Spotlight is on Canada heading into the G20, former PM Martin says

Former prime minister Paul Martin says now is the perfect time for Canada to step into a global leadership role and become a standard-bearer for human rights.
Former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin says it's up to Canada to help decide what the future of the world will look like. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Listen8:41

Former prime minister Paul Martin says now is the perfect time for Canada to step into a global leadership role and become a standard-bearer for human rights.

Martin told The House that with public anxiety and political rhetoric over immigration ramping up around the world, it's time for Canada to rise to the occasion and defend our "value system."

"I think that there's a huge opening for Canada to play a very much stronger role than we have," he told host Chris Hall on Thursday, looking ahead to the G20 summit in Argentina later this month.

But putting together a broad alliance of like-minded nations could prove difficult.

The rise of populism is shaking up the global political scene. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent announcement that she won't run for office again when her term ends in 2021 means that a large number of the people leading the nations of Europe — some of them Canada's close allies for decades — only have a few years of experience.

France's Emmanuel Macron has been in office for fewer than two years. The U.K.'s Theresa May has been prime minister for little more than two years. Merkel has led her party since 2000 and has been Germany's chancellor since 2005.

When asked how Merkel's decision to step back could affect the atmosphere at the G20 meetings, Martin said it's going to be Canada's task to make sure her departure won't lead to a crumbling of common values.

He added, however, that consensus isn't always synonymous with progress.

The G20, he said, is "not an organization that requires the same political systems in each of its countries, nor the same economic system."

"This is going to be a tough meeting," he said.

This year's G20 summit will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.

Participants include Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., among others.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is on her way out, while more protectionist leaders are coming in. We talk to the former PM and architect of the G20 Paul Martin about the shift. 8:41