Lessons from Canada with Paul Martin

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paul Martin, former Finance Minister (1993-2002) and Prime Minister of Canada (2003-2006), talks about why the Canadian economy is doing well, the policies he enacted, and what the U.S. could learn from Canada's budgeting past.


Prime Minister Paul Martin, Jr

Comments [47]

gary from queens


"But let's not have government decide by fiat these market decisions" -- they've been doing it since 1776 and has lead to some of our greatest economies (i.e. the internet).


"Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet,"


Both are wrong. That was NOT why gov created it. AND it was entrepreneurs----not government----who created uses for it that far exceeded anything anticipated by government.

Jul. 23 2012 01:16 PM
Amit Singh from Three Bridges, NJ

Great Talk - High time we learn from neighbors, friends and other nations; rather criticizing for our selfish means and ignorant egos. It starts from your backyard or a colleague in next cubicle or office.

Pluralism is America’s strength!

Jul. 23 2012 01:11 PM
alan from NY

Americans who "revere" the Bible should re-read the Story of Joseph in Egypt.
Joseph saved his own life, the Egyptian people,and his own people by realizing that leaders must save resources in public stores during bountiful years for distribution (to the general population) during famine.
Maybe Canadians have more assets than we do because they have a better understanding of the Bible.

Jul. 23 2012 12:24 PM

I know of 5 friends who have taken advantage of Canadian health care. I live in a town of 5000. I think the number of Americans might be quite substantial. By the way, all of my friends were from middle or low income sector. What I heard is that those coming from Canada come from the upper class - which means they have access to good health care anywhere on earth.

Jul. 23 2012 12:07 PM
Joe Pearce from Brooklyn, N.Y.

While being subjected to another NPR bash-the-U.S. broadcast, this by way of telling us how much better Canada is than is the U.S. (now that the average income there exceeds the U.S.'s), several things should be taken into consideration which seemed to be studiously avoided in the broadcast:
1) Canada is the second largest country in the world (yes, larger than the U.S.A.), a huge portion of it totally uninhabitable under almost any circumstances and consequently requiring little maintenance, 2)Canada has only 34 million people in that huge landmass as compared to 306 million in the U.S.A., 3) as Paul Martin tried not to admit (but did), Canada fine-tunes its immigration policy so that, for the most part, only the best and brightest are welcome, 4)Canada has no great problem with illegal immigration, 5) 83% of the "visually identifiable" population of Canada is white, only 1% black and slightly less than that Latino, so that problems endemic to these populations (for whatever historical reason) are pretty much unknown there, 6) as broached by Mr. Lehrer and discounted by Mr. Martin, it would be interesting to know how many Americans feel a pressing need to run off to Canada to take advantage of their health care services as against how many Canadians (and remembering their relative lack of population) come in the opposite direction to take advantage of our "inferior" health care, and 7)also to be considered, it is actually against the law in Canada for a resident to avail himself of certain health care in that country outside that covered by the government, a frightening prospect given our own government's propensity for wanting to be all things to all people once it gets the chance. So, which serves the greater good, I wonder - to provide $10 each to 34 million people, or to provide $9.98 each to 306 million people? That should be the standard of comparison for judging the relative incomes in our two countries.

Jul. 23 2012 11:53 AM
oscar from ny

I love the way evil is gloryfied in the us

Jul. 23 2012 11:36 AM

"But let's not have government decide by fiat these market decisions" -- they've been doing it since 1776 and has lead to some of our greatest economies (i.e. the internet).

Jul. 23 2012 11:25 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Gary who wrote

"The free markets will better decide when any given technology is there and competitive enough for sale. Solyndra and other government decisions have proven again that government doesnt know best regarding economic decisions."

In the long run, you are correct, but in the short run not necessarily. In Israel, for example, Intel built its first overseas fabrication plants in the Negev, not because of Zionism, but because the Israeli government had (1) trained many of its youth in the IDF to become hands-on technicians; (2) invested heavily in vocational technical colleges; and (3) invests very heavily in R&D. It also gives tax breaks, but so do many countries and states in the US. It gave Israel a BIG EDGE in high tech. But maintaining that edge is another story. An edge can get very blunt very fast.

Jul. 23 2012 11:19 AM

I am gobsmacked that the normally thoughtful Mr. Lehrer glibly asked Mr. Martin if Canadians weren't "happy" about global warming because, "you know, they could use a few more degrees". The former PM's answer was a polite, "absolutely not", where someone else might have responded with something like "are you out of your bleeping mind?"

