Canada, U.K. differ over bank tax

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to have suffered a setback in the United Kingdom in his efforts to avoid the implementation of a global bank tax.

Harper also takes aim at opposition at home

British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, looks on as Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question during a joint news conference in the gardens at 10 Downing Street in London on Thursday. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))
Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to have suffered a setback in his efforts to avoid the implementation of a global bank tax.

Meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street in London ahead of the upcoming G8/G20 summits, Harper made his case against the tax.

But despite Harper's pitch, the British government is pushing for the tax, Cameron said following the one-hour meeting.

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

At a joint press conference, Harper acknowledged that the United Kingdom's experience with its banks was completely different from Canada's, as the U.K. had to bail out out some financial institutions.

The U.K. has a "very different history" than Canada when it comes to its banks, Harper said, adding that the U.K. population was "outraged" over bank bailouts.

With France and Germany also pushing for a bank tax, Harper said that every country always has the option to pursue its own agenda.

Cameron said he is not surprised that Canada's view on bank taxes is different from his government's opinion.

"We've always made clear here in the U.K. that we will proceed anyway because of the significant taxpayer support to the banks," he said.

Coalition governing

Harper also had some comments on minority governments and coalitions, given that Cameron is the head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

"Losers don't get to form coalitions," Harper said, in a shot apparently aimed at Canadian opposition parties.

"The coalition in Britain, I think it's important to point out, was formed by the party that won the election, and I think that's very important," he said.

"And of course this coalition in Britain, I would note, doesn't contain a party dedicated to the break up of the country. And these were, as you know, the two problems in Canada, the proposition by my opposition was to form a coalition with the purpose of excluding the party that won the election and for the purpose of including a party dedicated to the break up of the country," Harper said.

The British situation has some "instructive lessons for Canada," he added.

Harper is due to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Friday in Paris, as part of his three-day European trip.