Press Conference with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin
Sea Island, June 8, 2004, 16h03
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: So I understand we're going to do a practice run on how this is going to work I'm the guinea pig here?
Well, just to give you a brief overview before we open it up to questions, the Summit essentially breaks down into three obviously, the economy essentially, there's no doubt that the Canadian and United States economies are doing very well at the present time. And, in fact, things look reasonably optimistic for most of the G8 countries.
We'll be talking about security. In the context of safe travel, certainly what we're all looking for is globalizing safe borders, smart borders; which is very important for Canada, given the fact that an enormous amount of experimentation has been taking place here. And we will be talking in terms of development about HIV/AIDS, about the polio vaccines, certainly Haiti, and the furtherance of the HIPC initiative.
One of the things in all of this discussion that is going to be of particular interest to Canada is the whole issue of institution-building institution-building within both failing and failed states, fragile states; how, in fact do we go from beyond simply policing to making sure the institutions which will enable these countries to continue goes on.
So that's sort of a very quick overview of what the Summit is going to be all about. I've had two bilaterals today one with the Romano Prodi, of the European Commission, and the second with President Bush. And I'm quite prepared to respond to questions within those, however anybody would like to proceed.
Q The UN is set to pass the resolution on Iraq shortly and I'm just wondering, from Canada 's point of view, what is the importance of this in terms of foreign credibility of the interim government? And do you think that the passage will change the mood here at all, in terms of helping some of the people who oppose the war get behind it and then work together with the U.S. and Great Britain and some of the countries that support the war?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: I think it's very significant, I think it's very significant in both cases. I don't think there's any doubt that the Security Council resolution is very important in terms of the new government in Iraq. And I must say that I do believe that the mood at this G8 Summit is really one that is going to be very constructive. I think that the U.N. resolution is certainly going to be part of that.
Q (In French.)
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: (In French.)
Q Prime Minister, if I can just refer to your meeting with Romano Prodi, earlier Mr. Prodi told reporters here that he still believed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the mother of all conflicts. Some have seen the U.S. push for a broader Middle East initiative at this G8 Summit as a way of deflecting attention from peace efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Do you believe that the United States should push ahead with trying to ease conditions between the Israelis and Palestinians, rather than pushing immediately for big reforms democratic reforms in Arab states?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: I think they can go hand-in-hand. I don't think that there's any doubt that everybody wants to ease the tensions that exist in the Middle East. But I also believe that, in fact, pushing for the broader initiative is one that is worthwhile, and I think that we all want to participate. I don't think they're mutually exclusive at all.
Q I'm just curious, you mention that one of the issues you wanted to talk about are economic issues. There's been so much focus on oil prices. What do you see coming out of this meeting concerning the supply side and the demand side?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, we have been pushing that there be an increase in production, but I think that we understand that there really are limits on how much production can be increased. And it may well be that there are some further increases in production, and that might have some moderating affect on oil prices. I will again be raising it at the meeting tomorrow. But I think that we've got to be realistic that there are other problems as well, in terms of refining capacity, that we're all going to have to deal with.
Q Prime Minister, I hate to ruin your day on the international stage with a question about issues back home, but Jean Pelletier has threatened to sue Stephen Owen over the comments Mr. Owen made last week. And Mr. Pelletier says he thinks the comments were made to cover up problems in your campaign. He says, "I understand that when a game plan goes wrong, people tend to look for scapegoats to blame their campaign missteps upon."
I'd like to hear it from you: how do you respond to that assessment of your campaign, and do you think Mr. Pelletier is trying to get revenge either for his firing or for the way the treatment of some Chretien supporters?
PRIME MININSTER MARTIN: Oh, I'm not really in any kind of a position to comment on why anybody does anything anybody else's motives.
Let me just say to you that as far as I'm concerned, comments on the whole matter, now that the Gomery Commission is underway ought to be done within the context of that commission, and that's where they belong.
Q Follow up I'm just wondering, you talked on the plane this morning about a lot of issues that have been near and dear to you; but you also raised some other ones that might have a little influence on the election, like gas prices and over-fishing. I'm wondering how you're hoping your performance here will play with voters this what you're trying to accomplish here, how do you think it will affect news back home?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: I think people are going to obviously judge me and judge the government by what we're able to accomplish. At the same time, they're going to judge us in terms of the values that we hold; and that's all part of the equation.
Perhaps in terms of what we are able to accomplish today, it would be worthwhile if I just took you briefly through what happened in the two bilaterals that I've had.
