- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Nov 1967, p. 156-169
- Kierans, Eric, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Canada must do better. The three major factors of population growth, educated people, expanding knowledge and science common to all nations. The challenge in Canada of the "French Fact." The real revolution in Quebec: what has been going on inside Quebec since the death of Mr. Duplessis. The French Fact as a pact that is a permanent pact in Canada. The nature of the transportation problem in 1867; the nature of the transportation problem in 1967: the transportation of ideas and of culture, of traditions from one part of the country to another. Adopting the policy of the acceptance of the idea of two cultures. Realizing a respect and admiration for each other. The trend towards more responsibility and authority in the hands of the Provinces. What all Canadians want for Canada.
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- 9 Nov 1967
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The Next Hundred Years
AN ADDRESS BY Eric Kierans, PRESIDENT, QUEBEC LIBERAL ASSOCIATION
CHAIRMAN, The President, Graham M. Gore
The recent closing of EXPO '67 was an official and rather saddening reminder to Canadians that Centennial Year is drawing to a close. All in all it has been quite a party--providing a healthy outlet for our national exuberance and a welcome opportunity to raise high the standard of our national unity.
Amid the celebrations we have also taken time out to scrutinize our past--we have experienced pride in our achievements but we have also recognized our failures. Now, as we head into our second century as a nation, there are sobering signs that we would do well to look to our future with equally involved interest. Serious challenges confront us, some of which are directly related to the survival of the Canadian reality.
It is reassuring to note that these challenges are not going unanswered. They are, in fact, drawing spirited response from spokesmen of all our political parties. One of the most dynamic contributors to this national forum is our speaker today, who is a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec, and President of the Liberal Federation of that province. Mr. Kierans has not only thought and talked about our future, he has written a recently published book on the subject. The book is entitled Challenge of Confidence: Kierans on Canada, and from it I quote the following:
"In 1867, three million people living in British North America were counted as a nation, not an immediately and completely independent one, but one destined from the beginning to assert itself and gradually respond, out of its own rich complexity and dual cultures . . . to the innumerable and varied problems of living nationally and internationally.
"One hundred years later, Canada is entering its second century with the major objectives of 1867 still to be attained: the achievement of national unity at home, and the projection of a sharp, clear Canadian identity abroad. It is only in the last generation that Canadians have become theoretically independent in the field of foreign policy, and we still refuse to believe that we can maintain our economic freedoms. We face the task of first resolving our own fears and doubts . . ."
The book has been greeted with enthusiastic praise by some reviewers and sharp criticism by others. We can be sure that our speaker is neither surprised nor perturbed by such a turn of events, since he has never shown preference for an uneventful passage through life.
He was born in Montreal on February 2nd, 1914, educated at Loyola College and McGill University and later was Director of McGill University's Schoool of Commerce and Professor of Finance. Twice during his career, he has taken over faltering businesses in Montreal and transformed them into substantial financial successes. From 1960 to 1963, he was President of the Montreal and Canadian Stock Exchanges. Subsequently he served in the Lesage Government of the Province of Quebec--first as Minister of Revenue and latterly as Minister of Health.
His affiliation list includes the Canadian Institute on Public Affairs, the Canadian Management Council, the Canadian Political Science Association, the American Eco nomic and Finance Associations, and the Montreal Athletic Association.
Mr. Kierans is no stranger to controversy. There are those who say that he was born to stir things up. There are others who declare even more emphatically that he was born to lead. Everyone can agree, however, that he brings to our public life an effective combination of intellect, courage and energy. Appropriately, his topic today is "The Next Hundred Years". Before I present him to you, I would like to read a little poem which was written by a Quebec writer, Mrs. Phyllis Lee Peterson, and read recently over radio station CFCF.
I'm in love with Rene Levesque But it's making me into a wreck. For years I have followed with heartbreak or glee His antics on radio, press and T.V.
