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Canadian government begs for unity to tackle economic woes

world Updated: Jan 27, 2009 01:09 IST

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The Canadian government on Monday urged a divided parliament to unite behind its plan to stimulate an economy in recession, at the opening of new legislative session.

"As Canadians expect, the economy will be the focus of our government's actions and of the measures placed before parliament during the coming year," said Governor General Michaelle Jean in a throne speech outlining the administration's agenda for the coming months.

"Canadians face a difficult year -- perhaps several difficult years," she said.

"In these uncertain times, when the world is threatened by a struggling economy, it is imperative that we work together, that we stand beside one another and that we strive for greater solidarity."

Canada's Conservative government is to unveil its budget, and in it a stimulus to bolster an economy in recession, on Tuesday.

Later this week, parliament must vote either to support the measures, or topple the government.

Already, the prime minister's office has announced a two-year deficit of 64 billion dollars (52.5 billion US) due to the stimulus, ending more than a decade of back-to-back surpluses.

Seven billion Canadian dollars (5.7 billion US) will go to infrastructure projects. As well, Canadians can expect modest tax cuts and help for industries in peril, such the auto and forestry sectors.

The pomp and ceremony at the opening of this session of parliament was uncommonly muted with no parade to parliament and no band or honor guard to greet the governor general at the entrance.

Jean's speech also was kept to only three-and-a-half pages, one of the shortest ever, highlighting the government's single-minded focus on an economic fix.

Indeed, all other legislative priorities were summed up by referring to unmet priorities outlined in the last throne speech.