Canada expresses frustration over latest U.S. crisis

OTTAWA Fri Mar 1, 2013 2:24pm EST

Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa March 1, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa March 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expressed rare public frustration with the United States on Friday, saying it was regrettable that Canada's main trading partner kept lurching from crisis to crisis.

Political deadlock in Washington means the U.S. government is due to start imposing $85 billion worth of automatic federal spending cuts on Saturday. Canada sends 75 percent of all its exports to the United States and is very reliant on the economic health of its southern neighbor.

Flaherty said he was confident Canada would not suffer too badly from the U.S. cuts, but lamented the looming crisis, which comes in the wake of earlier U.S. dog fights over raising the budget debt ceiling.

"It is regrettable, though, that the U.S. continues to move from crisis to crisis in fiscal terms," he told reporters.

"So we hope - and we'll certainly encourage our friends in the United States through the G20 and in other ways - to develop a solid medium-term economic plan, a sustainable fiscal plan for the United States, just as we have developed one here in Canada, and to stick with the plan," he said.

Earlier on Friday another Canadian cabinet minister took a swipe at the United States, saying the country was up to its ears in debt because it had followed big-spending policies similar to those advocated by a left-leaning Canadian party.

House Leader Peter Van Loan, a Conservative, made his comments while criticizing the left-leaning opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which wants more government spending on social programs such as public housing.

"If they want to see an example of what happens when you adopt NDP spending plans ... they can just look south of the border and see what happens when you're in debt up to your ears," Van Loan told the House of Commons.

Canada's governing Conservatives are a right-of-center pro-business party more similar to the U.S. Republicans than President Barack Obama's Democrats. Obama has a somewhat distant relationship with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

A few minutes later Van Loan renewed his attack on the NDP's spending plans, saying they would pile up huge government debts.

"If they want to know where you go when you hit that black hole of debt, just look south of the border and see real crisis," he said.

Harper's chief spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Conservatives are currently pressing Washington to approve TransCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. Obama is under heavy pressure from environmentalists to veto the project.

(Editing by Peter Galloway)

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