He plunged me to depths, he filled me with joy, To me he's a broth of a "Canadian" boy. Please don't ask me why. I just can't explain. He's no Gregory Peck: in fact, he's quite plain. It may be his voice like raw Scotch on the rocks Or his quick crooked smile or his scanty locks, But when from the screen I left Rene's gaze
I forgot he was calling me "Maudite Anglaise".
I'm a fat cat from Westmount, but that didn't count, There was something about him that made my blood mount.
Helas. It's all over, my dreams are in dust.
Rene doesn't want me. The whole thing's a bust. He's broken my heart. Enfin et voila -
I'm a Canadian, he's Quebecois. He wants love in a garret. I like to eat. I'm cold Anglo-Saxon, Rene likes heat. He likes only one language, I'm partial to two, With a split-up like that, what can a gat do? I'm no Juliet. Sad parting's our fate
Or we'll starve in the tomb of a sovereign state. So I wipe away tears and consider my plight--I wonder what Kierans is doing tonight?
We don't know what Mr. Kierans is doing tonight, but I know he has agreed to speak to us today--Mr. Eric W. Kierans.
Mr. President, Members of the Empire Society, I am delighted to be here and extremely flattered at the numbers and also flattered with some of the posi tioning of your head table. It is the first time that I have found Wally McCutcheon to the left of me.
I have my own definition of biculturalism and bilingualism and I think if I told you what my activities are tomorrow you will get an idea. Today, I am in Toronto and tomorrow, I will be in Three Rivers. Today, I am speaking to the Royal Empire Society and tomorrow to the United States Steel Workers of America. Today, I am speaking alone and tomorrow, it will be a debate with Rene Levesque. It will be in French, so there is another difference. But I think the most outstanding difference of all is not the language difference; whilst of the two invitations, Mr. President, your invitation is extremely flattering, and very persuasive, the invitation from the Steel Workers was, I suppose, you could say, flattering. They sent identical letters to Rene and me! They wanted us to discuss--and there was a clear implication from the letters--they wanted us to discuss the economic problems of independence. You got the idea to leave aside the social and cultural things. They wanted us to speak frankly, but the last paragraph was the real clue, which said in rough translation--and it was rough--if either one of you should refuse this invitation, the other will be the Guest Speaker!
I sent a telegram quick. As your President is aware, I prefer speaking without text and from notes. If you want to generalise on what is going on in Canada, today, I think you could use the illustration which is often used in business. It is that there are few yes-men around in Canada. I think it is a myth to say in business that business leaders don't like yes-men. It is certainly a myth in politics, because they do like yes-men around them. But today there are in the country, a great many people who are not yes-men. They are bringing issues to the forefront, forcing them into the open and forcing us to discuss them. It is not only the French Canadians--it is also the young people, the youth of society, your sons and mine, who discuss our values, the assumptions and traditions on which we have based our lives in the last century, and who discuss and criticize and express their dislike, quite frankly, for policies and values that may be in question at the moment. These people, the no-men in society, of all groups and of all generations, criticize leadership, they criticize Canada, because basically they feel that Canada could do better and I think we have to draw from this the conclusion that they are right in raising the issues and the conclusion is that Canada must do better.
Now, I don't think that this is peculiar to Canada. All over the world, you find the same questioning going on. There are three basic reasons for the questioning because the pace of living has changed not only in force and intensity but also in direction. It is something we have never experienced in history and we in this nation, and in every nation, simply have to come to grips with the problems that we are going to face in the next generation.
When you think of three positive changes that are going to take place: one in the number of people in the world between now and the year 2000, we can get an idea of how rapidly the world is changing.
The world doubled its population from 1750 and up to the year 1890. It took 140 years to double then. The last time it doubled, it took only 75 years. In the next generation, we will double again in a much shorter period of time, in 35 years. You can well imagine the tremendous pressures that this is going to create, but that is only one aspect of it. Of all those people, a very much larger percentage of them will be better educated than we ever were. Their knowledge and their skills will be much greater than ours and the potential pool of talent, of capacity, of desire to meet challenge will be without precedent in all history. That is the second one, and the third one is, objectively, outside of the individual capacities of people and their numbers, the increasing growth of science and technology and there will be virtually no limits to this. You can remember our own surprise at the sputnik and the tremendous advances since that time. But to project this over 35 years is beyond the capacity of myself and most people.
