Harper says GDP data shows Canada over worst of crisis

Mon Jun 1, 2009 4:32pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Although Canada's latest gross domestic product figures are bad, they were better than expected and show the economy is over the worst of the crisis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday.

Statistics Canada said the economy shrank by 5.4 percent in the first quarter of the year. The decline was not as bad as the 6.6 percent drop expected by analysts.

"We do anticipate that this was the worst quarter, the first quarter of this year ... The worst is behind us, we will have better quarters going forward. That's our very strong sense at this point," Harper told Toronto radio station CFRB.

Saying there was "reason for optimism", Harper cautioned there would be further job losses and said Ottawa was ready to take more steps if necessary to help the unemployed.

Opposition parties are demanding Ottawa make it easier for the jobless to claim benefits and some legislators have mused about defeating the Conservative government over the issue, although an election any time soon seems unlikely.

"The country needs an election like a hole in the head. Nobody wants an election. It is not good. It is not in the interests of the country at a time where our economy is so challenged," said Harper.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)