Canada parties woo hard-hit manufacturing region

Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:44pm EDT
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By Chris Wattie

BRAMPTON, Ontario (Reuters) - Political leaders courted voters in Canada's ravaged manufacturing heartland on Wednesday with goodies designed to bring back the jobs lost during the global financial crisis.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and New Democrat leader Jack Layton took their campaigns for the May 2 election to the southern Ontario towns of Oshawa, which relies heavily on the auto industry, and Brampton.

The left-of-center Layton, who is running at a distant third in the polls, said he would reverse the minority Conservative government's cuts to business taxes, raising them back to the 2008 level of 19.5 percent from 16.5 percent currently and a planned 2012 rate of 15 percent.

The pro-business Conservatives will keep the scheduled tax cuts, but Harper also offered manufacturers a two-year extension of an accelerated write-off for investments in machinery and equipment to help them cope with a high-flying currency and anemic U.S. demand for their goods.

Layton offered the same write-off -- a key demand of the sector -- for four years.

The main opposition Liberals have proposed raising the corporate tax rate to its 2010 level of 18 percent.

Layton said he would use the "billions of dollars" in savings to finance a targeted tax break for companies that hire new workers. He also promised to cut the tax rate for small businesses to 9 percent from 11 percent.

"I'm going to ensure that the Canadian corporate tax rate always contributes to our competitive edge, so my plan will ensure that the combined federal-provincial corporate tax rate in Canada is always below that of the United States," he said.   Continued...

<p>NDP leader Jack Layton greets clerks while visiting a small grocery store in Surrey, British Columbia March 27, 2011. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>