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Economics take over Canadian leaders' talking points

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

With Bay Street in turmoil in sympathy with Wall Street, Canadian party leaders traded slurs over the slowing economy and measures to secure it against the slump happening south of the border.

"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," Stéphane Dion said as the Liberal leader worked through St. John's, N.L. Dion is hoping to sweep Newfoundland and Labrador's 7 seats, capitalizing on N.L. Premier Danny Williams's feud with the federal Conservatives over broken promises made by Stephen Harper in the Atlantic Accord.

Campaigning in Nova Scotia, New Democratic Party's Jack Layton lashed the Conservatives for failing to protect consumers. "Of course with Mr. Harper, we don't see any willingness to really address the need to stand on behalf of Canadian consumers. He won't even support the notion of the monitoring of gas prices, let alone the kinds of initiatives that really should be taken here in Canada to make sure that the consumers of investment products are being protected."

Harper was working the Liberal-held riding of Ottawa-Vanier, where he announced a program to allow entrepreneur's to extend their maternal leave up to 6 months using the Employment Insurance program with an estimated cost of $147 million. He said the country wasn't ready for "wild experiments", but should adopt a cautious approach to the economy in uncertain times.

"Canada has been brought to the brink of a deficit for the first time in over a decade," Elizabeth May of the Greens said in a press release on their website on Monday. “Stephen Harper’s leadership deficit is driving us into economic deficit and his failure to manage the economy in uncertain times must not be allowed to continue.”

The parties also threw out economic planks for their platforms: to support the fishermen of N.L as well as the environment, Dion announced a $250 million dollar fund to help fishermen upgrade their equipment with "green" technology as well as $70 million to retire licenses. The Greens suggested their financial plan, which includes embracing a low-carbon economy, would improve Canada's economic outlook. The NDP promised $1 billion over 5 years for more nurses and doctors.

The backdrop to all these economic statements was a 515 point drop on the TSX as markets reacted to the bankruptcy filing of 158 year old financial firm Lehman Brothers, as well as a surprising drop in the Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar which itself lost ground against the Euro and other world currencies. Even as the dollar dropped, so did the price of oil futures and gold, partially explaining the Canadian dollar's weakness.

HAVE YOUR SAY
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Are Canadian economics really affected by the parties? Should the Conservatives be taking the blame for the current economic situation, or have their actions in two and half years in office helped insulate the country from the volatility of the US markets?


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This audio file was created from the text revision dated 2008-09-16 and may not reflect subsequent text edits to this report. (audio help)


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