Canadians Want Focus on Economy Not Vote, Harper Says

Canadians want the government to focus on the economic recovery and not a possible election, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

An election is “not what Canadians want,” said Harper, whose government holds a minority of seats in Parliament and needs opposition support to remain in power. “Canadians want us to continue to focus on governing and especially, colleagues, they want us to focus on the economy.”

An EKOS Research Associates poll today showed Harper’s Conservatives, also known as Tories, falling into a statistical tie with the main opposition Liberals amid controversy over the government’s decision to eliminate a mandatory census.

Harper, speaking to lawmakers from his party in Ottawa, also highlighted the government’s attempts to fight crime. By pledging to strengthen the economic recovery and help police, Harper is seeking to shift attention to what voters consider the government’s strong points, said Paul Adams, a professor of journalism and communications at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“You can see them now trying to build another narrative and move the census off the front pages,” Adams said.

Harper said there have been renewed threats from the opposition about an election. Conservative lawmakers are meeting this week in Ottawa to discuss policy issues as part of summer meetings. Parliament is in recess.

Attractive Dollar

Canada’s dollar today climbed to the highest level since May versus its U.S. counterpart on an improving growth outlook. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters separately today the country’s strong economic “fundamentals” support demand for the country’s assets, adding it’s no “surprise” the currency has become more attractive.

The Canadian currency rose as much as 0.7 percent to C$1.0108 per U.S. dollar, the strongest since May 4, before trading at C$1.0161 at 1:46 p.m. in Toronto, compared with C$1.0181 yesterday. One Canadian dollar buys 98.43 U.S. cents.

The Conservatives had the support of 29.7 percent of voters, versus 28.5 percent for the opposition Liberal Party, according to a poll released today by Ekos. The Conservatives held an 11-point lead in mid-July, Ekos said.

The poll of 1,516 voters was taken between July 28 and Aug. 3, and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

The government has said Canada’s next census, to be taken in May, won’t include a mandatory long-form questionnaire such as the one that had previously been sent to a fifth of households. Instead, Statistics Canada will send a voluntary form covering most of the same topics as the previous form as part of a new National Household Survey.

The move prompted the resignation of Canada’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, and is opposed by all three of Canada’s opposition parties. Government officials, including Industry Minister Tony Clement, have said the government is making the change because Canadians shouldn’t face jail time or fines if they choose not to fill out the census.

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