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Financial Times criticizes 
free-spending PM

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:15 p.m. December 1, 2005]

First the Economist, now the Financial Times has some harsh words for Paul Martin. 

OTTAWA  — The Financial Times has joined the Economist as the second influential international publication to criticize Prime Minister Paul Martin's new image as a free spender.  

And editorial in the paper Thursday said the minority Parliament situation is "warping" Canada's economic policies.

Martin's international reputation is based upon his eight years as Canada's finance minister who turned around the country's financial fortunes.

"Having earlier delayed necessary corporate tax cuts (at NDP insistence), (Martin) has now gone into electoral spending overdrive," the Times opined. "His free-spending actions begin to belie the fiscal rectitude of his words."

In February, The Economist published a more critical essay about Martin's time as prime minister and how it has been disappointing.

In "Mr. Dithers and his distracting fiscal cafeteria," the magazine criticized Martin for giving into fiscal demands of provincial governments and his dithering.

"But 15 months after succeeding his fellow-Liberal, Jean Chrétien, Mr. Martin, a successful finance minister for almost a decade until 2002, cannot quite shake off the impression that Canada's top job is too big for him," the magazine said.

"As finance minister, Mr. Martin acquired a reputation as a tough and decisive deficit-cutter who transformed the public finances and oversaw the renaissance of the Canadian economy. But as prime minister, his faltering leadership has earned him the sobriquet of 'Mr. Dithers'."

Harper's GST cut Liberals "worst nightmare" says Copps

Some economists, the prime minister and Finance Minister Ralph Goodale are panning the economic logic of Conservative leader Stephen Harper's plan to cut the GST to five per cent from seven per cent. 

But former Liberal cabinet minister Sheila Copps isn't among them. 

Copps had to resign her seat in 1996 and run in a byelection after she was accused of breaking a promise she made on national television to resign if the Liberals didn't scrap the GST. 

"It's politically popular," Copps told CBC News. "It's hard to argue against it when in the last month the Liberals have given away billions to various ... groups who have complained about this that and the other thing.

"If I were a Liberal, I think the GST announcement is probably my worst nightmare."

The GST was introduced by the Brian Mulroney Conservatives in the early 1990s and was immediately one of the most hated taxes in Canada. 

Liberal senators threatened to use their majority to block the bill from passing, but Mulroney created a controversy in September of 1990 when he used an obscure power to make eight immediate appointments to the Senate to give him a majority there. 

While it is considered conventional wisdom that the Liberals promised to scrap the GST in their 1993 Red Book, that is a matter of semantics. 

The Liberals actually promised to replace the GST with "system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers."

A poll taken before the 1993 campaign showed 80 per cent of Canadians disliked the tax on goods and services. 

In February of 1993 then Liberal leader Jean Chretien promised to scrap the GST. 

"You will judge me by that," Chretien said. "If the GST is not gone, I will have a tough time, the election after that. It's the only specific promise that I'm making very clear, and it is going, it's gone."

Twelve years later and the tax is still there at seven per cent. 

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