You're as bad as Bush, rivals tell Canadian PM

Thu Oct 2, 2008 12:46am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's rivals ganged up on him on Wednesday, using a televised election debate to accuse him of favoring the same economic policies as U.S. President George W. Bush.

Harper's center-right Conservatives have a minority of seats in the federal Parliament and polls show the party is set to strengthen its grip on power in an October 14 election.

Opposition leaders -- who regularly accuse Harper of harboring an extremist agenda and of taking his orders from Bush -- blamed the prime minister for Canada's sluggish economic growth and said he should do more to help people who had lost their jobs.

"Mr Harper is a fan of the laissez-faire approach to the economy, like Mr Bush, and we can see the disaster unfolding now in the United States," said Gilles Duceppe, leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Harper says the Canadian economy is doing well considering the problems in the United States, which is by far Canada's most important trading partner.

"The value of Canadian workers' pensions has dropped by C$90 billion ($90 billion) in two days -- it's unbelievable. And you say that everything is going well," said Jack Layton, leader of the left-leaning New Democrats.

"The policies that you are suggesting today are the same ones used by George Bush ... Where is the action plan to protect people?"

'TOTALLY DIFFERENT'   Continued...

<p>New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton (R) debates with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the French leaders' debate in Ottawa, October 1, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election October 14. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>