Ontario and the French Connection
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 21 Nov 1985, p. 147-159
Clarkson, Adrienne, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The speaker's approach to her work. Giving Canadians a change to promote ourselves and win a share of some action in France. Reasons why we've been missing out. The French in formidable contrast to what we know of our own national character. Why it's worth doing business with France. Some background and recent history of France. Examples of Canadian firms doing business in France. Attracting French investment. The kind of image we want for Ontario. What the speaker and her department have done for Ontario's image in France, and how they went about it. The potential for Ontario to attract people as investors and as visitors. Our cultural expression as an important part of our identity. Targetting public money to ensure that our artists have the best reception possible, with some examples of how the speaker has managed that. Going on to expand if we have a real image of ourselves as something unique. Why our relationships with strong partners like France are vital. The speaker as a diplomat who believes in direct intervention and personal responsibility.
Date of Original
21 Nov 1985
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Full Text
Adrienne Clarkson Ontario's Agent-General in Paris
November 21, 1985
The President, Harry T. Seymour, Chairman

Mr. Seymour

Before proceeding with the formal part of the meeting, I have the distinct pleasure of making a presentation to our Immediate Past President, Catherine Charlton.

Catherine, the 82nd and first woman President of The Empire Club of Canada, had an outstanding year. In addition to the 25 regular luncheon meetings, she organized directly or indirectly six special events: General Earl Haig in June, the Hon. Brian Mulroney and the Rt. Hon. John Turner in August, and His Eminence Agostino Cardinal Casaroli in September, 1984.

Although the pace slackened for special events in the second half of the 1984-85 season, we were pleased to have Lord Carrington in February and Peter Ueberroth in April.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada, I am pleased to present Ms. Catherine Charlton, Immediate Past President of The Club, with this scroll signed by our Honorary President, Her Excellency the Rt. Hon. Jeanne Sauve, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to The Club for the year 1984-85.

Ms. Chariton

Mr. Chairman, distinguished Past Presidents, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: It is a great honour to receive this scroll, and I am sure you will understand my particular pride as the first woman President of this Club in receiving the first scroll to be signed by Canada's first woman Governor General. This is a memento that I value highly, and, I might add, that is enhanced by Her Excellency's having been so recently at The Club.

The record of the 1984-85 Empire Club year will be in your hands momentarily via The Yearbook, and so I will leave it to you to peruse at your leisure. However, I will point out that the format has been revised, so I do hope you will approve and enjoy it.

The Empire Club Yearbooks date continuously from 1903 to provide a living record of The Club and its speakers. It is this intermingling of personal and public history that is a particular joy to me. For example, the 1984-85 book opens with the provincial dinner for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The fact that both her Ontario and Toronto tours were organized by Past Presidents of this Club is of added interest to our membership. These Past Presidents are: Col. Robert Hilborn and MGen. Reginald Lewis.

Past Presidents of this Club in themselves represent an important tradition of continuing service. I single out MGen. Bruce J. Legge, Q.C., who has served the interests of the Club unstintingly since his own year, 1958-59. During the past eight years as President of the Foundation, he has been responsible for publishing as many Yearbooks, and has been most encouraging in my efforts to introduce a new look to the text. In fact, Gen. Legge has a history of introducing the "new look" He it was who nominated me in 1975 to become the first woman Director of this Club.

To share the responsibility for said iconoclasm, I point out that Sir Arthur Chetwynd first raised the question of my joining the Board when he was the President in 1974-75, and it was BGen. Stephen Andrunyk, our 1981-82 President, who nominated me to the Presidency of The Club.

Surely, you will say, it is a great honour to be counted among such discriminating Canadians.

On a final note, I am pleased to say that it is our most distinguished Past President, the Rt. Hon. Roland Michener, who was the most photographed guest in 1984-85. 1 must say that the opportunity to serve The Club is second only to the great honour of being numbered among its distinguished past Presidents, particularly including Canada's well-loved former Governor General.

To my colleagues and fellow members, thank you for the opportunity of being your President in 1984-85. 1 hope that the program was to your liking.

Mr. Seymour

Distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: It is my pleasure to welcome as our guest speaker today Adrienne Clarkson, Ontario's Agent-General in Paris.

