By Louise Egan
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty catapulted to “rock star” status at international meetings in Washington on the weekend, where he took his anti-tax crusade and stared down the powers in Washington and Europe who had plans for a global bank levy.
The Canadians are traditionally peacemakers at these events, building bridges between opposing camps and forging consensus. So when Flaherty stormed into Washington railing against a bank tax being proposed by some of the world’s most powerful leaders in the G20, the reactions ranged from bemused to outright flabbergasted.
“What has happened to the mild-mannered Canadians?” said one bewildered journalist covering the talks among the G20 developing and developed nations.
Canada, a welterweight on the world stage, has its reasons for taking on the titans — Britain, Germany and France and the United States — which favor a levy on financial institutions to pay for the cost of bailouts and let taxpayers off the hook. Not only has Canada’s minority Conservative government spent the past four years promising to cut taxes, not hike them, but the government never had to rescue its banks.
Back home Flaherty, now the longest serving finance minister in the G7, had already been showing his independent streak for weeks. He was backed by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, the banking regulator Julie Dickson and top bank CEOs. Flaherty said others could do whatever they liked, but don’t expect Ottawa to follow.