It is possible to say that the only limiting factor to growth and change will not be human capacity but the supply of capital and the wisdom with which we use the capital that will be available. These three major factors, population growth, educated people, expanding knowledge and science are common to all nations.
Individual nations have their own problems. The United States, their Negro problem; other nations, the problem of youth; productivity, the problem in Great Britain; we, in Canada, have to face up to our challenge--that is, the French Fact.
I think too many French Canadians still think in terms of 1959; all this has changed. The real revolution in Quebec that has taken place has not been the attacks on Federal powers; this has been really nothing new although they have escalated a great deal. There is no question about it, but the real revolution is what is going on inside Quebec since the death of Mr. Duplessis. I am not taking any credit for this as a Liberal. Because this was all starting immediately with the death of Mr. Duplessis and it started under Paul Sauv6 also--and his death was a tragic death not only to Quebec, but also Canada, because he was a Canadian through and through. But Paul Sauv6 did not criticize his former chief, and he did not criticize the former policies of the Cabinet, but he said one word--desormais--from now on. And from the moment he took over he said "from now on" and he meant that from now on things were going to change, but he lived so short a time that these became the responsibility of Jean Lesage too and those changes went ahead. The changes can be best illustrated in that the economy turned around completely from one in which the policy of the government was an Emersonian policy, that is--the less government the better.
The government is elected to do things for people that they cannot do for themselves. This role has changed completely during the years. Whilst it may have been marvellous that the actual debt of the Province declined from 296 million to 195 million, between 1944 and 1959, the debt tremendously went up since that time. But whereas the burden was borne in the forties and the fifties by the uneducated, those who did not have proper hospital facilities, by the lack of training schools, by the desire to keep taxes low and thereby attract industry, which was a mistake because they did not reduce marketing costs because of distribution, manufacturing costs, the inflow of raw material. None of these policies really made Quebec an industrial province. And while you did all these things during the forties and fifties you fell 30% behind the rest of the country. In 1956, Quebec spent per person 30% less on education, not only 30% less than Ontario, but 30% less than the national average from Newfoundland to British Columbia. What you accomplished at that time, taking education away from the control of the clergy and particular groups, making the Province responsible for standards, for salaries, for the level of education, introducing technical schools right across the Province; all of these things created and changed the Province into an outward looking Province, a Province that began, for the first time, to examine its place in its own country, Canada, and its place in Confederation.
I think the thing we have to remember here is that the French Fact is a pact that is a permanent pact in Canada. It is not going to change. The million people of which our President spoke, at the time of Confederation, is now six million, almost 30% of the total population of Canada, and while this percentage may decline as we double our population-and it will certainly decline to 26% or 24% over the next generation-that would still mean 10 million or 11 million French Canadians. When there are 10-11 million possessed of a culture, tradition and language that they want to keep, that you and I would fight just as hard as they are, to keep, if we were Frenchspeaking, this is the peculiar element in the next generation that is distinct from all the others common to other nations, population, knowledge explosion and so on, that we have to face up to.
In the Canada of 1867, the problem was one of transportation. This was a nightmare-how to pull this nation together, the overhead costs of pulling it together so that you can transport from one end to the other, fish and the manufactured products that were produced over the entire country and this was the particular Canadian challenge; the overhead costs of these will always remain, that is, they will always ensure that there will be greater government participation in our lives than our neighbours to the south and it will constitute the burden that will mean we will have a lower standard of living than in the United States. The problem for the next century is transportation; but not the transportation of fish or meat or any other products we produce. It is the transportation of ideas and of culture, of traditions from one part of the country to another. So what you use therefore is the word "transport" but you mean that there has to be greater mobility of ideas, cultures and traditions in this country from now on. There has to be a cross-fertilization of the two groups and basically as Pierre Elliott Trudeau said "at the bottom of all this uncertainty in Quebec is really uncertainty about the future of their language and educational rights of the country." Not in Quebec, not in their own Province, but across the nation. And I think that we have to adopt the policy, it is vital that we adopt the policy, of the acceptance of the idea of two cultures. Regardless of what historians may say that nothing in the Pact specifically created a bilingual nation, it is also true that nothing in the Pact said that one should assimilate the other and I think we have to open up to this and we have to realize--and we have here a tremendous advantage--that when the two cultures, the two values and traditions touch each other, affect each other, they will change each other subtly and for the better.
