Monday, June 1, 2009

Harper Afraid of Election Tells Us Worst is Over

So Harper is saying the worst is over, but how can we possibly believe him? He told us that last September, and look at what has happened since.

While I hope he's right this time, I believe the announcement is politically motivated. Realizing he's down in the polls, Harper's shying away from an election, so needs to make us feel all warm and fuzzy. This could also mean that he may actually listen to the demands of the NDP and Liberals when it comes to fixing EI.

His ideology tells him that people like sitting at home collecting pogey, but the Canadian people are telling him otherwise.

Yes we are doing better than the U.S. but before we can really start to look forward to better days, their economy also has to rebound. I'm cautiously optimistic , but not holding my breath.
by David Ljunggren
June 1, 2009

OTTAWA - Although Canada's latest gross domestic product figures are bad, they were better than expected and show the economy is over the worst of the crisis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday.

Statistics Canada said the economy shrank by 5.4 percent in the first quarter of the year. The decline was not as bad as the 6.6 percent drop expected by analysts.

"We do anticipate that this was the worst quarter, the first quarter of this year ... The worst is behind us, we will have better quarters going forward. That's our very strong sense at this point," Harper told Toronto radio station CFRB.

Saying there was "reason for optimism", Harper cautioned there would be further job losses and said Ottawa was ready to take more steps if necessary to help the unemployed.

Opposition parties are demanding Ottawa make it easier for the jobless to claim benefits and some legislators have mused about defeating the Conservative government over the issue, although an election any time soon seems unlikely.

"The country needs an election like a hole in the head. Nobody wants an election. It is not good. It is not in the interests of the country at a time where our economy is so challenged," said Harper.

Quite a change of tune, coming from the man who'd rather run attack ads then our country. And also a complete 180 from two weeks ago when he threatened to huff and puff and bring the House down.
By Alexander Panetta,
The Canadian Press
May 13, 2009

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper surprised his opponents - and even some allies - by issuing what appeared to be an election threat over employment-insurance reforms.
After signalling for weeks a willingness to enrich employment insurance to help workers hardest-hit by the recession, the Conservatives veered sharply Wednesday.

The prime minister categorically rejected a Liberal demand for a single, nationwide eligibility requirement for EI at a uniform level of 360 hours worked.

Harper could not have been any clearer during a debate with Liberal

Leader Michael Ignatieff: he rejected the idea three times, in both official languages, and declared himself ready to “take him on” over the issue.

Canada has a very generous employment insurance system,” Harper said in response to Ignatieff.

“If that leader wants to go out and tell Canadians that he thinks they should pay higher payroll taxes so that people can work 45 days and then collect EI for a year, every single year, in every single region of the country, we are ready to take him on.”

The exchange touched off speculation on Parliament Hill: was the prime minister holding out for another EI proposal from the NDP, simply in order to keep the Liberals from taking credit for any changes? Was it an attempt to force the opposition to back off its EI demands? Was it an election threat?

Two Harper spokespersons declined to elaborate and said Harper’s remarks stand for themselves.

Even Conservative insiders said they were caught off-guard by the exchange.

Most had been expecting to accommodate the opposition request, given the Tories’ weak poll numbers and lack of interest in fighting an election.

Ignatieff said a few weeks ago that failure to set a minimum threshold of 360 hours to collect benefits could force an election.

Harper says the only reason the Liberals are now proposing the idea is to unite the opposition - to “pull the coalition back together” - against the government.

Harper’s opponents did appear united after Wednesday’s exchange: they all accused Harper of mischaracterizing their request, and of politicking on the backs of the unemployed.

They said the Liberal proposal would make workers qualify after 360 hours, but that benefit levels would continue to vary depending on personal or regional circumstances.

It is also described as a temporary measure to be withdrawn after the recession.

Ignatieff called the prime minister’s reaction puzzling.

“Mr. Harper is shutting the door with the description of our proposal, which makes no sense at all. He doesn’t - he doesn’t understand EI,” Ignatieff said.

“We are going to continue to press this issue because we just know that there are 150,000 Canadians out there who ought to be getting EI who are not eligible and that seems to me to be just wrong.”

There’s been speculation the Conservatives would seek a deal on EI with the New Democrats to prevent Liberals from claiming credit. But the party leader wasn’t pleased by what he heard Wednesday.

“I don’t know why the prime minister would want to force a showdown on the backs of the people who are suffering the most in the economic crisis,” NDP Leader Jack Layton said.

“That’s - I would have thought that would have been off limits.”

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe also accused the prime minister of pitting some Canadians against others.

“When he says all the Bloc’s criticisms are aimed at dividing Canada, I don’t think anyone beats him at dividing Canada,” Duceppe said.

“He’s the master of the art.”

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