The Quality of Canadian Life
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 29 Apr 1965, p. 336-344

Sharp, The Honourable Mitchell W., Speaker
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The quality of Canadian life. Toronto and Montreal as the two big centres in Canada of comparable size and influence. The advantages of healthy competition between the two centres. The vigour with which French Canada is asserting itself these days. Some remarks on EXPO '67. Some comparison remarks about Montreal and Toronto. The influence of American culture. The role of Toronto, and the challenge for Toronto. Toronto as the place for promotion of better understanding between Canada's two societies. Some encouragement to Toronto from the speaker.
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29 Apr 1965
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Full Text
APRIL 29, 1965
The Quality of Canadian Life
CHAIRMAN, The First Vice-President, Lt. Col. E. A. Royce


I suppose that one of the most quoted writers is Emerson and in one of his essays he states "Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most luxurious. They are conservatives after dinner." He was speaking, of course, of conservatives with a small "C" and in any event, this is not dinner but merely lunch so I can assure our distinguished speaker that he is not facing a hostile audience.

Mitchell Sharp was born in Winnipeg in 1911. He studied at the University of Manitoba and at the London School of Economics, later becoming an economist with James Richardson and Sons Limited, the large Winnipeg grain trading firm.

Although already enlisted in the reserve army, in 1942 Mr. Sharp found himself recruited by the Finance Department of the Federal Government where, in 1947, he took part in the negotiations which led to Newfoundland's entry into confederation.

He moved to the Department of Trade and Commerce in 1951 as Associate Deputy Minister. In this capacity he attended many international commodity conferences and led the Canadian negotiating teams for several International Trade agreements.

In 1958, Mr. Sharp left the government to become a Vice-President of Brazilian Traction Light & Power Company, a position he resigned in 1962 to enter federal politics as a Liberal candidate. He was narrowly defeated in the 1962 election, then was successful in the April, 1963, election and was named Minister of Trade and Commerce.

As minister, Mr. Sharp has had ample opportunity to utilize his long experience in international negotiations. In 1963, he led the Canadian delegation to the Gatt meeting in Geneva which launched the "Kennedy Round" of Tariff negotiations. Later, he entered negotiations with the U.S.S.R. to renew the lapsed trade agreement with that country-negotiations which led to Canada's largest wheat sale ever.

The minister of Trade and Commerce is responsible to parliament for the Export Credits Insurance Corporation, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, the Canadian Govern ment Travel Bureau and the National Energy Board. In addition, Mr. Sharp was named in February, 1964, as Minister responsible for the 1967 World's Fair.

While this brief biography sets out the salient facts of Mr. Sharp's career as the public knows it, it does not do justice to the man as he is. Mitchell Sharp left school at 14 to help in the support of the family, he continued his education at night until his matriculation, later working his way through university and, finally, through sheer dedication and hard work, managed post-graduate studies and a year at the London School of Economics with only such funds as he could earn while studying. Fortunate above many of his colleagues, he was assistant to one of Canada's greatest civil servants, the Deputy Finance Minister, Clifford Clark, and later moved from the Finance department to the Department of Trade and Commerce at the invitation of C. D. Howe. Blessed with a first-class mind and a capacity for hard work, equipped with a sound, formal education and privileged to understudy two such brilliant men, it is not surprising Mitchell Sharp has discharged his demanding duties as Minister of Trade and Commerce without apparent stress or strain in a most professional manner. Anyone who has seen him completely at ease during his television performances will no doubt go along with the commentator who stated "He is easily the most telegenic image in politics or in show business." While he has not admitted any aspirations in the latter field, should he tire of politics I suggest Juliette might well look to her laurels. On the other hand, since he is a Westerner by birth, we may find him riding the Ponderosa Range with the Cartwright Family-in any event, I am sure he would, as usual, be completely in command of the situation!

Gentlemen, may I present-this time in person-The Honourable Mitchell William Sharp, P.c., M.P., Minister of Trade and Commerce.


This is the second time that my name appears on your programme within six months, which must be something of a record. I attribute this second invitation entirely to the eloquence with which my address was delivered on November 26th of last year when weather prevented me from being present in person. The advice I received from some of my friends who were here on that occasion was to have Colonel Hilborn deliver all my speeches. I trust there are not too many of you here today who are disappointed that I caught my plane this morning.

