The Prime Minister has launched a "listening tour" today and helpfully, we've been sent a transcript of the event. (See below.) As my colleague Jim Travers has pointed out to us, it's interesting to note that the transcript contains only what the PM said, not what he heard. To be fair, no one's actually said who's supposed to do the listening here. So we may be splitting hairs.
I would be curious to hear from anyone who attempts to ask a question along the way during this tour; whether it is possible to simply show up, ask Mr. Harper what's on your mind, without having to go through a rigorous content vetting or pre-embarrassment check before you get to the microphone. Please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org If you do manage to accomplish this feat, you may have a career ahead in the exciting world of parliamentary journalism. Just not under this particular government. (By the way, I did not write the headline on this transcript and I'm assuming that there's one typo, involving the letter t, and not the letter f.)
PRIME MINISTER LAUNCHES ECONOMIC CONSULTAIONS MUDDRUCKERS
November 9, 2010
PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER: Ok. Well, first of all, I want to thank you all for being here. I know that your time is precious. I want to thank Doug Cook of MuddRuckers in particular for hosting us here today. This is the kick-off, chaired by Ted Menzies, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. This is a kick-off to our pre-budget consultations. For the next year, Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty will be heading that across the country. I’ll be doing some of that, Ted’ll be doing some of that, and other ministers and members will be doing that, but we’re kicking it off right here with a group of workers, small business owners, to get a sense of what the national pulse is and what people’s judgement is on economic policy as we go forward.
The economy remains the number one priority for our government. As you know, we’re entering a new phase, though. The stimulus programming that we’ve been undertaking for most of the past two years is largely coming to an end. Going forward, like ordinary hard-working Canadians, governments are going to have to live within their means to control expenses. We’re going to invest in priorities, yes, but only in a way that keeps the budget moving towards balance, and also keeps our taxes down. We want to listen to the wisdom, guidance and common sense of the Canadian people as we move forward, not only as we craft the next budget, but as we look at Canada’s longer term economic action plan.
Just...if I can, ladies and gentlemen, just a comment on where we are. You know, the last two years things have been, frankly, a lot better than some of us thought they would be. If you look back two years ago, the world certainly avoided the depression that a lot of people thought it was going to slip into in 2009. Growth and employment in our country, in Canada has been significantly better than most other advanced economies. Our banks are obviously must stronger, and even after two years of borrowing on the economic stimulus program, our deficit and debt levels are well below other G7 countries. So these are all strengths to build on. But the recovery is fragile. I’m going to hear your views in a few minutes, obviously, but our general views of where we need to go are the following: we need to focus on the recovery, secure the recovery and it will require us to do several things: to restrict the growth of spending severely, to keep the deficit going down rapidly, and as I said before, to fight any notion that we are going to raise taxes as a way of dealing with our economic challenges. I think if we make the right decisions, we will continue to see Canada be well positioned in the global economy, but obviously that does depend on the decision, decisions that Parliament ultimately takes.
So I do want to thank you for being willing to spend some time here with us today and give us your thoughts and your ideas and your own assessment of the economy in your areas of work or your areas of business. Now, as I mentioned, I’m just going to spend a moment. I know I’m in the Winnipeg area here, and I’ve noticed every time I’ve come through here, I see stories about local crime, and I notice there are a couple of stories today. I’m obviously not going to comment on particular stories or particular court cases.
What I do want to say is this: one of the priorities our government has had since we were elected in 2006 is cracking down on violent crime in this country. We have a series of important legislative measures before Parliament, and those measures have been slowed down for some years. One of the important measures, for example, are our proposals to toughen the young offenders act. It is important that we take on the issue of violent and repeat young offenders. That’s one of the things that we believe we have to do. I know that is not consistent with the NDP, Liberal, Bloc Quebecois philosophy, philosophy in the opposition coalition, but it is what Winnipeggers want, Manitobans want, Canadians want, so I just want to use this opportunity to urge Parliament to pass that legislation.
Et je peux brièvement répéter mon message en Français. Juste pour commencer ici aujourd'hui à Winnipeg, nos consultations pré-budgétaires, c’est le commencement de processus d’ici le prochain budget. C’est très important de développer les prochaines étapes de notre plan d’action économique, et je remercie les travailleurs, les propriétaires et les gens d’affaires de nous aider aujourd'hui. Aussi, j’ai mentionné que c’est important. Je suis à Winnipeg, j’ai remarqué des articles sur le crime. Il est important que le Parlement adopte nos mesures contre le crime et surtout nos mesures contre les jeunes contrevenants violents et récidivistes. Cette législation conservatrice est devant la Chambre depuis longtemps, et je demande à la coalition de l’opposition, le NPD, les libéraux et le Bloc québécois de faire adopter ces mesures.
So thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate your time, and appreciate your time, ladies and gentlemen of the business community, for being willing to give us your advice.
UNIDENTIFIED: Ok, thank you everybody.