Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper Reuters

While attention has focused on the standoff between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin over the Syrian crisis, the just concluded G-20 summit in Mexico revealed the gap between the European Union and Canada and Australia concerning the European debt crisis.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has previously lectured the EU on committing to austerity.

Canada, under the left of center Liberal party, cut social program spending from 16% of GDP in 1990-1991 to 11.6% of GDP 10 years later. The comparable figures are 28% of GDP in France, 24% in Italy and 22% in Portugal.

Then there is the issue of tax evasion, that in some European countries enjoys the status of a national sport.

Canada, therefore, is in no mood to contribute to a solution to the European debt crisis, in case more bailouts are needed, by contributing more to the International Monetary Fund. "This is something that I think we would all prefer to avoid."

Harper's intervention prompted a heated retort from European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso: “Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy and in terms of how to run an economy, because the European Union has a model that we may be very proud of."

Barroso also claims that the problems in Europe originated in North America due to "unorthodox practices" by the American banking industry that contaminated the European banking system. Europe was the biggest contributor to IMF programs, easily dwarfing the Canadian contribution.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard also lectured the Europeans and advised them to make stimulus measures with budget cuts. There was no need for the European leaders to respond to Ms. Gillard because the Australian opposition did the job for them. Opposition leader Tony Abbott claimed that after running up the 4 biggest deficits in Australian history, it was a bit rich for Gillard to lecture the Europeans.