra to the one the Conservatives were sounding in the late autumn of 2008, just before the freshly re-elected minority government sprang an economic update laden with poison pills that precipitated a parliamentary crisis.

His remarks come a day after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff conducted a round of year-end interviews in which he said Canadians are ready for an election.

Ignatieff said Canadians want an election sooner, rather than later.

That’s not Harper’s reading: “I think Canadians understand it’s not the time for political games.”

Harper did not do a full round of year-end media interviews, but spoke with outlets favoured by the Prime Minister’s Office. CTV provided two minutes of its interview with the prime minister at Harrington Lake to members of the parliamentary press gallery late Friday afternoon. The prime minister said the cabinet shuffle in January will be a small one.

“I’ve got a couple of outstanding holes to fill from the past year, but by and large I’m happy with my team.”

Government House leader John Baird currently is doubling as Environment minister due to Jim Prentice’s unexpected departure for the business world. There is speculation that Julian Fantino, the former Ontario Provincial Police commissioner who won a byelection last month, will find his way to the cabinet table in the shuffle.

The prime minister said he’s going to concentrate on the economy next year.

“We have to control our spending. The stimulus programs are ending, we’ve wound most of them up as we said we would.

“Going forward, we have to make sure that any spending we do is targeted on the economy and on job creation.”

He said there’s no need for deep cuts, but spending has to be focused.

“It will be a matter of discipline over some time.”

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