In terms of my meeting with Mr. Prodi, I first of all raised the whole question of European agriculture I'll be raising this as well with President Chirac tomorrow and then we had a very lengthy discussion in terms of the whole question of over-fishing. Mr. Prodi, on behalf of the Commission admitted both the seriousness and the urgency of the issue. I basically stated and he agreed that, in fact, the problem was one of enforcement, and that was something that had to be done with the member states; and he committed to use the Commission's authority to press the member states to, in fact, make sure that there was full and satisfactory enforcement.
So I think that we made quite a lot of progress today with the Commission in terms of the whole question of over-fishing. And I basically said that for Canada, this was a major foreign policy issue this was not simply a drive-by or an incidental issue; this was a major issue, and that we took it very, very seriously. And he basically agreed to respond in kind. And, in fact, this is the second meeting that we've had on this and I must say that the last meeting that we had on it, he did take action. So we are making progress.
We also talked about the fact that this should be done there should be a partnership between Europe and Canada in terms of dealing with the whole question of over-fishing in straddling stocks around the world. So that part of it went very well.
If I might just go on, I then had a meeting with President Bush
Q Specifically, Mr. Martin, after your meeting with Mr. Bush, you ensured that you had complete support in the fight against terrorism. Completely, what does that mean? And what does that mean in terms of Canada, which was against the war in Iraq? So what will that change in terms of Canadian foreign policy?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: That will not change anything because Canada is still of the opinion that we must fight against terrorism. This is a worldwide plague, but there is a fundamental war against terrorism and Canada intends to participate fully in this war against terrorism. That has nothing to do with Iraq. That is entirely an issue stemming from the fact that September 11th changed the entire equation; likewise, in Madrid; likewise in Bali.
So everything that I said to President Bush is that Canada is by your side. We passed a national security policy specifically to put us in a position whereby we could lead the fight against terrorism. Clearly, we have our desire to increase our military abilities, by the same token.
Q Mr. Martin, as a follow-up to the question of my colleague, Suzanne, specifically given the resolution which is now on the table at the U.N., can one say that now Ottawa and Washington not for the past, but for the future, that we are fully on the same page for the future in Iraq, between Ottawa and Washington?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Are we in agreement in terms of the goals? Yes. Are we in agreement with respect to each detail? That remains to be seen. But clearly, that which we foresee is an established government that will be able to take decisions on behalf of the Iraqis for the Iraqis, by Iraqis. And Canada clearly intends to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq. We will continue the training of the political class. As you know, with $300 million, we are one of the major donors Canada.
Q Mr. Martin, a more political question: what do you think will be the impact today and tomorrow for your electoral campaign in Canada ?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: I am here as the Prime Minister of Canada in order to represent the interests of the Canadian people. That is what I have done with respect to the issue of over-fishing, the meeting that I have just had with Mr. Bush. The two issues that I brought up immediately were an issue where Canada is doing great progress in front of the court. The President has told me that truly he was supporting us in our desire to open up the market, and that he was supporting us on behalf of both countries. Because when you look at the need to have a long-term settlement so that these things should not repeat themselves. But I am extremely satisfied in this regard that I expressed the type of frustration that the fact that this took so long to do.
By the same token, I mentioned to the President that we could try to reach a new phase with respect to the openness of the trade borders; namely the use of new technologies on the one hand; the building of infrastructures, which are required. Then I asked the President to tell the members of his administration that we must act swiftly. He agreed, and I said that I intended to do the same.
I had a good meeting with the President. He made a statement that I had pushed him on mad cow and on softwood lumber; and I did. On terms of mad cow, essentially he has put, number one, an enormous about of human, person power into the effort at the present time. I told him it was simply taking too long we had to get the border open much sooner. And I also said that at the same time, we want to put in place a long-term protocol so that this kind of thing doesn't happen again.
So softwood lumber, mad cow, I must say that I continued to show frustration at how long this is taking. But the fact is that we are making progress.
The other thing I raised with the President was the necessity of now taking our border discussions in terms of keeping the border open for commerce to the next stage. He agreed that he would speak to Governor Ridge and I will speak to Anne McLellan. Look, there's all kinds of new technologies which we can be using. We should be using them.
We should be doing inspections back at the plant so that, in fact, we can reduce the border blockages which exist. And we've got to get at the infrastructure. And I committed that we will put the infrastructure wherever it is required.
I've just come from my hometown of Windsor. That is an example. And we've got to put the infrastructure in place so the border really continues to be open.
So I've got to say that I thought that both bilaterals, the one on fishing and the one with the President went quite well.
