August 24, 2015 / 5:23 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Canada PM tries to use market turmoil as election campaign tool

(Adds quotes from prime minister, opposition leader, background)

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper seized on global stock market turmoil on Monday to argue voters should stick with his Conservative government in the Oct. 19 election, warning that the policies of his opponents would be dangerous for the economy.

Harper’s ruling right-of-center Conservatives - seeking a rare fourth consecutive mandate - have long prided themselves on their handling of the economy, though the country is teetering on recession due in large part to low oil prices.

Recent polls suggest the party is neck-and-neck with the New Democrats and the Liberals, and could well lose its majority in the House of Commons.

Asked about stock markets currently hit hard by bad news from China, Harper said the policies of his two opponents - to the left of him on the political spectrum - would be damaging because they would be paid for by tax hikes and deficits.

“This is a ridiculous and very dangerous position for the Canadian economy,” he told a televised news conference in Drummondville, Quebec.

Harper said Canada had solid economic fundamentals, low debt and stable banks and should stick to Conservative policies designed to cut taxes and boost growth.

The government, he added, had a range of tools it could use in case of “much more serious circumstances.” He did not give details.

Harper also happened to be on the campaign trail during the 2008 economic crash, when he was pilloried for saying he saw “some great buying opportunities.” Canada escaped much of the financial crisis intact, due in part to its regulatory system and conservative banks.

Asked whether felt the same way about the current downturn, Harper declined to comment directly.

Ottawa’s balance sheet has been hurt by a collapse in the price of oil, which is more than 60 percent lower than it was in June 2014.

Thomas Mulcair, leader of the left-leaning New Democrats, said Harper had made a big mistake by betting crude prices would stay high and promoting policies that favored increased oil extraction.

“It would be very difficult to do worse than Mr. Harper ... he managed our economy very poorly,” he said in Toronto.

Asked how he would handle the economy, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said Canada needed a plan for growth that involved targeted investments, tax breaks and more spending on infrastructure. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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