Canada's Harper pledges to seek fourth term

Thu Dec 19, 2013 5:36pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday brushed aside any suggestion he might step down in the next couple of years, saying he would seek a fourth term in the 2015 general election.

"It is interesting to read in the papers one day that I plan to retire, and the next day to read that I intend to trigger elections immediately," he said in a television interview with the French-language TVA Nouvelles.

"The reality is there are elections on a fixed date in 2015. I intend to lead my party (into the next election), which is the only party which has serious policy on the number one priority of the population, which is the economy."

Only four of Canada's 22 prime ministers, including Pierre Trudeau, father of current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, have won more than three mandates.

The speculation of Harper's possible departure has mounted at the end a difficult year for him and his Conservative government.

It has been marked by criminal allegations extending into his office over a Senate expense scandal, and the Conservatives are polling at their lowest level since taking power in 2006, well behind the newly resurgent Liberals under Trudeau.

Harper has denied any knowledge of what police say was corruption by his then-chief of staff, who provided money from his personal funds to a Conservative senator to help pay back expenses determined to be inappropriate. The former chief of staff denies any wrongdoing.

But the affair has tarnished the reputation of Harper, who came to power pledging accountability and avoiding even the appearance of evil after Liberal wrongdoing. The Senate expense scandal overshadowed his government's biggest accomplishment of the year, a major trade deal with the European Union.

Asked if he would use the Christmas holidays to reflect on his political future, Harper said flatly, "No."   Continued...

 
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie