SEA ISLAND SUMMIT 2004
For Immediate Release
June 9, 2004
PRESS BRIEFING BY
CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER PAUL MARTIN
Briefing Room East
Sea Island, Georgia
3:32 P.M. EDT
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: All right. Press, what I'll do is just provide a brief overview before we go into the questions.
Essentially, the day -- just yesterday after I met with you, I had a bilateral with Tony Blair in which we discussed a number of things, including the G20 and the advantages of setting up a leader's G20 to match the finance ministers' G20. And I also went through with him the discussions that I've had on whole fishing file -- the over-fishing file off the nose and tail and my discussion that I'd had with the European Commission. I must say that Prime Minister Blair also showed considerable sympathy for the Canadian position.
Then this morning, earlier on, I met with President Chirac -- (in French).
The meeting this morning started in terms of the world economy and then each country's economy -- a reasonable degree of optimism, which I share, in terms of the world economy. I must say that when we got to the country-by-country analysis, I thought back to my first summit meeting, which I attended as a finance minister in '94 -- '93, actually.
I've got to tell you that the situation was considerably different where Canada was at the bottom of the class. In today's discussion, we are the only country in surplus. We are creating jobs at a very, very strong pace. We've got great momentum. And the IMF says that we should have, after the United States, the second strongest economy next year. So it was quite a radical difference, and I must say I sort of felt quite good about all of that.
Then I made a presentation on the report which the former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, and I did for Kofi Annan for the United Nations on private sector involvement in poverty alleviation around the world. And I must say that that also went very well. Our conclusions were accepted, I think, by the G8, pretty well unanimously, as to what has to be done.
What I would add to that is that this really is part of the larger file of institution-building, which I believe will be a principal thrust of Canada's foreign policy going ahead -- how do you deal with fragile states, with failing states. Certainly the kinds of things that are required to get domestic private sector, not multinational companies, involved are exactly the kinds of things which are required when one approaches institution building; as well as the idea that we put forth that I think is well received, that in fact there has to be much better training of troops in the developing countries so that they, in fact, can maintain -- can do peacemaking within the regions. Africa being an example -- the training of Senegalese troops or Ugandan troops for peacekeeping in places like the Congo.
I think that if we have a responsibility to train them, I think what that will lead to is much greater meshing of institution building and of the kinds of troop support that are required.
Following that, we had a general discussion on the European Commission -- where Europe was going. Then, of course, we had lunch with a number of the leaders from the Middle East and Turkey. It just so happened that the way we were seated, I was seated next to the new president of Iraq; who, I must say, impressed me and also in terms of his own optimism for what they can do and what has to be done. Quite clearly, great recognition that the new U.N. resolution marks a very -- a new start and one that fills people with a reasonable degree of optimism; albeit, recognizing that there's a lot of work to be done.
A lot more, but I won't go into it.
Over to you.
Q Prime Minister, I wanted to ask you -- President Bush has asked for a greater NATO involvement in Iraq in the wake of the Security Council resolution being passed. But Mr. Chirac has already said -- rejected that idea. What is Canada's position on that?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, first of all, there already is a NATO involvement. The Polish contingent is there under NATO. But fundamentally, now with the new Iraqi government in place, it is up to that government to essentially -- after assessing the situation -- to make those requests. Clearly, if the new Iraqi government were to ask for a further NATO involvement, then that's obviously something that I'm sure all of the parties would be prepared to take a look at.
From our point of view, we've already, as you know, made a major financial contribution. We're training the Jordanian officers and we're very heavily involved in both Afghanistan and Haiti. I have said that we're certainly prepared to participate. I do not believe that we would be participating with further troop movements. But we are certainly going to participate in terms of expertise.
Q A domestic issue, if I could, Prime Minister. Yesterday Senator Ann Cools decided to defect to the Conservative Party. Today MP Carolyn Parrish is quoted as saying that the national campaign so far has been a comedy of errors; that's her terminology. Would you comment on that, first on Senator Cools, but secondly also on Miss Parrish's comments.
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: I'm sorry about Ann. I think that the differences between ourselves and the alliance conservatives are becoming clearer and clearer every day. And fundamentally, I don't believe that the views that are being expressed by Stephen Harper, the challenges to the charter, the statements that the charter has major flaws --I don't think those are ones that are held by liberals. And I'm going to defend the charter.
As far as Carolyn is concerned, she's a very, very good politician. I'm sure that she will win her seats. I haven't had the opportunity to talk to her in terms of her comment. I must say that in terms of both our economic program, our social program and, in fact, our support of the charter, I think that we're doing exactly the right thing.
Q Just quickly, Prime Minister, with respect to your talk about the differences that are becoming apparent between you and alliance conservatives, as you put it, what traction are you getting from your own polling, from your advisors? What sense do you have that your ability to use these wedge issues about their social conservatism versus the liberals is actually getting the sway with voters?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: I think, as you know, we're into the playoffs now, in terms of the campaign. And I think that those are exactly the issues that are registering there, too.
Essentially they are the support of the charter and there's no doubt that in my mind the Canadians support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; but also, the differences in terms of economic policy. The preparedness of Mr. Harper to go back into deficit I think is something that just simply is not acceptable to Canadians.
When I think of the discussions that we've had here this morning in which the Canadian economy is doing so well, and which is directly related to the kinds of economic policies that we as liberals brought in -- and that he is prepared to jeopardize with this massive spending program that would put us back into deficit on the one hand; or would mean a major attack on the role the government plays. And I think the Canadians understand that the role the government plays is very important. That's why I'm quite prepared to put up our healthcare program, our child care program, our support for seniors against his tax cuts or his increased military spending.
