Harper, Flaherty in B.C. to woo voters ahead of Jan. 27 federal budget
James Keller, THE CANADIAN PRESS
SURREY, B.C. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his finance minister came to B.C. on Monday to show voters their government is working hard to manage the country's troubled economy.
Harper didn't announce any new plans or so much as hint at what could be in the coming budget. Instead, he re-announced a $1-billion highway development.
"The Prime Minister and I and others ... have been doing that since before Christmas, listening to Canadians from coast to coast and all walks of life," Flaherty said.
"This is fundamentally important, it's necessary so that we hear what the concerns are."
Flaherty urged the crowd to have their say, telling the group of mostly seniors that he's not thin-skinned.
"I want you to tell me what you think we should do," he said.
"You're in a great position tonight to influence what will be in the budget of Canada."
The budget questions posed and the advice given by the crowd were mostly tame.
But one point of contention was the Conservative tax on income trusts.
"What you did when you destroyed the income trusts in your October Halloween budget (in 2006) was terrible," one man said. "We suffered thousands of dollars in losses."
Another man told the finance minister much the same thing.
"You need to unring the bell on income trusts and restore them," he said. "They need to be restored because Canadians are suffering huge losses."
The Jan. 27 federal budget will likely include much of what was in the government's failed fiscal update in November, which almost toppled the Conservative minority.
The November economic statement included additional credit for the business development bank, measures to help the financial and manufacturing sectors and improvements for pension management.
But the Conservatives will likely need to go further to ease the fears of Canadians and pacify the opposition as gloomy predictions about the economy become an almost-daily occurrence.
As Harper and Flaherty tried to woo the westernmost province, there was more bad news from the Bank of Canada.
The bank released new surveys that indicate the country's business community has become increasingly pessimistic about what lies ahead as companies brace for slower sales, shrinking prices and disappearing jobs.
Statistics Canada reported last week that 34,400 jobs disappeared in December as the unemployment rate continued to climb to 6.6 per cent.
Many economists expect Canada to lose another 200,000 in 2009.
"This is not normal budgeting," said Flaherty.
"The world is not in its stable fiscal condition. These are extraordinary times."
-with files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria and Sunny Dhillon in West Vancouver
Content Provided By Canadian Press.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
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