Election rivals square off over economy

Fri Sep 26, 2008 7:14pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper lashed out at his opponents on the campaign trail on Friday, saying they wanted the country to sink into a recession as the world economy slows.

The Conservative leader has stuck to his line ahead of the October 14 election that only his government's prudent care of the public purse has protected Canada from the economic and financial meltdown that has hit the United States -- an idea that has come under attack from Stephane Dion, the leader of main opposition Liberal Party.

"We have seen commentators around the world and respected figures here emphasize the strong foundations of the Canadian economy," Harper said at a campaign stop in Calgary.

"And the leader of the opposition and his leading critics (are) going around and trying to tell Canadians the opposite, trying to drive down confidence in the Canadian economy without foundation and, quite frankly, sitting on the sidelines virtually cheering for there to be a recession."

Harper, Dion and New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton are battling it out over who is the better financial manager as economic fear spreads.

Dion retorted to Harper's attack by saying that the last recession in Canada was during Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's government in the early 1990s and that the Liberals pulled the country out of it.

"This kind of blindly partisan rhetoric is a glaring example of what is wrong with Mr. Harper and his government," Dion said in a statement.

"Rather than debating with their opponents, their first instinct is to resort to the low-blow attack and baseless character smears."

Layton accused Harper of ignoring the potential impact on Canada of the U.S. economic turmoil, and said the Canadian economy was also threatened by "unprecedented levels of personal debt."   Continued...

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens to a question during a news conference in Calgary, Alberta September 26, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election October 14. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>