There should no longer be two nationalities, but gradually, not in ten years, but gradually, over time, there will develop a better understanding and a new political nationality.
What the two of us have to have, what we are working towards is that respect for each other that will be commanded by our individual actions and our own actions also that will excite admiration, each for the other. We have to, ourselves, English Canadians, give up the idea that eventually French Canadians will be assimilated, for they are willing to pay almost any price to preserve their identity, just as we Canadians are willing to pay a very heavy price to resolve our differences, not our hostilities, but our differences with our friendly neighbours, the Americans, to the south. If we give up the assimilation idea, they have to give up the idea that they are the French minority that will somehow be turned into a majority with a common market and whatever kinds of commercial unions you can devise. They also have to give up something else, that in the internal arrangements of the country, their minority commands as many voices as the majority. But this is not the problem.
The problem is to realize a respect and admiration for each other and our motivation should not be economic arguments. I used them once against the separatists be cause I felt that they had to be laid on the table, but our motivation should be something else. It is true they cannot do it today--separate today--without a loss in standards of living. We Canadians are the last people in the world that can use that argument. This is what Confederation is all about: the attempt to preserve two cultures, one British and one French. In 1867, that would form a nation different from the United States. This is a difficult argument for us to use because it can be turned against us; our motivation should be, while they cannot do it today without suffering a loss in the standard of living, our motivation should be that, when the day comes, they won't want to do it. They should inspire us, then there will be no problem. But what should motivate them is a commitment to a new Federalism, to a real Federalism and to a united country, based on the simple idea of cooperation true and complete in collaboration with the two of us together. The two nations can build in Canada a brilliant future, far better than either of the two nations could build separately.
Now, I think we are going to see very much more clearly in the next generation our differences between Canada and the United States in this new Federalism. The United States constitution at the beginning provided for a great deal of decentralization, of dispersion of authority among states and the trend has been completely different. As you know, on the other hand, we were all looking at a British North America Act which has provided a very strong, tough measure of centralization; until the trend in the last few years, towards more responsibility and authority in the hands of the Provinces.
This is not because of Quebec only. There are at least four reasons that I can think of. One is undoubtedly that a new Federalism means Canada will not be the tightly organized, centralized body some of us imagined and it will not be for cultural reasons only: first of all, because of the existence of the two cultures, the two founding nations, but it will also be because of economic forces. There are five distinct economic regions in this country and we are reminded of it everyday. Just yesterday, according to the papers, the spokesman for the Atlantic Economic Council said the tightening of the belt at this time would not particularly do the Atlantic Provinces any good, however much they might be justified in Ontario or Metro Montreal. Our monetary policy does not work everywhere in the same way. The policy does not appeal in exactly the same way to each of our five economic regions as those of you who travel in the west from time to time know quite clearly. In each of these regions, for economic reasons, there are inequalities in wealth, size of the economy; that is the political reality.
The Constitution did give the Provinces control over education, over health, all of which has become tremendously important to them, and the Provinces are reluctant to give this up so that there has to be reached some adjustment or some rapport between the heavy responsibilities and the fiscal resources over which they have control, subject to the fact, the condition, that we don't weaken the Federal Government unduly.
