Europe Can Learn From Canada: John Major, Paul Martin

the-landmark-london-hotel-london_030320091719097421I am in London attending one of the best hedge fund conferences available–Global ARC.  It is akin to the World Economic Forum except it is for hedge funds and it has a steep price tag to pay for all the exceptional speakers.

The focus of this conference is on Europe and the EU’s ability to survive.  Once again the organizer who plans topics, sessions and speakers 6 months ahead has been prescient. Talk about topical!

But the setting is a bit surreal-London is bustling with visitors, even with the flight interruption from the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano closing airports.  The streets are filled, expensive cars are everywhere, theatre tickets are in scarce supply, and restaurants are chock-a-block filled every evening of the week. Do any of these revelers read the papers?

The Pound and Euro are collapsing, new financial regulations are being proposed, sovereign rescue packages are being announced, CDS spreads are blowing out and in general, the economic news coming out of Euroland is scary indeed.

As we sat in the comfort of the Landmark Hotel, Canada received much airplay at this conference, even though the number of Canadians attending could be counted on one hand.

The opening session featured former British Tory Prime Minister, Sir John Major, interviewing former Canadian Finance Minister and Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Paul Martin, on how he took Canada from being a Third World state, as declared by the Wall Street Journal, with a budgetary deficit of $42 billion to running surpluses in a few short years.  Were there lessons the UK and EU member countries could take from this?

Mr. Martin was indeed engaging and he owned up right out of the gate that he had help from the GST which the Conservatives had recently implemented in their tenure as Government. Listeners were complimentary and asked lots of questions.  While there are a lot of differences between Canada’s situation and Europe’s, the main point was that it can be done.

Hard on the heels of this excellent introduction to the conference was Lord Patten of Barnes  (the last British appointed Governor of Hong Kong, among many, many other things) and Jacques Attali, Chairman, President Sarkozy’s Economic Reform Commission (among many, many other things) discussing the future of Europe.

Check the next installment of this blog for a synopsis of the very insightful observations these two highly experienced men made.