Jul. 23 2012 11:12 AM
The Truth from Becky

We are far too arrogant to follow anyone else's lead...even if the road leads to success....will perish together as fools.

Jul. 23 2012 11:04 AM
MaryBeth from New Jersey

Maybe one reason Canada has surpassed the US in household income is the cost of higher education. My understanding is that most Canadian students and/or their families are not taking out huge loans to afford a college education, incurring debt that can dog them for a lifetime. My daughter will be attending McGill University this fall, a very affordable option even as an international student. The cost of attendance for comparable US universities is more by 20k+.

Jul. 23 2012 11:02 AM

we should call ourselves STATERS

Jul. 23 2012 10:59 AM
Jon Pope from Ridge, NY

It takes three barrels of water and one barrel of oil to get just 3 barrels of oil from the ground in the tar sands process (Popular Science, June 2011). Its only on par with fracking as far as being the most inefficient way to get oil out of the ground....

Jul. 23 2012 10:59 AM
gary from queens


The free markets will better decide when any given technology is there and competitive enough for sale. Solyndra and other government decisions have proven again that government doesnt know best regarding economic decisions.

The US has a century's worth of energy from gas and coal. New methods of extraction are not as bad as are made out. the benefits to society might outweigh the damage to the environment.

Let's have that debate. But let's not have government decide by fiat these market decisions

Jul. 23 2012 10:58 AM
McGill Mom

Does the Prime Minister anticipate any diversification in the Canadian stock market? Currently, its concentrated in natural resources and banking.


Jul. 23 2012 10:57 AM

I lived in Israel in the 1980s, and I went through every kind of bubble bursting you can possibly imagine - and then some - and they all came about because of too much government and bureaucratic interference in everything. Countries and people only learn from harsh experiences. But for how long is the question.

Jul. 23 2012 10:56 AM


Jul. 23 2012 10:56 AM
Amy from Manhattan

A Canadian friend told me several years ago that she couldn't get help to quit smoking covered under the Canadian health system. Is this still true? It makes no sense not to cover preventive care. Of course, if she gets lung cancer, her treatment would be covered, but she shouldn't have to get sick 1st from a preventable disease.

Jul. 23 2012 10:54 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Canadians are a pragmatic and practical people. At one time Americans too had these qualities.
Today, Americans have turned to fantasy and fanaticism.

Jul. 23 2012 10:52 AM
Jim B

I remember a National lampoon piece from the early 70's: "Canada - Someday, Maybe" with a picture of an angry beaver shaking its fist. Looks like that time has come.

Jul. 23 2012 10:52 AM

brian assumes that people like going to the doctor just because it's "free"
i have health insurance that i don't use because i hate wasting my time with doctors

Jul. 23 2012 10:52 AM

Nothing more boring than listening to a Canadian brag. Brian ask him some real questions -- or just get to the point and get the emigration Deets.

Jul. 23 2012 10:52 AM
Sherry from UWS

Your guest is incorrect concerning torts. Lawsuits account for 1% of our healthcare costs and do not impact anything.

Jul. 23 2012 10:51 AM
Marianna from Toronto, ON

I'm a native New Yorker who has lived in Toronto for the past 6 years. Here are some quick observations:
1. I feel safer in most parts of Brooklyn than I do in Downtown Toronto. The comparison crime statistics reflect this personal perception.
2. I have more employment opportunities available to me in New York than I do in Toronto (and I work in healthcare).
3. While healthcare is "free", it is largely inaccessible (it took 3 years for me to find a GP) and inadequate (waiting 4 months for an MRI sound reasonable to you?).
4. The current real estate market in most major Canadian cities is perfectly primed for a bust. So, don't be too smug, Canada.

We may have our faults, but I'll take New York over Toronto any day.

Jul. 23 2012 10:51 AM

Before you all move to Canada to partake in Canada's superior healthcare system, I recommend you read this study on the healthcare systems of Canada, the UK, and New Zealand.

There are reasons why my doctor here in NYC tells me that people from Canada are always coming here for her services.

Jul. 23 2012 10:50 AM
Leo from Queens

Why do we allow the NRA to facilitate gun trafficking?
Wouldn't I be put to jail if I were to enable a drug traffic organization with 1 weapon, let alone hundreds of thousands of weapons. Anybody looking at the link between the NRA, gun trafficker and its links to the Mexican drug cartels?