To quote from the October, 1985, issue of City and Country Home:

"Until Adrienne Clarkson became Agent-General for Ontario in Paris in 1982, France's knowledge of Canada ended more or less at the Quebec border. With grace, wit, and a talent for hard work, Clarkson is changing all that."

Until her appointment in May 1982 as Agent-General, Clarkson was one of the best-known television journalists in Canada. For eighteen consecutive years, she was the star of CBC public affairs programmes: "Take Thirty," "Adrienne at Large," and "The Fifth Estate."

Her hour-long documentaries on cancer received the Award of the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the "Emmies") in 1978 and 1980.

Since 1961, she has written extensively for the major news:papers and magazines in Canada and is the author of two novels and one collection of interviews.

Born in Hong Kong, Adrienne came to Canada with her family in 1942. She attended public schools in Ottawa and later received her Bachelor of Arts degree with honours and her Master of Arts degree from Trinity College, University of Toronto, in English literature.

From 1961 to 1964, she lived in Paris, attending the Sorbonne's diploma course for the training of teachers of French in foreign countries.

As Agent-General, Adrienne Clarkson is responsible for promoting Ontario through business, tourism and cultural matters, not only in France but also in Italy, in Spain, and in Portugal.

Three of Ontario's major successes since her tenure began have been: the winning of the international competition for the new Paris Opera House by Toronto's Carlos Ott, whom we are pleased to have with us today; the implantation of the new Renault-AMC automobile plant in Brampton and the creation of 7,000 new jobs in Ontario; and the automation of The National Library of France through a GEAC-sponsored joint venture with-a French firm.

Adrienne Clarkson creates successes! In the three successes outlined, Adrienne played a major role, be it suggesting or guiding a proposal through to its successful conclusion.

What is her latest accomplishment? Her toast to "Ontario" was the winner in a recent contest co-sponsored by the Association of French Barmen and the Ontario Department of Tourism. Dubbed "The Ontarian," it includes three ounces of Canadian Club whisky, two ounces of Cointreau, two ounces of grapefruit juice, one ounce of grenadine and two ounces of tonic water. The directions: mix the ingredients, pour over ice, garnish with a slice of lime, a cherry and a fresh mint leaf. Sante!

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Adrienne Clarkson, Ontario's Agent-General in Paris, who will address us on the topic, "Ontario and the French Connection"

Adrienne Clarkson

Addressing The Empire Club seems for me to be uniquely appropriate, as I am, all outward and physical evidences to the contrary, a product of the British Empire. I was born in Hong Kong (then, and still for a while to come, a British Crown colony) as was my mother. My father was born in Australia and we all immigrated to the Dominion (now an unfashionable word) of Canada where I annually played the role of (South African Prime Minister) Jan Smuts in our Empire Day pageants at Kent Street School in Ottawa. The only other "product" like myself that I ever met was an Indian friend at the Sorbonne in the early Sixties, who was from the island of Mauritius (a bilingual country, Canada in miniature) who had fetched up in South Africa, studied at Oxford, and was planning to live in Trinidad. Those of us who grew up where the sun never sets really knew how to get around! And perhaps it's why I like to stay out in the clear, away from the shadow.

Perhaps then, that's why I've taken the approach I have to my work as Agent-General for Ontario in France. I thought this job would give us, as people, a chance to promote ourselves and win a share of some action in France that we'd been missing out on for some time for mysterious reasons that could be described as shyness, an inability to make tough deals, and, just generally, thumbsucking. Having known the French at close quarters for twenty-five years now, I can say that they certainly provide a formidable contrast to what we know of our own national character.

We say, "If it's made in the States, it must be good." They say, "If it's not made in France, how can it be any good?" We say, "She's really quite a nice person;" they say ` Elle n'est pas mechante." ("She's not bad.") Most importantly, we say, "I wonder what they want from us," and they say, "What we want is a 51-per-cent participation." Where we are silent, they are articulate; where we back into the net, they prepare to shoot and score; where we wait and see, they have a game plan.