I must say, as well, in terms of his increased military spending versus our increased military spending, you don't have to be at a meeting such as this very long to see that our increased military spending, which is directed toward supporting failing states, our military spending, which is toward institution building, when you look at what's going on in Afghanistan and Haiti and Iraq, there is no doubt that we are where the world is going. And I think the Canadians will understand that.
Q Prime Minister, on the G8 conference, has the G8 decided to press OPEC to increase output further? And if I could just come back to my colleague's question, is there any danger that your position on marriage and abortion is actually backfiring among your traditional support base; for example, Catholic voters?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: We did discuss the whole question of oil and, as I indicated yesterday, there is a possibility of a minor increase in production by OPEC. I don't think it will be major.
Our position begins, in terms of your second question, with support of the charter. I just simply do not agree with Stephen Harper that the charter has deep flaws. Nor do I agree that the notwithstanding clause, which has never been used by the government of Canada, should start suddenly to be used in a way that Mr. Harper said.
The fact is that women's right to choose, as an example, the court has made a decision. I really believe that in a nation that's as multicultural as is Canada, with as many different religions and the makeup of this country, that anything that would threaten the rights of minorities or anything that would threaten, in fact, the ability of the Charter of Rights to protect minorities, I just think would really not be acceptable to the Canadian people.
Q Prime Minister, I'll use your terminology in you're saying you're into the playoffs in terms of campaigning, but it appears the two major teams in the game are virtually tied. I'm just wondering what you have to do to ensure that you win the final game. I'm just looking ahead toward your visit to, I guess, Montreal on Friday. What change in tactics do you have to do to accomplish the end goal?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: I really believe that it's going to be decided on the basis of the values of the respective parties, and that what Canadians want to know is our values in terms of social policy, our values in terms of economic policy, our values in terms of fairness. Because Canadians know that, in fact, governments deal with the unexpected, that no one can predict what's going to happen over the course of the next four to five years. And they really want to know how will you react.
I believe that when you compare our program -- healthcare and child care, protection of seniors versus military spending, the Canadians are going to say, look, our values lie with the liberals. I see no -- I certainly do not intend to change that game plan. That is what the liberal party has historically always stood for. And whatever evolution has occurred, it's an evolution that has always been on the basis of protecting individuals and protecting Canadians.
Q I'm just wondering what your message is by going to mayors in Montreal and --
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, I'm not sure -- my whole schedule has not been set out yet. But I am certainly going to be -- as well, I will be setting out (in French).
Q (In French.)
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: (In French.)
Q (In French.)
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: (In French.)
Q (In French.)
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: (In French.)
Q (In French.)
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: (In French.)
Q Prime Minister, the question of troops in Iraq also came up in the conservative campaign today. Mr. Harper was defending himself against charges that he would have sent troops to Iraq. He argued that what he had been talking about was sending troops in as part of the coalition several months before the war to put pressure on Saddam Hussein. And he said, "I continue to believe that if allies had acted in a concerted measure to put that pressure on him, we could have avoided a war, but we didn't do that." I'd like you to comment on his comments.
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, he seems to be changing his story every day. He very clearly wrote a letter, or an article in The Wall Street Journal, along with Stockwell Day, in which he said that we should be sending troops in with the coalition. He didn't say we should be sending them in way before. He said we should be sending troops in with the coalition. And then he tried to deny that he wanted us to send troops to Iraq at the time of the invasion. And now he seems to be sliding back to his original position.
The fact is, he wanted us to send troops in with the coalition; it's as simple as that. Canada made the right decision in not doing that. So I'm not quite sure what he is trying to say. It would not have been a Canadian decision -- everybody knows the negotiations that were taking place in the Security Council at that time, Canada played a very important role. And the reason that we didn't send troops was, in fact, that the Canadian proposal that was put forth was not accepted and the inspections were not given the time that Mr. Heimbecker at that time thought was necessary.
But Stephen Harper seems to change his position every day. But one thing that's very clear, because he's in writing on it, the fact is he wanted to send troops into Iraq at the time of the coalition; and that was his position and he should just admit it.
Q As a supplementary, I'd like to follow up in English on an earlier question. You are leaving the summit tonight. We were told it was because you had to get back onto the campaign trail and that we would be leaving for Montreal tomorrow afternoon. Is it not rather embarrassing for you to be leaving the summit, not being here tomorrow, and taking a day off in Ottawa? And isn't it also embarrassing this perception that your organizers can't find a place for you to campaign?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, that's simply not true. The fact is that I am going back. It is all part of the campaign. The plans were that I was going to return, and that's why I spent so much time in the bilaterals, meeting with all of the individual heads of state. I've probably done more bilaterals than almost anybody in order to make sure that the Canadian view was felt.
I will have made, by the end of this day, three major presentations. I made the presentation this morning on the private sector development. I will be making a presentation this afternoon on nuclear proliferation. And then I will be making a presentation tonight on Haiti.
So, in fact, in the time that has been open to me here, I've done a great deal. I think that Canada has marked some very, very important points.
Now, in terms of the campaign, there are times when, in fact, what you do is you do public events and there are times when you do other kinds of work in the middle of a campaign. That's exactly what I'm going to be doing tomorrow.
Let me tell you, this is a very big country. My problem isn't finding places to campaign. Unfortunately, the problem is it's too big a country to cover in a short period of time. So you've got to pick and choose where you're going to go. But, boy, I'll tell you, the one thing I don't have is having people ask me to come into their riding.
4:03 P.M. EDT END