Jul. 23 2012 10:50 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Everyone seems to forget that 24 hours before the shooting in Aurora, there was a shooting in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that wounded 14 people. That gunman is still on the loose.

Jul. 23 2012 10:49 AM
Marco from NY, NY

Dear Mr. Martin,
Do you think that the fact that the Canadian population is much smaller than the US population helps to manage your country better? How much does that factor in the Canadian success, compared to the US?

Jul. 23 2012 10:49 AM

to Gary

Well, right now I agree we have no choice - for economic and geopolitical reasons - but to drill more and make use of our own natural energy wealth, which we still have in abundance, if it is used wisely. I don't mind these underdeveloped countries using their natural resources to come up a bit and reinvest those bounties into their own educational and health needs.

But in the long haul, we have to encourage investment in sustainable energy research OVER investment in big houses and big cars. We saw where that brings us every time we do that.

Jul. 23 2012 10:49 AM

Knock it if you want, but Green Energy is the future. And the sooner we start investing in it, the sooner we grow jobs and build the next economic engine. The same folks holding this back are the same who thought the dot com sector was a fad.

Jul. 23 2012 10:47 AM
gary from queens

Leo, please read the truth about the Bachmann letter!!

July 21, 2012 4:00 A.M.
Questions about Huma Abedin
A State Department adviser has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
By Andrew C. McCarthy

Jul. 23 2012 10:46 AM
Bamini from NYC

I would love to return to Canada regardless of the average household income. However, after completing my PhD in the US, my husband (who is a software developer) and myself (a scientist) have had a very hard time finding cutting edge positions to suit our backgrounds. When will Canada develop it's own Silicon Valley and step up it's science programs to put an end to the brain drain?

Jul. 23 2012 10:46 AM
Mike In Bk from Brooklyn

My family in Canada have been grumbling about some of the moves of the current conservative government. Many the feel that are similar in principle to those of the US Republicans? Does Mr. Martin feel that these concerns are justified?

Jul. 23 2012 10:46 AM
Todd from Stuyvesant Town

This seems to be an unfair comparison. Canada is currently experiencing its own housing bubble.

Jul. 23 2012 10:45 AM
John A from Once of N.Maine

What does it take to immigrate and how would my tax load change?

Jul. 23 2012 10:44 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Much of this comes down to "culture", that is values. They REALLY matter over time.

This to the naysayers who dismiss the many, many aspects of American culture that portend a downward spiral of civility, manners, respect, and regard for community standards.

This is true of the influence of the media (movies, TV, "music"), the glorification of celebrity, and the more contemporary technology that only magnifies all of the worst of our nation.

Jul. 23 2012 10:44 AM
Leo from Queens.

The Canadians are doing much better than we are because they have the noble concept of using their brains for reasoning. Most of their politicians are intelligent, use their brains and care about their countries.
That is in total opposite our US politicians. Case in point is Michelle Bachman - sitting on the House Intelligence committee while expounding sicko conspiracy theories.

and to jgarbuz: Please do not say that the US government was subsidizing housing. The only subsidies are the Mortgage interest reductions in the tax code which favor the wealthy and those buying very expensive houses.

Jul. 23 2012 10:43 AM
gary from queens

I agree with jgarbuz that a nation should invest in education and innovation and new markets. But that is as banal as Obama's statement that we need roads and bridges (it is really his justification for raising taxes!)

But where are all the green peace folks complaining that we are exploiting the third world by despoiling their natural resources?!

You and the greens should be supporting energy exploration on our own lands and shores----and not on those of poor people of color.

Oh, I forgot-----you want to undergo austerity in energy instead. You don't believe in austerity in the economy, but you do want to be austere when it comes energy.

the two are related!

Jul. 23 2012 10:43 AM
chris from manhattan

it should be noted that canada is in the midst of its own housing bubble RIGHT NOW- and that is part of the reason why household assets are extremely high. wait till after the bubble bursts to see these numbers shakeout...
example of housing bubble- my aunt's tiny house (maybe 1300 square feet witha view) outside toronto sold for more than a half million dollars last year, more than was asked for, and in a few days after being listed. sound familiar?

Jul. 23 2012 10:43 AM

Gary, for the first time in US history we are exporting more oil than we are importing. You are way off base.

Jul. 23 2012 10:40 AM

The US government subsidized housing to the point that it crashed, not only the homeowners but the economy itself. Canada, not so much. Americans had too much investment in housing, and not enough in other forms of savings and investments. Canadians not so much.

