Canada election 2015: Stephen Harper defends government's economic record

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper defends his government's record on the economy, saying during an election campaign visit to Quebec that the current downturn is only temporary and the economic forecast remains promising.

Trudeau tells CBC that Conservative leader seems 'out of touch and incapable of growing the economy'

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was in Laval, Que., on Monday to launch day 2 of the federal election campaign, and pledged to increase and extend a tax credit for businesses that hire apprentices if re-elected. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper today defended his government's record on the economy, saying during an election campaign visit to Quebec that the current downturn is only temporary and the economic forecast remains promising.

Harper, making his first campaign announcement in Laval, said the forecasts for the Canadian economy "are very good."

"These are temporary effects," he said.  "We all knew with lower oil prices, lower resource prices, there's going to be some temporary effects in some sectors of the economy.

"Analysts are predicting good growth for the country into the future as long we stay on track."

The Canadian economy recently recorded its fifth consecutive monthly contraction in gross domestic product.

But Harper said there has been steady growth in the Canadian economy since the end of the recession, and that the country has been "head and shoulders" above all its G7 partners in terms of economic growth over the long term.

"We have far and away the best fiscal management," he said.

'Plan has failed'

But in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Harper's economic "plan has failed."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, said Harper's economic "plan has failed." (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"For 10 years he has completely misunderstood the nature of the Canadian economy. He continues to try and say that everything's doing great," Trudeau said Monday. "But the reality is that people are falling further and further behind and he just seems more and more out of touch and incapable of growing the economy.

The full interview with Trudeau will air on Power & Politics at 5 p.m. ET.

The Liberal leader was in Calgary for his first full day of campaigning Monday. Trudeau has a single campaign event in the traditional Conservative stronghold that includes Harper's riding.

For Harper's part, he took questions from the media following his announcement in Quebec that he would, if re-elected, increase and extend a tax credit for businesses that hire apprentices.

The Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit, introduced in 2006, would increase from $2,000 to $2,500, and would be applied to the third and fourth years of training, Harper said on his first stop Monday, in Laval, Que., on day 2 of the campaign. These additional measures would cost $60 million in 2016/17

The announcement was made at Spectra Premium Industries, a company that develops and engineers parts used to deliver fuel.

PM comments of TPP talks

Harper was also asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, and whether his government would sign a deal during the election campaign. 

On Friday, trade ministers meeting in Hawaii were unable to reach an agreement on the major international trade deal, which, if signed, would represent a combined gross domestic product of roughly 40 per cent of the global economy. Trade ministers have said talks will continue in the future.

Harper would only say that Canada would "remain at the table" during the election campaign and that the government would ensure any deal protect Canada, including supply management of the dairy sector.

New Zealand has said one sticking point is dairy and that it would not back a deal that does not significantly open dairy markets, with an eye to the United States, Japan and Canada, as well as Mexico.

But the decision by the federal Conservative government to loosen supply management of the dairy sector would be politically sensitive. The prospect of opening up access to the market has been met by strong opposition from dairy farmers and has even led to protests.

Small group of protesters

Harper made a quick pit stop in Kingston, Ont., and was met by a small group of protesters.

A trio of local families greeted Harper's motorcade chanting and holding signs saying "Stop Harper" and "Time's up Harper." 

Harper's kids, Ben and Rachel ,who are travelling with the campaign, waved to the group as they walked in front of the Conservative tour bus.

"We heard Harper was coming to town and we want him to know his is no longer welcome as our Prime Minister," protestor Rebecca Jozsa told CBC News.

Harper didn't address the protesters but instead spoke to a group of about 100 party faithful at a local Kingston restaurant.

The Conservative leader closed out his Monday slate with an evening rally in Ajax, Ont., the riding currently held by cabinet minister Chris Alexander. In addition to his economic message, Harper said his government would be the best equipped to deal with the threat of terrorism from ISIS and other militant groups.

Mulcair in debate prep mode

The Conservatives are expected to keep up this pace throughout the 11-week campaign, except when Harper prepares for debates.

Harper kicked off his campaign Sunday night in Quebec, the political backyard of Trudeau, who holds the riding of Papineau. Harper held his first campaign rally in the Montreal riding that Trudeau's father represented when he was prime minister.

Although Conservative candidates in Calgary have rarely broken a sweat to win previous elections, the Alberta New Democrats' stunning provincial election win this year has emboldened both their federal cousins and the Liberals to eye some federal seats in Alberta a little more seriously.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair did not campaign Monday and has no immediate plans to do any active campaigning this week.

He is instead focusing on preparing for the first leaders' debate, set for Toronto on Thursday.

With files from The Canadian Press