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Harper attacks opponents’ ‘clearly damaging’ policies as stock market tumbles – National

WATCH ABOVE: All the federal leaders are calibrating how to respond to the economic uncertainty after Monday’s stock market losses. Vassy Kapelos reports.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper said Monday morning’s stock market fumble re-enforces what he’s been saying over the last three weeks of the campaign – the economy is the most important election issue.

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“I’m not going to get in to that kind of discussion on the markets other than to say what I’ve been saying, the most important thing facing this country economic challenges because we are living in an unstable global economy,” he said after being asked if the drop in markets was a “buying opportunity” like he suggested during a 2008 drop in the stock market.

Harper made the comments while fielding questions from reporters at a campaign stop in Drummondville, Quebec Monday morning, shortly after North American markets opened significantly lower.

The composite index for shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange fell 767 points, or 5.7 per cent at the opening bell while the Dow Jones Industrial average dropped over 1,000 points.

WATCH: Asian stocks continued to plummet Monday morning amid fears China’s economic slowdown could signal global economic trouble. Jill Wagner is at the New York Stock Exchange with the latest.

Harper also suggested his policies, including a budget he claims is balanced (it’s probably not), have created a “good competitive situation for the country.” His opponents policies’ on the other hand, are “clearly damaging,” Harper said.

“The alternative, what the other guys are proposing, at a time of enormous market instability, is that they would embark on large-scale permanent spending increases, they would finance that through deficits and through big tax increases, including big tax increases on workers and job creating businesses, and we think that is clearly the wrong track,” Harper said.

The Liberal candidate for Regina-Wascana said in a statement Monday afternoon that the “Liberals have cleaned up Conservative fiscal failures in the past, and we will do it again.”

“If Stephen Harper thinks stock market performance is the best indicator of good economic stewardship, he should look in the mirror. Performance indicators are only slightly higher today than they were the day he became Prime Minister, almost ten long years ago,” Ralph Goodale said.

Mulcair fired back at the Conservative leader while answering questions from reporters Monday afternoon, saying Harper’s policies have put Canada’s economy in a “precarious position.”

“Don’t forget that the reason we’re in such a precarious position in Canada right now is because Stephen Harper made a huge bet on one number; oil and gas,” Mulcair said.

WATCH: The federal party leaders are all discussing the right way to handle and run the Canadian economy as stock markets continue to tumble. Laura Stone reports.

“And when that number didn’t come in, guess what, we were left with a more precarious position for all Canadians. Four hundred thousand manufacturing jobs were lost in this country on Stephen Harper’s watch, that didn’t start a couple weeks ago.”

A July Ipsos poll bolsters Harper’s suggestion that the economy is on the minds of Canadian voters. In a poll of 2,000 Canadians conducted between July 23 and July 27, 54 per cent of respondents said the rising cost of living was their most important issue. That was followed by 40 per cent most concerned by rising food prices, and 36 per cent concerned about a shaky economy.