OTTAWA Oct 15 Canada's Conservative government on Wednesday highlighted a populist, pro-consumer approach ahead of a 2015 election, but says it will continue to push for more jobs and economic growth.
Addressing members of his Conservative caucus ahead of a policy speech that will outline government priorities for the second half of its 4-1/2-year mandate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the government planned moves on "choice, fair treatment, competitive prices."
"We know Canadians have to make tough financial choices when spending their hard-earned dollars," he said in a prepared text of his remarks to the caucus.
The government has already said that the policy speech, to be delivered in Parliament after 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), will include measures to cut roaming costs for Canadian wireless customers, give consumers more choice on television stations they receive by cable, and increase high-speed broadband networks in rural areas.
But the government has given few details on any new approach to boost employment, except to say it will soon complete negotiations on a free trade pact with the European Union and to repeat plans for a balanced budget with no new taxes.
Among other populist moves clearly designed to shore up electoral support, Industry Minister James Moore spoke at the weekend about ways to prevent airline overbooking, and the Globe and Mail newspaper said the government would try to narrow the price gap between Canada and the United States on consumer products.
Consumer goods are often costlier in Canada than in the United States, to the irritation of domestic shoppers.
In his speech to the Conservative caucus, Harper was quick to claim credit for the one million net new jobs created since the depth of the recession, which he said was the best record in the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations.
However, opposition New Democratic Party legislator Nathan Cullen said Canadians would not be impressed. "They see a government that's run out of ideas and has lost its way," he told reporters as he headed into an NDP caucus meeting. (Reporting by Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren; Editing by David Brunnstrom)