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Flaherty 'relatively confident' Canada can weather economic storm

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty arives to at a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 4, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Markets are dropping steeply, demand for Canada's oil is waning and the loonie's value no longer hovers above the greenback – but Jim Flaherty says he remains confident new measures are not required for Canada to weather the current economic storm.

Speaking with reporters in Ottawa, the Finance Minister noted that he was feeling positive about growth in the Canadian economy based on a closed-door meeting Monday with a group of business leaders that form his advisory council.

"If we had some sort of world recession, obviously, then that would change the picture dramatically, but you know, I'm relatively confident that what we're going to see in Canada is modest economic growth over the next while," Mr. Flaherty said.

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"That's what the IMF, the OECD say. I met with my economic advisory council [Monday] That's what I was hearing from those business leaders from across the country. So I'm comfortable with modest economic growth, with that anticipation over the next while."

Mr. Flaherty repeated his call for European leaders to provide clarity on the Greek debt crisis, which he described as an "urgent situation."

The Conservative government's stay-the-course message for the Canadian economy is the subject of daily attacks in the House of Commons from opposition parties demanding new measures this fall to boost jobs.

Instead, the government is highlighting employment measures that were announced in the 2011 budget, such as a $1,000 Hiring Credit for Small Business that will expire at the end of the year.

When asked if he would extend the credit into 2012, Mr. Flaherty would not rule out the idea, indicating that it would depend on the state of the economy.

"Of course we'll look and we'll watch and we are concerned about the number of persons who are unemployed in Canada. Our unemployment rate is much better than the American rate but that's small comfort. We still have too many people [who are]unemployed in this country," he said.

Mr. Flaherty commented on the declining value of the Canadian dollar, blaming it on the rising value of the U.S. dollar.

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"Volatility in the dollar is always a concern," he said. "But what we're seeing, which is evident, is a flight to the U.S. dollar as a perceived safe-haven and so it's not surprising that that has an effect on our currency in the short term."

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