But the fourth reason, is, I think one that has often been overlooked and can easily be the most important of all and that is, that we have, as the gentleman at the head table here, men such as Ian McDonald that right across this nation are building up in each Province very strong civil services quite capable of taking on new responsibilities and handling very much more capably than their fathers ever did in the past, the responsibility of provincial government; a new breed of politicians who find in provincial governments, all the challenges that can reasonably occupy them and satisfy them in their lives. Twentyfive years ago, if you wanted to go into politics, politics were a very minor league. Jimmy Sinclair would have to leave Vancouver and travel to Ottawa with all the family stresses and strains but today, Sinclair--I mention him because he is a friend of mine -could find in that particular province adequate scope for a very satisfying, fruitful and rewarding political career; at the level of the civil service, people handling budgets such as in Ontario, more than two billion, in Quebec two billion and other provinces large sums; there are challenges that are the equivalent of positions that they could find in large industry that represent for them a really worthwhile career, vocation, and these people from the provinces, are going to resist a highly organized, tightly centralized bureaucracy in Ottawa because provincial civil servants feel--and very justly--that they are closer to the needs or can sense more closely the needs of their respective provinces than one Federal Government from on high.
From all this, I am taking away nothing from a Federal Government, an Ottawa Government that has to be truly federal, has to have true and complete authority in monetary policy, foreign affairs, commercial policy. You cannot have two dollar-bills or two trade policies. You cannot speak of a truly Federal Government if it does not have these powers but a Federal Government, that gives up some of its administration programmes to provinces, is not thereby weakening itself. I don't know of any politician, McCutcheon or Nixon that could say, whether he is in the provincial or federal level, that in the interests of stabilization policies he is going to cut back on old-age pension; these things are there, we have agreed to them and whether it is provincial or federal government that signs a cheque, this does not make much difference. Nobody is going to change that very much.
What is bothering Canadians, young Canadians, French Canadians, English Canadians, new Canadians, is that we don't want Canada to be a mediocre nation. We react against mediocrity as youngsters do; against the junior satellite status nobody wants; and for this reason, most of them ask for something different, that their Canadian role in the future will be a peace-making role, because we are not going to contribute very much with one per cent nuclear power, if you assume the Americans and Russians have a one hundred per cent destruction of the world in their power. I think we, if we want to make a distinct contribution in this country, then we should decide exactly what our interests are and follow them out independently. We don't want to be, and the Canada of tomorrow cannot be, a mediocre country. Young people are raising questions about Vietnam, not only young people, but they especially question everything. French Canadians question their role in Canada, are they going to be allowed to live their friendship and lives in Canada? They don't want to live in France--God forbid.... They don't want to live in some dream world, such as Laurentia; and they don't want to live it in a Quebec, separated from all the rest of Canada. They question their role in Canada, their rights to language and culture but they want to live that life in Canada. The third reason why we have to be better than average is that we want to build here the same kind of learning society that other nations are affording, particularly the United States, to their young people, and the same kind of leisure society, the dignity of labour and security for our older citizens. That is going to be difficult for us because we are not nearly as productive as our American friends. Each of us will have to work towards it. The whole burden of this depends on people here in Canada, to build a separate productive society that will enable us to afford a learning and leisure society. But the fourth reason I think why we have to be a better than average nation is that the other nations of the world particularly all of the middle powers expect much more from us than we have been giving.
They don't want to see us retire into ourselves, retreat into mediocrity. They realize that we have a peculiar position to play, a particular role. We have to play a much more important role on the world scene, for example than Mexico, and we cannot shirk our responsibility because the other nations of the world will consider that we are surrendering the inherent possibilities that lie within this nation. We can, with Europe, be a third and complementary force vis-c3-vis the two most powerful nations of the world, and we have the opportunity to be in the same way a balance. The Canada of tomorrow must reach deep within itself; it has to resolve first of all its own internal stresses and its disunity and all that this requires is a little better understanding from each one of us and then it has to assume a more independent role in the world affairs. Certainly this is going to be rough. There are going to be pressures because our interests and our national objectives can never be identical with those of other nations, but that is all right, this is how you build a nation, this is how you build a man, the test of each is in his reaction to pressure or his reaction under pressure--and it is by accepting these pressures and not bowing before them that we will create in Canada, unity at home and the respect abroad that all of us want in a Canada of which we can all be proud.
Thanks of the meeting were expressed by H. I. Macdonald.