PM rebuffs NDP call for federal leaders' meeting on U.S. crisis

NDP Leader Jack Layton urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call a special meeting for federal party leaders to discuss the potential effects of the U.S economic crisis on Canadians, but Harper has rejected the proposal.

NDP Leader Jack Layton urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call a special meeting for federal party leaders to discuss the potential effects of the U.S economic crisis on Canadians, but Harper has rejected the proposal.

"I'm asking him to convene a meeting of the leaders to be fully briefed on the issues involved by the expert officials … advising the government so that we can develop a sense of direction here," he told Don Newman of CBC's current affairs show Politics on Monday.

Since all party leaders are going to be in Ottawa for the televised French- and English-language debates on Wednesday and Thursday, Layton proposed they meet before then, possibly Wednesday afternoon.

Layton's call came shortly after financial markets, including Toronto's, took a nosedive Monday in the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives voting down a $700-billion US bill to bail out America's financial industry.

Despite U.S. President George W. Bush pressing for the bill to be passed to stabilize markets, opponents balked at the price tag and the use of taxpayer dollars to help Wall Street.

Leaders will talk in debates: PM spokesman

But a spokesman for the prime minister ruled out a federal leaders' meeting.

"The NDP, along with the other party leaders, will have an opportunity later this week to debate — not behind closed doors but in front of all Canadians  —  the issues at stake not [just] for our economy but for our country," Kory Teneycke said after Harper's campaign plane landed in Val D'Or, Que.

"The place to have these discussions is in front of the Canadian people, not behind closed doors."

Liberal candidate Scott Brison said his party is not interested in a meeting unless the prime minister decides to hold one and took the opportunity to slam the Conservatives.

"This is not a prime minister who is interested in co-operation," said Brison, who is running in Nova Scotia's Kings-Hants riding and is the Liberals' industry, science and technology critic.

Layton suggests financial update

Even though Parliament likely won't convene before November due to the Oct. 14 federal election, Layton said Canadians would be reassured if the leaders put politics aside to meet and issue a statement on the situation.

"We're asking the prime minister to put that process in motion so that all the party leaders can try to give that sense of confidence that Canadians need to have as they think about their hard-earned savings, their pension plans and RSPs, their homes and their jobs," said Layton.

The NDP leader said Harper could provide a financial update to the party leaders, by asking financial experts such as the governor of the Bank of Canada to brief them on the potential impact of the financial turmoil.

Party leaders could then discuss what steps could be taken to avoid problems similar to those in the U.S., he said.

Asked whether Green party Leader Elizabeth May would be included, Layton said he hadn't considered the possibility.

Layton also reiterated his party's call for a top-to-bottom review of Canada's financial structure to ensure adequate measures are in place to protect Canadians' savings.

The French-language federal leaders' debate is scheduled for 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET Wednesday while the English-language debate is to take place from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET Thursday.