BRAMPTON, Ont. – Canada will emerge from the global recession before any other country and in a stronger economic position than ever, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday as his government aggressively moved to sell its fiscal plan.
The rosy picture Harper painted of the ability to not only recover but profit from the worldwide crisis came as he dispatched two of his top lieutenants to deliver variations of the same message: the Conservative stimulus package will put the country on the right track and the opposition must support it.
“Canada was the last advanced country to fall into this recession,” Stephen Harper told a business crowd in Brampton, Ont. “We will make sure its effects here are the least severe, and we will come out of this faster than anyone and stronger than ever.”
The crisis, ultimately, is an “opportunity to position ourselves so that when the recovery comes, we’re among the first to catch the wave.”
While Harper positioned Canada at the forefront of economic relief, he also said our fortunes depend on those of the United States.
“We will not turn the corner on this global recession until the American financial sector is fixed,” he said.
Across town, Industry Minister Tony Clement echoed that sentiment following a speech to the C.D. Howe Institute which focused – like his boss’s address – on the government’s plan to navigate the crisis.
Only American consumers can save the flattened auto industry from extinction, he said.
“If you’re asking me what will save the auto sector in North America, it’s what American consumers do and buy, not just what Canadians do and buy.”
In Ottawa, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered the hard-sell as he demanded that the Liberal-dominated Senate pass his budget bill and its $40-billion stimulus package.
“I’m going to urge you to deal with this bill this week and don’t go on holidays until you deal with it,” Flaherty told the Senate finance committee.
The simultaneous sorties by the prime minister and his two most senior economic ministers in three different locations represent an aggressive shift into selling the economic plan.
Harper’s own MPs have complained privately that there has been too much gloom and not enough reassurance about Canada’s economic future in the six weeks since the budget was delivered.
The prime minister took on a more prominent role after the Jan. 27 federal budget and has been visiting various pockets of the country to make stimulus-funding announcements.
He spent this past weekend at his official residence typing away at Tuesday’s 3,300-word address – one of the rare occasions when Harper has written a speech from start to finish.
At least one economist agreed with Harper’s assertion that Canada is in a better position to weather the economic crisis and will not be hit as hard as other nations.
Still, TD chief economist Don Drummond said he was “less certain about the bit that we will recover faster.”
Canada’s economy is inextricably linked to the global economy through our exports to the United States and it’s hard to imagine Canada recovering faster, Drummond said.
“In our forecast we have the recoveries occurring simultaneously.”
TD has predicted Canada’s economic troubles will ease at the end of the year, but Drummond said that may change.
“We will be putting out our forecast on the 12th and we go through five key assumptions that one has to make, but if any of those don’t get fulfilled then I think it’s going to get delayed beyond that.”