September 29, 2008 / 10:12 PM / in 9 years

Harper rejects meeting on financial crisis

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa September 29, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election on October 14. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected an appeal on Monday for an emergency, all-party meeting on the global financial crisis, made by one of his main opponents in the October 14 election campaign.

Jack Layton, leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party, urged the Conservative prime minister to convene the meeting this week in Ottawa, where party leaders are scheduled to participate in televised debates on Wednesday and Thursday.

But the Conservatives ruled out any extraordinary meeting, saying discussions should take place within the framework of the public debates.

“The leaders will be meeting twice this week to discuss the economy and other issues but it won’t be behind closed doors, it will be in front of all Canadians in the leaders’ debates,” said Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke.

The largest opposition party, the Liberals, did not publicly respond to the New Democrats’ suggestion.

Layton’s appeal came moments after the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposed US$700 billion bailout package for distressed financial institutions.

“We are in an election campaign, and we will continue to compete for who is going to be the next prime minister,” Layton said in a statement.

“But perhaps this situation is beginning to resemble one where Canada’s political parties need to consider what needs to be done, by Parliament as a whole, to ensure Canadian families are safe and secure,” he said.

Teneycke said Harper had addressed the issue of the economy every day of the campaign and stressed the need for a “steady hand, not massive new tax increases or large spending programs.”

“The fundamentals of our economy are strong. The challenges that the U.S. market is facing certainly do have an effect on Canada but the course for Canada is to continue to pursue a strategy of lower taxes, debt reduction and modest investments in priority areas,” Teneycke said.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index plunged nearly 7 percent on Monday, and at one point was down almost 8 percent, its biggest intraday drop since October 2000.

Earlier in the day, Harper reiterated that Canadian financial institutions were not suffering the same instability as those in the United States and Europe.

Layton proposed that political leaders hear the views of Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney and Deputy Minister of Finance Rob Wright, discuss steps that Ottawa could take to prevent the U.S. crisis from spreading to Canada, and possibly issue a joint statement.

Additional reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson

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