Tories, Grits tussle over economic plans
Harper puts on brave face in wake of U.S. financial crisis
As North Americans tried to figure out what impact free-falling international financial markets would have on their bottom line, Stephen Harper told a group of Canadians, already hammered by the slumping economy, that Liberal Leader Stephane Dion’s carbon tax will do more damage.
“A re-elected Conservative government will make prudent investments to help the Southwestern Ontario economy grow,” the prime minister said at a rally in London, Ont, on Monday night.
Harper, however, did not say what sort of investments he might make.
In Halifax, Dion aggressively defended his Green Shift carbon tax in an evening ATV interview.
He said the plan would cost Canadians about $1 a day in price increases on products, but would return thousands of dollars in income tax cuts.
“The tax cuts are significant,” he said.
Earlier, leaders on the campaign trail for the Oct. 14 vote worked to use Monday’s market meltdown — sparked by Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc.’s move to seek bankruptcy protection and Merrill Lynch & Co.’s sale to Bank of America Corp. — to their own advantage.
Harper called for a “sober analysis,” but stressed the economic fundamentals here are sound and the finances of the average Canadian household are not at risk.
“There are and will be difficulties in the world economy,” Harper said. “At the same time, Canada is not in the same situation as the United States. Our household sector, our government sector, and our financial institutions have solid economic fundamentals. The Canadian economy’s fundamentals are solid.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange closed the day at 12,254 points — down 515 points.
In St. John’s, N.L., on Monday morning, Dion said Harper’s high-spending policies and “bad choices” have hurt the country.
“We have the worst economy in the G8, our labour productivity has fallen for nine months straight and over the summer in July we saw the largest single month of jobs losses in 17 years,” said Dion.
The Green party referred to Harper’s “dangerous economic policies.”
Leader Elizabeth May said: “Mr. Harper’s fiscal policies have already severely undermined the strength and resilience of Canada’s economic fundamentals.
“In the short time since Mr. Harper took office, productivity is down, Canada has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, and Canada has been brought to the brink of a deficit for the first time in over a decade,” said May, who will embark on a whistle-stop train tour of Canada on Sept. 21 in Vancouver.
New Democrat Leader Jack Layton joined the economic chorus, saying Canada needs to introduce new provisions to give investors more power to hold company administrations to account for their actions.
“There are some reforms that we could be and should be looking at here in Canada that could help protect investors,” said Layton, who spent the day campaigning in Nova Scotia.
Also on the campaign Monday, the Tories announced they would extend parental leave benefits to self-employed workers in Canada, the Liberals were offering relief to fishermen and the NDP was promising to increase the number of doctors and nurses in the country.
The Conservatives estimate their benefits program will pay out about $147 million a year. The plan would be funded completely by premiums paid into the program, the Conservatives said. About 2.6 million Canadians are self-employed, about one-third of whom are female.
“Self-employed Canadians shouldn’t have to choose between starting a family and a business because of government policy,” Harper said in Ottawa.
The program would be voluntary and self-employed people could opt into employment insurance by paying the premiums and then receive maternity and parental benefits.
A self-employed person must opt-in at least six months before any claims for benefits are made and, once in, the self-employed person must continue to pay premiums, even after a period of receiving benefits.
Dion was in St. John’s hoping to capitalize on Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams’s Anybody-butConservative campaign in the province.
He also announced a Liberal government would implement a number of measures totalling $400 million, including $250 million for a Green Fisheries and Transport Fund to help modernize fishing vessels and onshore equipment.
The NDP continued its health care message with Layton also campaigning in Atlantic Canada. He delivered a $1-billion promise on Monday to boost the number of doctors and nurses in Canada over five years.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe faced another issue on Monday — fighting off friendly fire.
A story in Montreal’s La Presse newspaper quoted five former Bloc members saying there really is no longer a good reason for the party to exist.
On a visit to northwestern Quebec, Duceppe said he’s unfazed by such criticism.