March 10, 2009
OTTAWA – While job losses are mounting and stock markets plunging, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists Canada is faring better in this global recession that most other nations.
"The American economy has been hit twice as hard as Canada. The same is true for the Europeans. The Japanese have been hit four times as hard," Harper told an audience in Brampton in a noon-hour speech today.
Harper sought to put a positive spin on the economic crisis, saying that Canada's fundamentals are strong and claiming that his government has responded with "unprecedented" speed to the problems.
He pointed to Canada's strong banking system, low debt, low inflation and skilled workforce as assets that will help Canadians weather the recession better than most around the globe.
"I say to you, as businesspeople, as community-builders, as citizens, if there ever was a time to put away that legendary Canadian modesty, it is now," Harper said, in a speech to the Brampton and Mississauga boards of trade.
"Notwithstanding all the troubles around us, Canada has real advantages, real assets, and we should not hesitate to remind investors, partners and leaders around the world of the comparative strengths of our country," he said, according to prepared remarks.
Harper quoted billionaire investor Warren Buffett, saying, "It is only when the tide goes out that you know who was swimming naked."
"The global economic crisis has revealed quite a few skinny dippers but Canada is not one of them," he said.
Harper today boasted that his government is cutting red tape to ensure that its spending measures get into the economy in a "timely" fashion.
"We are cutting enormous amounts of red tape and we are doing it quickly," Harper said.
Later today, the government will release its first report on implementation of its stimulus plan, even though the budget plan is still making its way through Parliament.
Still, he cautioned that the U.S. was the source of the global recession and that the economic woes won't end until the American financial sector is "fixed," he said.
"Our stimulus plan will help us to sustain economic activity and make transitions but it cannot fix the problem of the global financial system," the Prime Minister said.
"Canada was the last advanced country to fall into this recession. 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," he said.
He took aim at the opposition, charging that they've held up the government's budget plans. Yet Harper did not mention to the audience that he was forced to prorogue Parliament in December to avoid defeat by the opposition parties.
Canada's 1.3 million unemployed got only passing reference in Harper's speech, which government officials say the prime minister wrote himself. He made mention of improved unemployment benefits but his talk was more a technical recitation of federal initiatives rather than a rhetorical attempt to lift Canadian spirits.