Canadian Prime Minister Says He's Best for Economy in Canada Election

Other News Materials 7 September 2008 19:24 (UTC +04:00)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would be the best steward of an economy struggling with the slowest growth in 16 years and warned the country can't afford opposition plans for tax cuts and spending increases, reported Bloomberg.

Harper, 49, citing political deadlock in the legislature, met with Canada's ceremonial head of state today to request the dissolution of Parliament. An election will be held Oct. 14. Harper pledged to keep spending in check and defend the country's record of 10 consecutive surpluses.

The campaign will center on the best way to manage the economy and whether Canadians want the tougher environmental rules and higher spending proposed by the opposition Liberals, led by Stephane Dion. His plan for the world's eighth-largest economy calls for funding C$15.4 billion ($14.5 billion) a year in spending and tax cuts through a levy on fuel consumption.

``Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests at a time of global economic trouble,'' Harper told reporters in Ottawa outside the Governor General's residence. ``They will choose between clear direction or uncertainty, between common sense or risky experiments, between steadiness or recklessness.''

The prime minister was 27 seats short of a majority in Parliament and relied on rival parties to pass laws. Most polls show neither the Conservatives nor the main opposition Liberals have enough support to win a majority.

Harper today said that the most likely outcome of the vote will be another minority government.

Of the 11 minority governments Canada has had, only two, including the current one, have lasted past the mid-point of their five-year electoral mandate. Harper's minority lasted 31 months, compared with 16 for the previous one in 2004.

The vote comes as weak U.S. demand for cars and forestry products is crippling exporters and consumers have struggled to pay record high gasoline prices. The economy had its first contraction since 2003 between January and March and the Bank of Canada says growth this year will be the slowest since 1992.

Harper says fiscal prudence will bolster confidence in the economy. The Conservatives have said they won't announce major new spending or tax cuts during the campaign.

Opposition parties have called for more aid to the lumber and automotive industries and tax relief for individuals and businesses to stimulate the economy.