September 24, 2008 / 10:49 PM / 9 years ago

PM "very worried" by some U.S. fundamentals

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Wednesday he was “very worried” about some U.S. fundamentals but remained optimistic the American economy would eventually bounce back.

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia September 24, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election October 14. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

Canadian economic growth this year is set to be little better than anemic, in large part because of the crisis in the United States -- by far Canada’s biggest trading partner.

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I‘m very worried about some of the fundamentals in the American economy and I think the next administration ... will have some very, very big challenges, both domestic and foreign,” Harper told reporters in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“I think history would tell us to never underestimate the resilience of the American economy or the American people so I will continue, notwithstanding greater concerns I have about the United States and Canada ... (to) remain an optimist.”

Harper is using the economy as a weapon in the run-up to a general election in Canada on Oct 14, saying that only his Conservative Party can be trusted to ensure the nation’s finances do not spin out of control.

Three polls released on Wednesday showed the Conservatives well ahead of the official opposition Liberals, who are proposing to introduce a carbon tax designed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. Harper says the tax would be a disaster.

The surveys indicate that the Conservatives, who only won a minority of seats in a January 2006 election, are close to obtaining a majority.

Harper said the Canadian economy -- hit by the U.S. slowdown -- is still in pretty good shape but acknowledged growth is slower.

“There are particular markets in deep trouble in the United States -- such as the housing market and the consumer spending market -- that have real impacts on the Canadian economy,” he said.

“Despite the slowing down, we’ve not gone into recession, we’ve seen our economic fundamentals remain strong.”

Harper said he was confident the U.S. administration and lawmakers would be able to agree “in a reasonable period of time” on a bailout package for troubled financial institutions.

Reporting by Allan Dowd, writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway

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