Harper raps U.S. "panic", says no crisis at home

Fri Oct 3, 2008 2:13pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's prime minister accused the United States on Friday of panicking over the financial crisis and tried to assure nervous voters ahead of the Oct 14 general election there that is no need to worry about Canada's economy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose opponents regularly accuse him of being too close to President George W. Bush, said his Conservative government had avoided the mistakes made in the United States.

"If we don't panic here, we stick on course, we keep taking additional actions, make sure everything we do is affordable, we will emerge from this as strong as ever," he told a televised news conference in Saint John, New Brunswick.

"We're not going to get into a situation like we have in the United States where we're panicking and enunciating a different plan every single day."

Separately, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty slammed "the inadequate fiscal steps economically in the United States in recent years" and said the excessive leveraging in U.S. households was both regrettable and tragic.

Polls show Harper is set to retain power in the election and could turn his parliamentary minority into a majority. He said Ottawa would stick to keeping the budget balanced while cutting taxes and aiming to lower inflation.

Harper's rivals -- citing steady job losses in the manufacturing sector -- say he is not doing enough to mitigate the effects of the crisis in the United States, which is by far Canada's most important trading partner.

"We need a prime minister (who) will do what Stephen Harper refuses to do -- a prime minister (who) will admit that we have a problem with our economy," said Stephane Dion, leader of the official opposition Liberal Party.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) takes part in the English leaders' debate with NDP Leader Jack Layton (C) and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in Ottawa, October 2, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election on October 14. REUTERS/Tom Hanson/Pool</p>