September 21, 2010 / 5:02 PM / in 7 years

Flaherty warns of risks, slams opposition

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty dismissed on Tuesday the idea of extending Ottawa’s stimulus program and lashed out at opposition parties for trying to force what he said was an unwanted election.

<p>Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

The minority Conservative government says the two-year C$47 billion ($45.6 billion) stimulus plan will end next March, at which point measures will be taken to eliminate the budget deficit.

The official opposition Liberals, who narrowly trail the Conservatives in recent polls, suggested last week that the patchy economic recovery means more stimulus might be needed.

“We must stay on course. We must implement our stimulus plan fully, and keep helping those who need it. We must return to balanced budgets,” Flaherty said in a speech in Ottawa.

“There are risks ahead, serious risks. The global economy remains fragile ... Around the world, the growth we saw earlier this year has slowed,” he added, referring to the “tough but balanced choices” the government would have to make.

The Conservatives retained power in an October 2008 election that left them needing the support of some opposition legislators to govern.

Although both the Conservatives and Liberals say they have little interest in forcing an election this fall, many political observers predict the government could well be defeated over its budget early next year.

The Conservatives are on the defensive after a miserable summer of political gaffes, which included forcing the resignation of the country’s chief statistician after the government ordered changes to the census form.

Polls show the Conservatives would drop seats if an election were held now and could lose power.

Flaherty, using uncharacteristically harsh language, said what he called the three opposition parties’ lust for power and reckless economic policies posed a political risk for Canada.

“Canadians don’t want an election. Our government isn’t seeking one ... From the beginning of the global economic crisis, they (the opposition) have put their own self-interest above Canadians,” he said.

“A would-be captain and his ragtag crew are trying to storm the bridge. If they seize the wheel, ladies and gentlemen, they’ll have us on the rocks.”

Liberal finance spokesman Scott Brison said Flaherty’s speech was a shocking and inappropriate political rant.

“What we saw today was a minister of finance for an intellectually bankrupt government that has no ideas for the future,” he told reporters afterward.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway

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