From Reuter’s interview with former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien in August came a much fuller understanding of the forces that moved the Canadian economy from a basket case to a decade of robust growth and budget surpluses.
A liberal much in the mold of liberals in the Democrat Party in America, Chretien took over in November 1993 as his country was suffering from high unemployment, a stagnant economy, and increasing interest rates on its national debt. Its ratio of debt-to-GDP was approaching 70 percent while its annual deficits were nearly 6 percent of GDP and increasing. The economy was ranked just above Italy among the Group of Seven, Canada’s peers. As Scott Clark, Chretien’s Deputy Finance Minister put it: “We used to thank God that Italy was there because we were the second worst in the G7.”
In a rare interview, Chretien was forthright about what happened to turn the economy around and set the stage for the country’s “Payoff Decade.” He said, “There would have been a day when we would have been the Greece of today. I knew we were in a bind and we had to do something. I said to myself, I will do it. I might be Prime Minister for only one term, but I will do it.”
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Photo of Jean Chretien: AP Images