Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is not planning on announcing a fiscal stimulus package during Thursday's economic update, a move that brought criticism from the opposition in the House Wednesday.

But the Harper government says that it will have a stimulus package ready for next year -- probably in the form of massive infrastructure spending -- and it should be passed before the Americans move.

President-elect Barack Obama does not take office until Jan. 20 and the U.S. legislative process will only then begin working on a stimulus package.

"We have an administration already in place. The prime minister is the prime minister today. And our legislative process tends to move more quickly," a senior government official told The Canadian Press.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said during question period that Thursday's economic update would be a "sad day" for Canadians and asked why there would be no stimulus package for important sectors of the economy.

"Where is the plan to get our economy back on track?" Dion asked, singling out the auto industry in particular as a sector in need of government help.

Parliamentary secretary of finance Ted Menzies responded that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is consulting on a regular basis with other leaders around the world and said that Canada is not in as dire an economic situation as other countries.

Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney said on CTV's Mike Duffy Live said that Canada's economy is facing challenges but touted the country's banking sector as strong.

"The reality is we are facing a real difficult time economically . . . and Canada may face a deficit but it will be the least bad situation of any major developed country," Kenney said.

Liberal MP Gerald Kennedy said on Mike Duffy live that the Tories' fiscal moves have "weakened our ability to respond" to the economic crisis.

He added that the government cannot wait until March -- the normal time for a new federal budget -- to respond to the auto industry crisis.

Kennedy, the new opposition industry critic, said the Conservatives cannot expect the U.S. congress to look out for Canadian jobs when and if it responds with an auto sector bailout.

Cuts to perks

Industry Minister Tony Clement said that the government has been investing in auto innovation throughout 2008. However, an economist from the Conference Board of Canada expects another 15,000 jobs will be lost in the industry in 2009.

Flaherty said his economic update will include real "actions." It is expected that those measures will include cutting back discretionary spending by ministers, MPs and top bureaucrats.

"This will be worth tens of millions of dollars a year in savings," said Kory Teneycke, the prime minister's director of communication.

P.E.I. Liberal MP Wayne Easter mocked the budget cuts in the House Wednesday, asking why the Conservatives raised the number of cabinet portfolios.

B.C. Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh said the Tories are only acting on "gimmicky" things.

"I'm concerned that they're into the gimmicky stuff and they're not acting quickly enough on the substantive issues that are affecting people. These are jobs in the auto sector, the forestry sector and other sectors," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press