September 14, 2013 - 9:36 AM
WEST KELOWNA – The Prime Minister steered clear from the pipeline controversy during his speech to a crowd of mostly party faithful at a scenic vineyard in West Kelowna Friday evening, but he did touch on wine and weed.
Caucus members from across the province, including local members of parliament Dan Albas and Ron Cannan, played host to Stephen Harper at the Quail's Gate Estate Winery for a barbeque dinner and party fundraiser. Earlier in the day, the caucus meet for a working lunch, according to pictures tweeted by the PM's office and industry minister James Moore.
While it marked a rare visit for Harper, it wasn't the first time he's enjoyed the Okanagan sun.
“Laureen and I and our family used to vacation here back when I was a private citizen,” he said, also sharing his taste for the Okanagan's homegrown specialties.
“Thanks to Dan Albas' wine bill... I can now take some of the wine back with me to Ottawa,” he said. While Harper doesn't drink, he said some of his friends do.
Harper also called upon the legacy of Sir. John A. Macdonald to make fun of the the B.C. marijuana debate.
He said when the country's first prime minister was a member of Parliament for Victoria in the 19th century, he focused on issues that mattered, like economic growth, not grow-ops, and about a national dream, not a pipe dream.
The comments drew laughter and applause from the crowd of about 600 supporters and invited guests.
During a stop in Kelowna in late July, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced that he supported the legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana.
Pot activist Dana Larsen is trying to use initiative legislation to propose a law that would decriminalize marijuana by preventing police from enforcing simple possession laws.
For the most part, Harper's speech was a pat on the back for the federal Conservatives for acheiving 85 out of 100 pledges made in their 2011 election platform.
“Since the end of the recession the Canadian economy has now created over one million net, new jobs."
Among job creation, infrastructure developments and Canada's privileged status in the global economy, Harper highlighted the government's approach to crime reduction.
“Something else you've trusted us on is the strength of our criminal justice system,” he said.
“To make it tough on violent, repeat offenders and to make our streets and communities safe for law abiding canadians and their families,” he said, citing tougher laws on gang violence, drug trade, firearms offences and laws to better protect children who he calls, "the most vulnerable members of our society."
A new bill coming this fall will see tougher punishments on child predators, Harper said. It will require those convicted of child pornography to serve their sentences consecutively, “one year in prison after another.”
“The era of child predators serving lenient concurrent sentences will be over.”
Harper didn't take any questions from the media.
During the his speech, a faint drumming could be heard from nearby Boucherie Road where some protestors gathered.
Some were there to express their opposition to the coastal seal hunt, while others condemned the government's regulation of genetically modified foods.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013