Jul. 23 2012 10:38 AM

How would Canada's average wealth be effected if one took away the communist Chinese millionaires and billionaires fleeing the risk of their own country? How strongly did your guest go after this pack?

Jul. 23 2012 10:38 AM

I saw a hit-piece on this study that claims that the comparison failed to include the value of American 401k accounts in their net worth. Is this true?

Jul. 23 2012 10:37 AM

The US has ten times Canada's population, and not as much unpopulated area left to be despoiled by hasty and unregulated fossil fuel extractions as was once the case. We also used up most of the "low hanging fruit" a long time ago, and Canada has taken up the slack. They still have vast areas they can muck up.
Anyhow, depending on fossil fuels for prosperity is something best left to the Arabs. It actually dumbs a country down to depend on some natural resource for economic growth. The major natural resource is the HUMAN BRAIN and using it more effectively to produce things that people not only want and need, but to save time AND ENERGY is where a modern country has to concentrate. Those that do, actually do better than those who depend on "black gold" or any gold in the long run.

That was a lesson learned by England 300 years ago, versus the Spanish empire which had depended heavily on all the gold and silver they could lift out of Mexico and Peru and eventually sank into nearly third world status as a result.

Jul. 23 2012 10:13 AM

Breaking news/

Ask for a comment on Chinese state-owned CNOOC's purchase today of Canadian non-renewable energy giant NEXEN, mostly famous in recent years for technical glitches including in extraction of oil from Canadian sands... Is the bet that Chinese engineers can do better?

Jul. 23 2012 10:00 AM

Agree w GAry, but not just petroleum -- Canada is a showcase of natural resources exploitation across many sectors, from non-renewable energy sources, to strip mining for minerals, to razing of old growth forests on both east and west coasts.

Anybody who has flown from the US to Alaska, along any route, will note the dramatic difference at the US border between the two countries. Compared to the US, Canada's forests look like crops at best, and often more like fields or deserts.

Some of the world's most efficient plunderers of this planet (google "Beaumont Mining" and Indonesia, as one example) hail from our chirpy neighbors to the North.

As with Australia. Nigeria + better-paid army = balanced budget. Until the well runs dry.

Jul. 23 2012 09:50 AM
gary from queens

I think Canada is doing well because its petroleum industry expanded to make Canada a major supplier, and it's even cut spending and privatized some of its healthcare system of late.

Obama has done the opposite on the latter. But did even worse with energy, resulting in less employment in the US.

Obama’s obsession with “green energy,” and opposition to traditional fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, has resulted in a significant drop in permits for drilling on federal land. These permits increased 58 percent under President Clinton, 116 percent under Bush and are down 36 percent under Obama. But energy is a fundamental economic input. So, for every barrel of oil that is not explored for here, it is explored for in some other country. Every well not drilled here, is drilled there.

And that means that good jobs that could be American ones are not, because Obama won’t let those jobs be created here. On a visit to Brazil, he told the Brazilian president that he looked forward to America being a big customer for the oil coming out of Brazil’s spectacular new offshore oil fields. There is considerable evidence that we, too, have spectacular offshore oil fields. But Obama would rather see Brazilian oilfield workers be paid good wages than American ones.

Despite the best efforts of the Obama administration and its environmentalist allies, the country is undergoing a huge energy boom on lands that Obama does not control. North Dakota is now number three among the states in oil production, surpassing California, thanks to the Bakken oil field. Oil imports are down from 60 percent of annual consumption to 45 percent in just a few years and are sure to fall further. Vast new gas fields, made accessible by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has caused a dramatic fall in the price of natural gas. One result is that for the first time, coal is no longer the dominant fuel in electricity generation, natural gas—far lower in carbon emissions—now is.

This is no small part of the reason that carbon emissions in this country are falling, not rising. In 2007 they were 6.02 billion metric tons. In 2011 they were 5.473 billion metric tons, down almost ten percent in five years. This year they are down another 7.5 percent over the first quarter last year. In other words, carbon emissions in 2012 will be down to a level lower than when the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997. It’s one of the great success stories to come out of the U.S. energy boom (although a weak economy has contributed, to be sure). But because it doesn’t fit the green agenda—they’d rather build windmills and tilt at fossil fuels—it’s been a non-story.

It is capitalism that is lowering American carbon emissions, not government edict. It is government that is sending American jobs overseas. Canada has dome the opposite and is thriving.

Jul. 23 2012 09:36 AM

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