But it's worth it to do business with them for a number of reasons. First is our history. A country that ignores its own history stumbles through the present and has to have a Braille map for the future. The French connection goes back to Champlain discovering Georgian Bay and Etienne Brule the mouth of the Humber. It leaves its legacy in the half-million franco-ontariens.

But the main reason for Ontario House in Paris is that there is something there for us. In frank terms, we can make money with the French and we'd better work hard at it, or other people will. Forget your stereotypes of the French as a happy people fond of light wines and dancing. The French are a tough, hardheaded lot, who haven't changed since Caesar characterised them in his Gallic Wars as "short, stubborn with round heads." I might add that those round heads are filled with big grey brains, which they are taught to use at an early age in one of the finest and most democratic education systems in the world; and that they possess a collective will that is the positive aspect of their homogeneous society. It's that collective will that has enabled the French to pull off an industrial and economic miracle in the past twenty-five years that is breathtaking.

When I went to Paris as a student in the early Sixties, France was reeling from the effects of the Algerian war and all the internal wounds and strife that a civil war with colonial loss can bring. I read an article about a survey taken then that stated that one out of ten French people had hot running water in their homes. Today, they have not only hot running water, but second houses, one or two cars and all the benefits a booming consumer society can provide.

They did this through the force of an industrial and economic policy based on an independent nuclear force. To this day, there is no disagreement across the political spectrum. All Frenchmen want France to remain independent and, if having their own bomb is the way to do this, so be it. This is the meaning behind the Greenpeace affair. France, alone among the European countries has no, absolutely none, anti-nuclear movement. While women invest Greenham Common in England by the thousands and a million West Germans march against nuclear proliferation, a Socialist President in France reiterates his country's plans to continue above-ground testing in the South Pacific and not a single French person disagrees. If that is what it takes to keep France French, that's it.

Interestingly, the main public opinion about the Greenpeace affair was not based on the moral question of whether it was right or appropriate to do what they did, but how badly they bungled it. For a country that prizes intelligence and rationality above all, this is the ultimate opprobrium and contempt.

The French are quite rightly proud of their technological progress in the past twenty-five years, and that is where we come in. France has adopted with singlemindedness and passion the whole area of high technology, especially all aspects of data processing and transmission. And that is an area in which we in Ontario excel. About two years ago, a company from Markham, GEAC of Markham Ontario, called us in Paris and said that, since they had the finest system for computerizing libraries in the world, they would like to computerize the Bibliotheque Nationale in France, the national library.

Now, although I like to be upbeat and optimistic at all times when initiative comes from our businessmen, I gulped and said that I didn't think we could expect a licensing agreement or a straight sale. With something as prestigious and touching on natural pride, not to say chauvinism, the French want to buy French first. However, there was a hope and this is the hope that lies open in all our industrial sectors with the French-we're at the same level of development as they are, so we're natural rivals in a sense-a joint venture. To make a long story short, we helped to put GEAC together with a subsidiary of a huge French industrial conglomerate and there is now GEAC France. Shortly thereafter, they got the Bibliotheque Nationale, and the new Science Centre in

Paris called La Villette (where incidentally, the IMAX cinema system, which was invented here and which we see at Ontario Place, has been installed to great French critical delight). And most remarkable of all-Ontario House in Paris covers Italy as well, you know-they got the contract at the Vatican. Heaven is the next stop. And it's also the answer to the question, "Is there life after Markham?"

GEAC is only one excellent example of a number of companies that are breaking into France with an excellent product and doing not just a straight take-the-money-and-run sale but building a long-term industrial partnership that will bring economic benefits back to us in the long term. Particularly in the area of high technology, we must think of solid long-term partners like the French because, although they're tough and skeptical and self-interested, they are historically and economically part of us.

Attracting French investment, by joint ventures with GEAC or directly as in the Renault-AMC plant at Brampton in the critically important auto sector is going to help us to diversify our economic relations with people who represent a high level of resourcefulness and development, so that the risk of failure as the project progresses is minimised.

As you all know by now, I should hope, a Toronto architect, Carlos Ott, won the international competition of more than 800 entries to become the architect of the new Paris Opera House. Many people who know the French patriotism-and patriotism by any other name is chauvinism-were surprised to hear that he had won, or rather, that the French had had an international competition. Well, the truth is that French architecture and European architecture for the most part are in the doldrums and they simply have to look outside if they want the best; and do we have the best!

