Stimulus ‘starting to bear fruit’: Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper lauded his government’s economic stimulus plan on Monday for helping the country cope with the recession, saying 90 per cent of Ottawa’s $29-billion plan to stimulate the economy for this fiscal year has been committed to specific projects.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper releases the government's latest economic update at the Irving-owned NB Southern Railway mechanical shop in Saint John

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Prime Minister Stephen Harper lauded his government’s economic stimulus plan on Monday for helping the country cope with the recession, saying 90 per cent of Ottawa’s $29-billion plan to stimulate the economy for this fiscal year has been committed to specific projects.

But the announcement was swiftly greeted with skepticism from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who accused Harper of exaggerating the program’s success.

In an economic update delivered in this port city, Harper said the money has been committed to 7,500 infrastructure and housing projects, more than 4,000 of which are in some form of construction phase.

“Our efforts are starting to bear fruit . . . We see stabilization and the early beginnings of a recovery,” Harper told a news conference, standing in front of a green locomotive at the Southern Railway mechanical shop.

“Now is the time to stay on course.”

But Ignatieff said only 12 per cent of projects are actually underway, accusing the prime minister of failing to meet the obligations of an agreement the two leaders made after earlier this year to fully account for federal spending.

“We’re tired of this kind of game-playing,” Ignatieff said outside the House of Commons. “We wanted real accountability. We wanted a government that tells Canadians the truth.”

Ignatieff said the Conservatives are not managing the economy prudently and accused them of using infrastructure money to reward Tory ridings.

Transport Minister John Baird rejected the claim, saying the Conservative government is focusing on job creation rather than an election the Liberals seem bent on forcing.

Harper’s economic update, his third since the federal budget was tabled, came as the Liberals introduced a motion of non-confidence Monday aimed at toppling the Tory minority government.

But the Conservatives are expected to survive that vote Thursday with the support of the New Democrats.

Harper warned that forcing an “unnecessary and wasteful election” could threaten Canada’s economic recovery.

He said it was “completely irresponsible” for the Liberals to express opposition to the government’s economic report before it was even released.

The government won support for its two-year stimulus plan by promising to provide updates, a demand issued by the Liberals as a condition of supporting the budget.

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