Q Can you confirm that there was no agreement on no breakthrough on mad cow and the softwood lumber? And can you address the issue of whether you think, if there hadn't been a "moron" incident, or other incident such as that, whether these disputes might have been resolved by now?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: I think what's happening in the case of softwood lumber is that Canada has done very, very well as we pursue our case through the various tribunals, and the President acknowledged that. And, as you know, what is happening now is the provinces are now will be meeting with the administration in terms of what modifications they're able to bring. I must say that I actually denote more optimism at the present time than I've seen in a while on that issue.
I believe that, as with softwood lumber, the President very committed to opening the border for Canadian beef. He has put an awful lot of person power into the effort at the present time, and I can confirm that. It's not going nearly as quickly as I wish. We've got to get that border open as soon as possible. But there is a silver lining. I mean, I don't take it as that, but the fact is that there is also an understanding that what's got to be put in place is a long-term science-based protocol. The President agrees with that, that we'll make sure that once the border is open, that it stays open.
I think that partially what is happening here is that there are bureaucracies in the United States at work that will take a bit of time, and obviously there are those who the opening of the border. But I do believe that the President is genuine in his desire to see it happen.
Q I don't know if you addressed this earlier with reporters on the way down, but there was a report this morning that you won't be attending President Reagan's funeral on Friday, and suggestion that in this story that perhaps that was politically related, that we didn't want to be seen to be too close to the U.S. at this time.
Can you address the first question? Will you attend the funeral? And the second question, if not, why not?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, let me address them in reverse order. I mean, that is just simply nonsense that I would not want to go to the funeral. I first of all wrote a letter immediately to the President. I expressed in fact, my opening remarks today at the bilateral were remarks in which I expressed the fact that President Reagan had been one of the most influential world figures of the second half of the last century. There is no doubt that when historians look back, he will be given enormous credit for the end of the Cold War. And I expressed my regret to President Reagan. He fully understood to President Bush about President Reagan, and he fully understood.
And the fact is that the representative of the head of state, the Governor General, will be attending. And if you take a look at previous examples I believe as an example, Mr. Sharp attended the funeral for Lyndon Johnson this is not unusual. And I know President Bush understood; in fact, he said he did.
Q I was just wondering what you meant by standing foursquare with the Americans on the war against terror. Is that the same thing as shoulder to shoulder? And does that mean, given the U.N. resolution, Canada would consider sending troops if President Bush asked Canada to?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: We were not asked to send troops, and we we are very, very heavily committed in Afghanistan. And, as you know, while it was our original intention to pull all of our troops out of Afghanistan, we will be leaving somewhere between 600 and 700 troops in Afghanistan.
I discussed the situation in Haiti extensively with the President and we will obviously be continuing to play an important role in Haiti. And, given those two circumstances, we will not be sending troops to Iraq, and were not asked to.
We are certainly participating. We are a major factor in training of Jordanian of Iraqi police in Jordan. We are a major contributor, some $300 million which is going for humanitarian aid. And we will be a very active participant in the reconstruction of Iraq, but we will not be sending troops.
On the question about standing foursquare, this is a question of the world standing foursquare in terms of the fight against global terrorism. I think we've really got I have made this point, that global terrorism is the enemy, and that it is an enemy that is difficult to find, is very, very sophisticated. And we have seen them in the subways of Madrid and we have seen them in airports and we have seen them in nightclubs in Bali. And every country owes it to its own citizens and every country owes it to the rest of the free world to be very, very alert.
And, as far as I am concerned, the only way you deal with global terrorism is through global cooperation. And Canada is certainly going to be there to do its share.
Q a domestic matter again. How comfortable are you with, in a sense, taking issue with the pro-life movement given Mr. Harper's comments on the charter, and given the number of your supporters in the leadership race for the liberals are strongly pro-life supporters?
PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: You know, our caucus has people on both sides of the issue. My support, first of all, is for the charter. I objected very much to Mr. Harper's preparedness to use the notwithstanding clause to take away a person take away a person's rights. Personally, I have made it clear that the legislature I voted and I am in favor of a woman's right to choose. And I don't think this is a battle that should be revived at this point.
I also do not believe that the words that were used by Mrs. Gallant and that apparently again today were not condemned by Mr. by Mr. Harper, I don't believe that those words were appropriate in any way, shape or form. And that the analogy that was used is not one that should be used by anybody in this kind of a debate.
But in any event, simply to summarize in answer to your question, I believe in a woman's right to choose. I also believe in the charter. And I do not believe, given the importance of the charter and defending individual rights, that you can pick and choose the rights as a Parliament that you're going to support.
The court when the the court has decided, and that any other position would simply be to accept that, in fact, the rights of minorities can be oppressed by the majority. And I just that's simply not where my value system lies.
Source: Official G8 Sea Island site