Former PM says expand trade and avoid deficit

Former prime minister Paul Martin was in Toronto Tuesday night promoting his memoir, Hell or High Water – My Life In and Out of Politics. He talked about everything from the charter of rights and freedom to the recent economic crises.

Martin was interviewed by Indigo CEO Heather Reisman, at the bookseller’s Bloor Street store. Hundreds of people attended the book signing, many hanging from corners and stairwells trying an unobstructed view of Mr. Martin.

Martin achieved five consecutive budget surpluses and is considered one of Canada`s most successful finance ministers. He spoke about the dreaded ‘D-word’ – deficit  – and said he is worried the Canadian government appears headed back into deficit.

If the country was to get into deficit then someone will have to pay, he said. “If it is not us than it will be our children who will be paying.”

According to Martin, the decisions that will be made in Ottawa will have a ripple effect on the rest of the country. “The federal government’s balance sheet sets the tone for the country,” he said.

Based on his personal experiences, he believes there will always be differences of opinions between finance ministers and prime ministers and somehow both need to come to a consensus.

“A prime minister and minister of finance will have a different perspective,” he told the audience. If they don’t then someone is not doing their job, he added.

Martin has been pushing for an expansion of the G8 to the G20 and says the current financial situation makes it more important.

He wants “India and China, (each) with a population of 1.3 billion” to be included in the expanded G8 and is looking forward to attend the summit on the financial crises in Washington on Nov. 15.

Asked about the recent Canadian federal election and the looming Liberal leadership race Martin what somewhat less willing to talk: “I will watch it happen with the rest of the people,” he said.