SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper lauded his government’s economic stimulus plan on Monday for helping the country cope with the recession, saying 90 per cent of Ottawa’s $29-billion plan to stimulate the economy for this fiscal year has been committed to specific projects.
In an economic update delivered in this port city, Harper said the money has been committed to 7,500 infrastructure and housing projects, 4,000 of which are in some form of construction phase.
“Our efforts are starting to bear fruit. … We see stabilization and the early beginnings of a recovery,” said Harper, standing in front of a green locomotive at the Southern Railway mechanical shop.
“Now is the time to stay on course.”
The federal government’s update came as the Liberals prepared to table a non-confidence motion in the House of Commons. A vote is expected Thursday.
Harper warned that a federal election call could threaten Canada’s economic recovery, saying that forcing an “unnecessary and wasteful election” would not be in the country’s interests.
He added that it was “completely irresponsible” for the Liberals to express opposition to the government’s economic report before it was even released.
The government got its economic stimulus plan approved in the spring by promising to provide updates, but each of those can be a trigger for a non-confidence vote to defeat the Tory minority.
All three opposition parties would have to support the Liberal motion of non-confidence to defeat the government and force an election.
The Bloc Quebecois has said it will support such a motion, but NDP Leader Jack Layton hasn’t yet committed himself one way or another.
However, deputy NDP leader Thomas Mulclair gave a strong indication Monday that the party will continue to vote with the government, saying it was important to keep Parliament working for the public good.
During his news conference, Harper said he was not concerned that the stimulus funds could be going to projects that aren’t viable.
“It would be dishonest to say there isn’t risk, but we’ve tried to strike a balance between getting these projects quickly, much more quickly than we have in the past, and incurring some of that risk,” he said.
“But we obviously do believe that … the money is going to projects that have been identified by ourselves and other levels of government and are worthwhile projects.”