Harper, Sarkozy differ on bank tax

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is emphasizing the positives of his meeting Friday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, though the two leaders disagreed on the need for a global bank tax.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy accompanies Prime Minister Stephen Harper after their meeting Friday in Paris. ((Jacques Brinon/Associated Press))

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is emphasizing the positives of his meeting Friday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, though the two leaders disagreed on the need for a global bank tax.

Speaking in Paris, Harper said world leaders attending this month's G8/G20 summits in Canada should be able to agree on a "common principle" to prevent taxpayers from having to bail out banks. However, the prime minister stressed his belief that individual countries should be allowed to follow their own path.

"We're trying to reach an agreement on this question, where even if countries do things differently, we can recognize a common principle to ensure that risks are taken by the institutions themselves and not by taxpayers," Harper said after his meeting with Sarkozy and French Prime Minister François Fillon.

The proposed global bank tax, backed by the U.S. and many European countries, including France, Britain and Germany, is just one of the proposals on the table, Harper said.

Meanwhile, Fillon told reporters there is general consensus among G20 countries to limit the risks to which banks are exposed.

Harper has repeatedly said an international bank tax is not necessary for Canadian financial institutions, given the strength and stability of banks in Canada, compared with other countries.

Canada is pushing for regulation, rather than taxation, and advocating tighter controls over the kinds of high-risk, high-profit investments that required massive taxpayer bailouts.

PM notes MPs' Afghan mission comments

Harper also noted "with interest" comments by members of an all-party parliamentary committee on the possibility of continued Canadian military deployment in Afghanistan beyond the scheduled end of the combat mission in 2011, the CBC's Terry Milewski reported from Paris.

At the end of their five-day visit to Afghanistan on Thursday, the committee members said they were surprised at the level of success the Canadians have had militarily, as well as in terms of development.

Most of the MPs said they believe Canadian troops should have a role in Afghanistan beyond 2011, but one that would focus on training instead of combat.

Harper said Friday the government was sticking with a parliamentary resolution that calls for Canada to "end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011" and for all forces to have left by the following December.

"I think we’ve been very clear. We are working according to the parliamentary resolution that was adopted in 2008 by which Canada’s military mission will end and will transition to a civilian and development mission at the end of 2011," he said.

"And that continues to be our work plan according to the resolution adopted by Parliament."

With files from Terry Milewski and The Canadian Press