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European debt crisis hampers Canadian hiring, Harper says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives for the second day of the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, on Nov. 4, 2011.

David Ramos/Getty Images

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is blaming Europe for rising unemployment at home.

Speaking with reporters in Cannes at the conclusion of a two day G20 summit, the Prime Minister was asked to comment on the surprising news that the Canadian economy shed 54,000 jobs in October – almost entirely full time – representing the biggest single month decline since 2009.

"Obviously we're disappointed with the numbers, and concerned about them," Mr. Harper said. He pointed out that economic numbers over the past two or three months have been very volatile, including higher September job gains than expected.

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"As we all know, it's a reflection of the lack of confidence that has been spreading in world markets as a consequence of the European debt crisis. And by the way, this is not by any means unique to Canada. I think every single leader of the G20 would make the same observation in terms of the effects of this on their own country."

The Official Opposition led off Question Period on Friday with a focus on the new job numbers, arguing the Statistics Canada report proves the NDP is right to demand more stimulus now.

"What is the Conservatives' message for those out of work Canadians and their families? Just wait for the next corporate tax cuts and all will be well?" asked NDP Whip Chris Charlton. "It has not worked and it will not work. Put people back to work now."

Friday's job numbers saw Canada's unemployment rate climb to 7.3 per cent. A report released earlier this week by the Parliamentary Budget Officer forecasted unemployment will keep rising, averaging 8 per cent for 2012 and 2013 before easing back down to 7 per cent by 2016.

Since Parliament returned in September, both Mr. Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty have said that their plan at the moment is not to change course in terms of economic policy, but would be "flexible" should the economy worsen.

Neither Mr. Harper nor Mr. Flaherty have spelled out in detail what would trigger such flexibility, nor what it would look like. Economists have speculated that flexibility could include moving out the government's 2014-15 target for erasing the deficit or further targeted stimulus spending in the next budget.

"As I've said before, if we enter different economic circumstances, the government will adjust its policies accordingly. But I'm not here to predict a recession. I still think there's every reason the world should avoid that," the Prime Minister said Friday. "I think the sooner European leaders and others can simply confirm that they're moving forward, I think that will be the quickest way to get us out of this crisis of confidence."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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