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Harper Vote Campaign May Get Boost From Canadian Jobs Report

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s election campaign may get a boost tomorrow from an employment report that is forecast to show a sixth straight monthly gain, bolstering his argument his Conservative Party is best at managing the economic recovery.

Statistics Canada is likely to report a job gain of 28,000 people for March, and a decline in the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent from 7.8 percent, according to the median of 25 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. The Ottawa-based agency’s jobs report, the only one scheduled to be published during the May 2 election campaign, is due tomorrow at 7 a.m. New York time.

Harper says the recovery would be threatened by a coalition of opposition parties that would curb growth by increasing taxes and spending. Canada was the first Group of Seven nation to recover the jobs lost in a global recession and credit crisis, and increased employment may remind voters of Canada’s recovery in what Harper has called “a sea of trouble” abroad.

“When good news happens you try to take credit for it, when bad news happens you say it’s the global economy,” said Richard Nimijean, who teaches Canadian Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. The Conservatives will try to “fine-tune” the data to their target audience of “people who are middle class and vulnerable,” he said.

Wasting Money

Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff says the government is wasting money by cutting the tax rate for corporations, and he is pledging to reverse a reduction that took effect Jan. 1 and halt another one due next year, using the money instead for social programs and deficit reduction.

“What’s really happening out there is a lot of people have lost their jobs and a lot of people are having a tough time,” Ignatieff said at a March 31 town hall in London, Ontario. He has said during the campaign that Canada suffers from “workers without jobs and jobs without workers.”

Harper’s Conservatives were supported by 39.6 percent of decided voters, followed by 30.4 percent who supported the Liberals, according to a CTV/Globe/Nanos election survey published today. The telephone survey of 1,200 people conducted April 4-6 has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent.

The Conservatives failed to win a majority with 37.7 percent of the popular vote in the last election in October 2008.

Stronger Dollar

Canada’s currency has strengthened 2 percent since the government was defeated on a non-confidence motion March 25. The country’s benchmark Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite index has risen 1.2 percent and the 2-year government bond yield has increased to 1.88 percent from 1.73 percent.

Statistics Canada said today that building permits rose 9.9 percent in February, the fastest pace in five months. A gain in non-residential work exceeded a drop in housing.

The Canadian dollar appreciated 0.1 percent to 96.03 cents per U.S. dollar at 9:09 a.m. in Toronto, from 96.08 cents yesterday. It touched 95.69 cents yesterday, the strongest since November 2007. One Canadian dollar buys $1.0416.

Harper has touted tax breaks for manufacturers and small businesses that hire new workers while on the campaign trail.

‘Low-Tax Plan’

“It is a low-tax plan of critical importance to jobs, growth and the financial security of hardworking Canadian families,” Harper said in a March 27 speech in Brampton, Ontario, part of the Toronto suburbs where he needs to add seats to help form a majority government.

Canada’s last labor report showed a job gain of 15,100 in February, which followed a gain of 69,200 in January that was four times greater than economists had forecast. Average hourly wages advanced 2.5 percent from a year earlier. The jobless rate of 7.8 percent in February was closer to the 8.6 percent rate in June 2009 as the recession ended than the 6.2 percent rate in September 2008 as it began.

Unemployment won’t decline much this year, a separate Bloomberg economist survey shows; the jobless rate will average 7.4 percent in the last three months of the year according to the weighted average of 18 responses.

Still, the job market is stronger than in the U.S., Canada’s biggest trading partner. The unemployment rate in Canada has been below the U.S. since October 2008. The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March, the Labor Department said April 1 in Washington.

“The Conservatives have a favorable image as economic managers,” said Ian Stewart, who teaches political science at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. “They are going to hammer this theme again and again.”

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