Canada promises aid plan for hard-hit industries

Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:03pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government plans to set up a C$1 billion ($990 million) trust fund to help unemployed workers and communities hard-hit by global economic turmoil, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday.

But in a challenge to opposition parties, Harper said the aid plan was dependent on the minority Conservative government's next budget being passed by Parliament. The budget is expected in early March and, if the government is defeated, an election will be triggered.

Ottawa is under increasing pressure to help workers in the forestry and automobile industries, which have been hit hard by the strong Canadian dollar and weakening demand in the United States, Canada's main trading partner.

Harper said the initiative was aimed at single-industry towns or regions with heavy layoffs across a broad range of industries.

"This fund will help vulnerable communities and their workers to adjust to these changes and to prosper," he said in a speech at a lumber mill in the eastern province of New Brunswick.

Harper is due to meet the premiers of Canada's 10 provinces and three territories for dinner in Ottawa on Friday, for a conversation expected to focus on the economy.

Harper -- who won power in the January 2006 election -- said last month he expected the fallout from the weakening U.S. economy to hit Canada.

"Our government will support provincial and territorial efforts to build a stronger and more prosperous future for communities and workers who have been hurt by current economic volatility," he said on Thursday.   Continued...

 
<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands to speak in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 11, 2007. Canada's Conservative government plans to set up a C$1 billion ($990 million) trust fund to help unemployed workers and communities hard-hit by changes in the global economy, Harper said on Thursday. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>