Paul Martin: Former PM Comes Out In Favour Of Occupy Wall Street And 'Redistribution Programs'

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An unexpected voice is joining the chorus of support for the Occupy movement — former prime minister Paul Martin.

Martin says protesters have sparked a global debate that may help save the free market system.

“This idea that [the Occupy protestors] don’t have clear goals, I don’t think anybody buys it,” Martin told The Huffington Post, even as city governments across Canada step up their efforts to end the occupation.

“These young people have touched a chord that is being discussed in every family across North America and in Europe, as well. I think it’s a very important thing they’ve done.”

Since Occupy Wall Street launched in New York two months ago, spreading like wildfire across the Western world, many public figures have come out in support of the protests against the growing gap between rich and poor. Most, however, have been celebrities, such as Gordon Lightfoot joining his daughter at Occupy Toronto and Anne Hathaway marching in yesterday’s Day of Action in New York.

Martin — who enacted controversial social service cuts during his time as Liberal finance minister from 1994 to 2002 — says he’s gone down to Occupy Montreal and spoken to the protestors personally.

“The fact is that the free market system works, but unless governments and people are constantly on the watch out for rampant inequality, unless they understand the need for redistribution programs, unless they understand the need to invest in education and better health care and a better environment,” Martin said, “then effectively the free market system will fall on its own accord.”

These are big statements from the politician who originally proposed the G20, an international organization which has been attracting mass protests since long before Occupy, and who is currently an advisor to the International Monetary Fund, another anti-globalization boogeyman.

“[The protestors] think globalization works against them; the fact is globalization is here. Our economies are more and more integrated. There’s no doubt that when Greece fails or Italy fails the rest of us feel it,” he said. “[But] for people to constantly put pressure on these institutions to deal more expeditiously with fairness and equality is a very good thing. I wouldn’t throw these organizations out, I’d just make them work better.”

Martin added that he considers Canada’s bankers “enlightened” compared to their counterparts in the United States and Europe, whom he deems the real spark for the Occupy movement, especially considering their continued efforts to combat regulation despite the ongoing financial crisis.

“When you look at what’s been said by some of the bankers in New York and Europe, you understand the absolute need for people to stand up and say, ‘no, this is wrong, we’re going to fight for our generation and for the generations to come.’ ”

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Andrew Rusk

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