Opponents attack Harper on economic woes

Wed Oct 8, 2008 5:12pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

VICTORIA, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the first G7 leader to face an election test amid the global financial crisis, battled charges on Wednesday he did not understand voters' fears.

The opposition Liberal and New Democratic Party mocked the Conservative leader's statement on Tuesday that the sharp drop in global markets -- including the Toronto Stock Exchange -- was a buying opportunity for investors.

"He is completely out of touch with the impact the current economic turmoil is having on the lives of everyday Canadians," said Stephane Dion, the leader of the main opposition Liberal Party.

Harper said Canada was working actively with other countries to address the global credit crisis, citing co-ordinated efforts by the Bank of Canada and other central banks to quell the financial crisis.

He also cited phone calls from his mother to show he was aware that people were worried about their investments and financial safety.

"Believe me, I get quicker updates from her on the stock market than I do from the Department of Finance," Harper quipped to reporters at a campaign news conference in Victoria.

The Toronto exchange had a see-saw day on Wednesday, finally ending up 2.3 percent, but it is down 14 so far this month, after dropping 15 percent in September.

The economic turmoil has dominated debate in the final days of the Canadian campaign, and the issue's rise has coincided with a slip in support for the Conservatives who had hoped to expand their minority in the House of Commons into a majority government.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Stephane Dion delivers a speech to a joint meeting of the Empire and Canadian Clubs in Toronto, October 8, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election on October 14. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>