In another international competition, to build the showcase centre for the French communications industry, there were three Toronto firms in the final list of ten. Carlos' brilliant plan for the Paris Opera, a major capital project, is doing a fantastic PR job for the architectural and engineering services of Ontario. This project with three auditoria, which will revitalise the area around the Bastille the way the Centre Pompidou energised the area around it, is an example of the new modernism we know in a building such as the Eaton Centre. It will be a constant visual reminder that what we have to offer from Ontario is excellent, modern, sophisticated and world-class.

And that leads us to the question of the kind of image we want for Ontario. And when I say image, I mean a positive vision, not a slick packaging of surfaces, reflecting light. I mean image as a natural resemblance of what we are, a visible representation of us today in 1985. 1 didn't have to take a survey three years ago when I arrived in Paris to take up my post to know that Ontario had no image at all; I knew that 50 per cent of the French would think we were an American state and that the other 50 per cent might think we were that dull English part of Canada where everyone eats badly and thinks that excitement is going down to Eaton's onThursday night to try on gloves.

We have had to change that-directly, by bringing the press, radio and television from France to Ontario. We instituted an aggressive programme of attracting them by thinking up ideas for them to write about. The Figaro magazine wrote about Northern Ontario and wild-rice production and tied it into our two-week gastronomic festival at a Paris hotel; Elle magazine followed Jeanne Moreau to Toronto for the women's film festival and did their story on her in the context of that Harbourfront event; the most trendy newspaper, Liberation, came to cover the Bach competition and the Toronto film festival; Abitare magazine came and did 58 colour pages on the architecture of Ontario from Thunder Bay to Stoney Lake; France-Soir magazine, L Evinement du Jeudi-you name it, we've got them, or we're getting to them.

We've just done a cost benefit analysis of this coverage and, from 1983 to mid-1985, we spent $30,000 on this programme. Total cost. If we had had to pay for the equivalent pages of publicity, those pages would have cost us $938,000.

The three full hours of TV coverage would be a minimum of $300,000 in just above-the-line cost.

We are totally shameless. We ran a contest in the biggest agricultural magazine in France, Rustica, and gave a first prize of a trip to Ontario and a second prize of a bunch of trilliums to plant in your backyard. We also explained how unique and perfect the trillium was and, of course, that it was our flower.

We organised a contest with the union of French barmen (a very serious organisation) to concoct a drink to be christened "the Ontario." French celebrities from all domains wandered in and out of a large hall featuring a stuffed moose, tasting sixty different concoctions containing everything from maple syrup to cranberry juice and voting on them. First prize was christened "the Ontario", second prize "the Toronto" (that's an "in" joke).

We've formed a club of all the journalists who've been lucky enough to come to Ontario; it's called la plume et le trillium and they come and eat wild rice and pumpkin pie (among other things) at my house once a year. And I'll tell you that all those journalists are dying to come back. They call Ontario "the best-kept secret" and ask why we keep our light under a bushel.

There's no reason to do so. And there's every reason to make much of what we have that's good and try to attract our proper and even improper share of the market. Those who think that we can attract European investment by showing them the trucking routes we have from Toronto to Detroit are very shortsighted.

The nature of European investment is textured and faceted. If they're going to build a plastics factory here or make an auto part, they want to know if French people can actually live here. What will be the quality of life? Telling them that our quality of life is our proximity to the United States is shortchanging ourselves and our potential partners. The reason it is important to build our profile is that it will make us a consciousness factor in the eye of the potential investor. If an image springs to mind when our name is mentioned, we will always be considered. If we are invisible, we will always be starting from zero, every single time. We are competing for that investment with New York State, with California; we have to show what we are.

Everything that Ontario House in Paris has been doing for the past three years is part of an attempt to show the kaleidoscope. We can't possibly do everything, with a staff of sixteen people, eight of whom are support staff, so we've targetted everything that is excellent. We project ourselves as a high-tech, dynamic place with cities and wilderness, civilisation and solitude. We call ourselves "le nouveau nouveau monde" ("the new New World") and, in the past year, we've seen a six-per-cent rise in tourism to Ontario while Canada as a whole unfortunately has dropped by five per cent.

