Guess who gave his blessings to the Financial Transaction Tax (that would take a bitsy percentage of trading bets and make billions to address global problems) and firmly supports pricing carbon? The answer is Canada’s most internationally acclaimed budget balancer, Paul Martin.

I got a chance to ask Martin some one-on-one questions at a Munk Centre event on global governance yesterday and was amazed to hear him sign on to two of NOW’s key G20 wish list items for world leaders (see my story here).

Yes, he has done press conferences with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty opposing the bank levy idea that some European leaders were hoping to lay down on the G20 table because he feels its unworkable considering all the state owned banks out there. “Besides,” he says, “I think that the bank issue is one of regulation and I think that we have to watch out for the countries who are not prepared to face up to regulation or are looking for an easy way out.”

He sees the FTT as a different kettle of fish altogether though as long as its understood to be a tax raiser rather than a control on the financial sector.

“I think that the massive size of the problems that we’re facing whether it be global disease or climate change require sums of money that are not available to national governments, especially not at this time,” he tells me during a coffee break.

“Therefore we have to find other vehicles. The Financial Transaction Tax as opposed to the bank levy should be seriously considered. We cannot continuously turn our backs on the size of the problems that are not being met.”

And with characteristic savvy, he raises the key Robin Hood tax issue. “Who is going to control that money?

“I think if that was dealt with, than some real progress can be made,” he says.

While I’m on a roll, I ask our former PM about carbon pricing which is a fundamental requirement for addressing climate change. And the good vibes from Martin keep on coming.

“I very much believe that a price should be placed on carbon. And I think that carbon trading is something which would be of huge benefit especially to the large forest, tropical forest countries in the world. And I think that that would go a long way towards poverty alleviation. I mean, I think that a lot of these can come together quite nicely.”

So finally, I wonder, what are the chances of some real progress at this G20?

“I think that, to be very honest, as long as it’s not too ideological I think that we could make progress,” he says. Fat chance, I am thinking and so is he.

That’s why he adds,”I’m quite worried that the Canadian vision going into the G20 is not as progressive as I would like to see.

“And I think it would be a tragedy if as a Canadian that we ended up having to look to Korea (where the next G20 will be held in November) to do it. I have an enormous amount of respect for the Korean government but I think that gosh, the G20 was a Canadian initiative. It would really be a shame if they didn’t rise to the challenge.”

We all get the meta-message there from one of the G20’s founders but hey, he’s right. Canada’s role has been truly a shame. But Paul Martin’s support for these positive measures are a hopeful sign of an international perspective that far ahead of what our government is serving up. Hurray for that.


For audio links, click here.