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Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes a question from the media during a post-election news conference in Calgary Wednesday. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press))

Having secured a stronger minority government in Tuesday's general election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Wednesday a six-point plan to deal with the stormy financial waters threatening Canada's economy.

"The No. 1 job of the prime minister of Canada is to protect our country's economy, our earnings, our savings and our jobs during a time of global economic uncertainty," Harper told reporters at a news conference in Calgary.

"The strengthened mandate we received from the people of Canada allows us to continue moving forward."

Harper told reporters that as part of a plan to deal with the financial crisis, his newly elected government will:

  • Hold a first ministers meeting to discuss the global financial crisis. Harper did not specify a date for the meeting.
  • Continue to work with other G7 nations to take "appropriate actions" to support Canada's financial system.
  • Summon Parliament to meet in the fall. Harper did not give a date for the resumption of Parliament.
  • Send Harper to meet with European Union leaders later this week to discuss the economic crisis and strengthen Canada's economic partnership with the EU.
  • Attend a summit of G-20 finance ministers in Brazil in early November.
  • Continue a review of departmental spending.

Harper said his government would issue a fiscal update before the end of November.

He reiterated that the government would take "whatever appropriate steps are necessary" to ensure the competitiveness of Canadian financial institutions in an uncertain economic climate.

When asked about the potential costs of a government plan to support financial institutions, Harper said it would not involve "significant outlays of taxpayers' money."

U.S. President George W. Bush and Harper talked about the international response to the global credit crisis after Bush called Harper to congratulate him on his re-election, U.S. officials said.

Harper indicates push for Senate reform

Harper also told supporters his party would continue to push for Senate reform.

Under Harper's reforms, Canadians would vote for senators, who are currently unelected. Members of the Senate would also be limited to eight-year terms under Harper's changes. Senators currently don't have fixed terms, but have to step down at the age of 75.

"We … have been very clear in our platform that we don't believe an unelected body should in any way be blocking an elected body," he said.

The 105-member Senate, which includes 59 Liberals, has 16 vacancies.

"I have held off for a very long time in naming senators," Harper said.

"That said, I do not believe it is justified that the Senate would continue to be dominated by a party that did not win two consecutive elections."

Harper said he would be willing to appoint senators himself if his push for reform does not succeed.  

Layton calls on Harper to meet with opposition leaders

NDP Leader Jack Layton, speaking to reporters in Toronto shortly after Harper's announcement, called on the prime minister to meet with opposition leaders to discuss the economy.

"I hope that [Harper] will respond to my suggestion that a meeting of the leaders be convened to talk about the economy, and particularly the situation as regards our banks," Layton said.

Layton said the results of the election were proof that "far more [Canadians] are voting against his policy agenda, than voting for it, and out of respect of the judgment of Canadians the prime minister should work with other parties."

In Tuesday's election, the Conservatives took 143 ridings, up from 127 in 2006 but well short of the 155 seats required to win a majority. The Liberals claimed 76 seats, a drop of 19 from the party's standing at dissolution.

Bloc Québécois candidates were elected in 50 ridings, a gain of two seats, while NDP candidates captured 37 seats, a gain of seven seats over the last election. Two Independents also held on to their seats.

With files from the Associated Press