I consider that Ontario can attract people as investors and as visitors. All Europeans, and the French in particular, consider cultural life to be a vital sign, a sign of civilisation. Our stock goes up as partners because we are not a Zaire or a bunch of natural resources pretending to be a political entity. And our cultural expression gives us an important part of that identity.

Our cultural industries employ a large number of people, and the ability to provide markets for them is as important as selling a good industrial tire or bomb-disposal equipment. But when you are faced with a very limited budget, you can't do everything, so we targetted. And the reason to target is to make sure that our artists have the best reception possible.

I believe that, if we are using public money, we should use it in a way that will insure the best value. I don't want our artists to come and play to houses that have been stacked with our friends and acquaintances. All artists want to know that they are meeting a real audience and being judged on their merits. And I don't want our artists to play in secondrate gymnasia in mournful suburbs. They are talented enough to play in the best places and should. And it's my job to ensure that they will.

In the case of our dance companies who were presented for two and a half weeks at the Centre Pompidou in an event called Aujourd'hui Ontario Danse, it was the result of nearly two years of careful cultivation-getting to know the head of theatrical production and head of dance programming at the Centre, interesting them and piquing their curiosity about modern dance here, then inviting them to Toronto and Ottawa to look at more than a dozen companies. They were so impressed by what they saw (which we knew they would be, as we monitor the competition in Paris very carefully) that they agreed to invite four of the companies to the Centre-and, to and behold, we had a full-blown success with critical approval, pictures of the dancers in major magazines such as Elle and packed enthusiastic audiences every night. We even had a draw on the tickets and the winners won a first-class trip to Toronto with three cultural events as highlights.

You know, in dance we may not be better than anyone else in the world, but we are certainly as good. And by the way, being invited by the Centre Pompidou meant that we got free poster space in all the subway system of Paris and our terrific poster designed by Reactor inToronto, with"Ontario" in very large letters, was seen by two million subway riders every day for three weeks.

By now, I think the message is starting to get across. We're terrific, and we're terrific to do business with. And every $50,000 worth of investment is a job for Ontario. Crawley Films in a joint venture is providing the most exciting opportunity as the means by which the French are starting their own animated film industry and it's our technology that's doing it.

And we can go on to expand if we have a real image of ourselves-something unique. We're Canadians and, as Canadians, we're a multicultural bilingual society without class barriers and civil war. We're creating something so new here that those of you who live here all the time don't realise just how special it is. It's all just starting to jell now-Chinese

food and reggae music, pizza and zithers. The energy that gives us now must be turned outwards so that we'll really be ourselves.

That's why our relationships with strong partners like France are vital. They can teach us to get what we want. You know, I always laugh when people ask me how I like being a diplomat. I don't think of myself as one in the conventional sense of the discreet emissary who can smile while heavy loads of manure are pitched. My ideas about "diplomatic activity" are different from those of people who think that action is a memo to all staff.

I believe in direct intervention and personal responsibility. In fact, to me, diplomacy is getting what you want without actually going to war. And since that isn't likely to happen with France, we have a large margin of manoeuvrability.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Maj. Charles C. (Bud) Hoffman, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, otherwise known as the Little Black Devils; one of the first Canadian officers to enter Paris before the city was liberated in August, 1944; an officer of the French Academy; and a director of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Ontario and the French Connection

The speaker's approach to her work. Giving Canadians a change to promote ourselves and win a share of some action in France. Reasons why we've been missing out. The French in formidable contrast to what we know of our own national character. Why it's worth doing business with France. Some background and recent history of France. Examples of Canadian firms doing business in France. Attracting French investment. The kind of image we want for Ontario. What the speaker and her department have done for Ontario's image in France, and how they went about it. The potential for Ontario to attract people as investors and as visitors. Our cultural expression as an important part of our identity. Targetting public money to ensure that our artists have the best reception possible, with some examples of how the speaker has managed that. Going on to expand if we have a real image of ourselves as something unique. Why our relationships with strong partners like France are vital. The speaker as a diplomat who believes in direct intervention and personal responsibility.