Election would threaten recovery: Flaherty

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is warning against the risk of opposition parties triggering an "unnecessary" fall election that he says would jeopardize Canada's economic recovery.

Finance minister raises spectre of opposition coalition in campaign-style speech

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is warning against the risk of opposition parties triggering an "unnecessary" fall election that he says would jeopardize Canada's economic recovery "just as we enter the home stretch."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says a snap election would risk Canada's economic 'advantage' as it emerges from the global recession. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

In a campaign-style address Tuesday to the Canadian Club of Ottawa, Flaherty again raised the spectre of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff forming a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition, which the minister insisted would threaten Canada's economic "advantage" emerging from the global recession.

He also accused Ignatieff of planning to bring in a wide array of tax increases, including a resurrected carbon tax, which Flaherty said could lead to 400,000 Canadian jobs being lost.

"Under an Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois government, nothing would be safe," Flaherty said. "No part of our economy would be spared. No taxpayer would avoid the hit."

Ignatieff has suggested setting aside scheduled future tax cuts for business so the money can be used to support Canada's social programs.

But the finance minister told the audience that Canadians are "tired of political instability" and are worried about jobs, the economy and "political agendas that will mean more spending paid for by their hard-earned tax dollars."

MPs slam federal ad spending

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Ignatieff again hit out at the Conservative government's spending decisions, including the reported spending of $134 million on government advertising for 2009-2010 — a 64 per cent increase from the previous year — as Canada faces record deficits.

Ignatieff also cited a government poll that suggested 93 per cent of Canadians who recalled seeing or hearing the government's economic action plan ads didn't do anything as a result of them, or thought they were produced by the Conservative Party.  

"How can you trust a spend-and borrow government to dig us out of a hole they dug us into?" Ignatieff asked during question period.

Government House leader John Baird replied that the figure included the $24-million cost of advertising campaigns to inform Canadians about the H1N1 virus, which he called a "huge success," as well as the job-creating home renovation tax credit.

In a trademark quip at the Liberals, Baird added Canadians can have confidence in the government because it has "maintained the confidence" of Ignatieff's party in the House for the last two years.

But NDP Leader Jack Layton said Flaherty was "wasting time" by attacking the opposition parties when the Conservatives have failed to increase Canada's retirement security program over the past two years.

"They are giving crumbs to our seniors while creating the sponsorship scandal sequel," Layton told the House in French.

Baird replied the government has an important responsibility to be accountable and transparent with its stimulus program and has protected the most vulnerable Canadians through increased transfers to the provinces.

Next election 'a stark choice'

In his speech, Flaherty joined political leaders of all stripes who have taken pains at the start of the fall parliamentary session to stress that Canadians do not want another election.

But the minister added Canadians will face a "stark choice" sooner or later in the next federal vote between a "stable national majority" under Prime Minister Stephen Harper's leadership or a "reckless coalition." 

"Of course they deny they'll officially join forces, but they did it before; they'll do it again," Flaherty said.  "And that is the choice we will face."

Since becoming Liberal leader, Ignatieff has sought to distance himself from a failed attempt at a Liberal-NDP coalition with the signed support of the Bloc in 2008 by his predecessor Stéphane Dion.

With files from The Canadian Press