Harper focuses on economic issues

Rebounding labour markets are not sufficient for governments to start applying the brakes on stimulus programs, Stephen Harper will be telling his Group of 20 summit co-chair during a meeting Monday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands in North Korea as a North Korean soldier stands guard at the Demilitarized Zone on the border of North and South Korea at Panmunjom today.

SEOUL, South Korea — Rebounding labour markets are not sufficient for governments to start applying the brakes on stimulus programs, Stephen Harper will be telling his Group of 20 summit co-chair during a meeting Monday.

The prime minister’s talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will focus on preparations for next year’s G20 summit of leading economies.

The main item on the agenda is exit strategies from massive stimulus packages.

Seoul is the last stop on Harper’s sometimes rocky six-day Asian tour through Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and was added to the schedule partly because the two countries are hosting next year’s summit.

A senior government official says Harper is concerned that many countries are getting ahead of economic reality and may act too soon in withdrawing stimulus, particularly with China booming, Europe recovering and signs of growth building in the United States and Canada.

The latest signs of building momentum came Friday when both Canada and the U.S. posted far better-than-expected employment numbers for November. Canada added a whopping 79,000 jobs.

A Harper aide sent emails to all reporters accompanying the prime minister minutes after Statistics Canada posted the news.

But the official, who spoke on background in transit to Seoul, says Harper will press on Lee that governments should only plan exit strategies, not begin them.

The message is that governments need to “finish the job” by implementing the stimulus measures they have promised before putting on the brakes, which if done too fast or too hard, could push many economies back into a tailspin.

Harper did not make himself available to reporters Sunday, which he spent meeting local officials in Hong Kong and participating in an emotional memorial service for the Canadian soldiers who died defending the island in 1941.

The theme of the service — that Canadians gave their lives to bring freedom to the Asian continent — was repeated Monday at a similar service here commemorating the more than 500 killed during the Korean conflict.

Harper visited the demilitarized zone separating the prosperous and democratic South Korea from the impoverished and totalitarian North to drive home the point.

“Just as during the Korean War, Canada is firmly committed to supporting freedom, peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” Harper is quoted in a news release.

“We will continue to support all avenues to reach a peaceful resolution to this tragic legacy and bring about improvements to the lives of those suffering under the oppression of the North Korean regime.”

But the official said the prime minister won’t be repeating the trade breakthroughs, albeit modest, he came away with from China and the special administrative region of Hong Kong.

On Sunday, the government said Hong Kong had dropped its six-year ban on most beef imports from Canada, a potential $60-million a year benefit to Canadian beef producers.

As well, China dropped its blockage of pork imports and granted Canada “approved destination status” during the trip, a potential $100-million boost to the Canadian tourist trade.

Ottawa has taken South Korea to the World Trade Organization over its ban on Canadian beef, imposed after an Alberta cow was diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in 2003.

The official also said the two sides remain too far apart on the comprehensive trade deal they have been negotiating for several years for a breakthrough to occur Monday.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Recollections of well-known families in Red Deer

Past and present families recognized on Family Day

Assault suspect nabbed with sawed-off shotgun

Rocky Mountain House RCMP conduct investigation

New highway to B.C. proposed

The Howse Pass shortcut to British Columbia is worth taking another look… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP execute search warrant

Heavy police presence on Nash Street

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Reader’s opinion: Here’s how Premier Kenney can build a stronger Alberta

Apparently, the UPC government has decided that most seniors should pay more… Continue reading

Tournament of Hearts veteran skip Kerry Galusha curls through pain

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — If Kerry Galusha is skipping Northwest Territories at… Continue reading

Andrew Mangiapane scores first hat trick, leads Flames over Ducks 6-4

Flames 6 Ducks 4 CALGARY — Andrew Mangiapane was front and centre… Continue reading

Mielke: Small town Alberta great place to live

There is something to be said for living in small town, Alberta.… Continue reading

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was tightlipped Monday about his plan… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels end B.C. road trip with win over Prince George

Rebels 4 Cougars 2 The Red Deer Rebels finished the B.C. road… Continue reading

Bombardier to sell train unit to France’s Alstom, shedding biggest division

MONTREAL — Bombardier Inc. has reached a US$8.2-billion deal to sell its… Continue reading

Most Read