Canadians credit Conservatives on economy: Flaherty

Sat Sep 6, 2008 7:17pm EDT
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians recognize that the Conservative government's tax cuts and other "realistic" measures have helped shield the economy from the full impact of a global slowdown, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Saturday on the eve of an election call.

"We saw the economic slowdown coming and we acted. Had we not created that large stimulus (last October), I think people recognize that things would be significantly slower than they are right now in Canada, including Ontario," Flaherty told the Canadian Press.

The interview, published on The Globe and Mail's Web site, ran the day before Prime Minister Stephen Harper will trigger Canada's third general election campaign in four years, with voting expected on October 14.

The Conservatives, who formed a minority government in January 2006, introduced a package of business, personal and sales tax reductions last autumn that the government says has pumped billions of dollars into the economy.

The election comes when the Canadian economy is struggling to cope with the slowdown in the United States, the country's largest trading partner. Economic growth has virtually dried up this year and job creation has sputtered.

But recent polls give the Conservatives as much as a 10-point lead over the Liberals and indicate that voters would return Harper's government to power if voting were held now.

Under Canada's first-past-the post electoral system, parties tend to require about 40 percent of the popular vote to gain a majority of the 308 seats in Parliament.

"I think we're getting credit for being realistic for recognizing what was coming," Flaherty said when asked why the Conservatives were leading in the polls despite the drumbeat of unflattering economic news.

Canada's economy grew by a tepid 0.3 percent in the second quarter, narrowly avoiding the common definition of a recession, after shrinking 0.8 percent in the first three months of the year.

(Reporting by Frank McGurty; Editing by Peter Cooney)

 
<p>Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gestures during a speech at the International Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal, June 9, 2008. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi</p>