August 25, 2015 / 2:20 PM / 3 years ago

Canada's Liberals roll out economic team in tight election race

TORONTO, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Canada’s Liberals, trailing third in the polls for October’s election, on Tuesday rolled out a heavyweight economic team including former finance minister Paul Martin in a bid to counter charges that leader Justin Trudeau is too inexperienced to lead the country.

The advisers include policymakers who erased the budget deficit during the 12-year Liberal reign that preceded the nine-year-rule of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whom Trudeau derided for failing to balance the budget.

“Stephen Harper’s economic team can fit in one room. All he needs is one chair and a mirror,” Trudeau told a news conference as he introduced a team of advisers that includes former finance minister Ralph Goodale and Martin, who was also prime minister between 2003 and 2006.

While Harper seized on stock market volatility on Monday to urge Canadians to stick with the ruling right-of-center Conservatives, Trudeau said the prime minister was out of touch with voters who have not felt economic security lately.

Canada’s resource-dependent economy has been sideswiped by a prolonged slump in global oil prices, and is teetering on a recession.

“Mr. Harper may not feel it from (the prime minister’s residence at) 24 Sussex Drive, but his plan is not working for millions upon millions of Canadians. And when a plan is not working, the real risk is sticking with the status quo,” Trudeau said.

Harper’s Conservatives - seeking a rare fourth consecutive mandate - have prided themselves on their handling of the economy but have posted a string of budget deficits since the 2008 financial crisis. Finance Minister Joe Oliver vows to balance the budget in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but the economic slump threatens that forecast.

Recent polls suggest the Conservatives are neck-and-neck with the left-leaning New Democrats and the centrist Liberals, and could well lose its majority in the House of Commons.

Harper’s opponents accuse the Conservatives of over-investing in the oil and gas sector, leaving Canada vulnerable to the price shock that is now threatening to drag the entire country into recession.

Trudeau has promised middle class tax cuts and investments in infrastructure, and on Tuesday he refused to say when he would balance the budget if elected, saying he first needed to know “the size of the mess Harper has left behind.”

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins Editing by W Simon

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