Liberals say no tax increase on agenda

Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:42pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said on Monday he would not propose tax increases to balance the budget if he became prime minister, saying Canada's economic recovery is too fragile.

Ignatieff, who is trying, so far unsuccessfully, to force an election to oust the minority Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said spending cuts and economic growth were the way to slay the budget deficit.

"At a time when we are still bumping along the bottom, tax increases would add to the burden on Canadian businesses and Canadian families, and we think that might just shut recovery off cold," Ignatieff told reporters following an economic speech in Toronto.

"So our proposition is we need to keep our tax rates competitive but we will not propose tax increases in a platform in the next election," he said.

In April, Ignatieff said no honest politician faced with a huge deficit would take anything off the table because Canadians were allergic to structural budget deficits, a remark the Conservatives have kept prominent in their attacks on him.

In his speech to Toronto's financial community, Ignatieff said spending controls alone would not be enough to dig Canada out of the fiscal hole, but that economic growth initiatives would be needed to fight unemployment.

Canada's total shortfall for this year and the next five years is forecast to be C$164.4 billion ($152.2 billion),

Ignatieff also hinted that protective "buy American" trade restrictions brought in by the United States, Canada's largest trading partner by far, must be fought on all fronts, and promised an investment review process to protect Canada's national interests.

"We will welcome foreign investment, but we'll require foreign companies to build and sustain Canadian jobs and Canadian head offices," Ignatieff said.

(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; editing by Rob Wilson)

<p>Canada's Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff speaks to the Toronto Board of Trade in Toronto, September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>