The title of the address delivered by proxy was a Tale of Two Cities because I gave essentially the same message within a single week to the Canadian Club of Montreal and to the Empire Club of Toronto about relations between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians.

As will transpire, I might have given the same title to this address because it is another Tale of Two Cities and the only reason I didn't do so is that I was worried lest some of you might think that I intended to repeat my speech. Sometimes I do repeat my speeches but I invariably give them a different title in order to please the Secretaries of the organizations who have to put something beguiling on the notice card or in the newspapers.

I confess that since I prepare my speeches only a few days in advance of delivering them I always give general titles that enable me to deal with almost any conceivable subject. The title "The Quality of Canadian Life" that I submitted several weeks ago to your Secretary is no exception. It gave me plenty of scope.

Nonetheless I do have something rather definite in mind to say about the quality of Canadian life and I wanted to say it here in Toronto, one important part of which I represent in the House of Commons.

The City of Toronto is not just one of the two big Canadian cities. In my view it must learn to take on to an increasing extent the responsibilities of the metropolitan centre for English-speaking Canada, just as Montreal is the Metropolitan centre for French-speaking Canada. This country being what it is-composed of two societies, one English-speaking and one French-speaking-there cannot be, as there tends to be in the United States, one centre to which all others tend to be subsidiary in size and influenceNew York-or as in Britain-London-or as in FranceParis. There are in fact and there will continue to be two big centres in Canada of comparable size and influence.

In saying this I am not suggesting that other cities of Canada must take second place to Toronto and Montreal or that they are inferior in any sense. What I do suggest is that since Toronto is several times larger than any other English-speaking city it cannot help but have a greater influence upon the quality of Canadian life, particularly in the English-speaking society.

This is so if only because size is crucial to the viability of many enterprises. There is more theatre in New York, London, and Paris, than anywhere else because there are more theatre goers. There is more theatre in Toronto, and Montreal, than in other cities of Canada for the same reason. The leading symphony orchestras, the leading professional musicians and musical schools can best be supported in the great metropolitan cities. That is why in turn the two C.B.C. networks, English-speaking and French-speaking, originate in Toronto and Montreal. In these two cities are published the principal Canadian magazines and the daily newspapers of greatest country-wide circulation. Around the media of communications cluster those would-be taste makers, the advertising agencies.

Whether the people of Toronto and Montreal like it or not and whether other parts of the country like it or not, these two great cities cannot escape their responsibilities for the quality of Canadian life. The whole country is influenced for better or worse by the standards they set.

The fact that there are two metropolitan cities in Canada rather than one is an advantage because it should generate healthy competition between them.

One cannot help but be impressed by the vigour with which French Canada is asserting itself these days. Some of the political manifestations may be misguided, particularly those that are directed to the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada, but one can admire the determination of our French-speaking fellow citizens to maintain their identity and to play a larger role on the national stage.

Too often, I regret to say, our response to this vigorous assertion by French Canada is to enquire querulously: What does Quebec want and why is it asking so much? It would be more becoming and more helpful if we were to welcome this evidence of surging vitality in our fellow citizens and to assert ourselves as English-speaking Canadians with equal vigour.

You will pardon me, I hope, if in this connection I refer to a related matter of direct concern to me as Minister of Trade and Commerce. As the Federal Minister responsible for EXPO '67 I hear and read comments to the effect that this great universal exhibition is somehow being put on for the benefit of Montreal and Quebec, at the expense of the federal taxpayer.

EXPO '67 is in Montreal because Montreal was the only Canadian city prepared to assume the very large costs, running into tens of millions of dollars, and the other heavy responsibilities associated therewith and I say this without partisanship because the decision to have the exhibition in Canada and to accept the Montreal offer was made by the previous Federal Government.

In any event Montreal was probably the most suitable location for EXPO '67 and I am glad to say that it is being recognized increasingly as a major Canadian undertaking.

I am glad to say too, that the initiative and the sense of responsibility of the City of Montreal and the Province of Quebec are being increasingly appreciated throughout the country. When our Centennial arrives I am confident that we will forget all these regional prejudices and join in the celebration, of which EXPO will be the heart and centre.

This is the first international and universal exhibition of the first category to be held outside Europe and it may be a very long time before Canada is host again, if ever it is. Yet it is well for us to recall that Montreal was prepared to take up the challenge on behalf of Canada. It did not hesitate to assume its responsibilities as a Metropolitan Centre.

The fact that EXPO '67 is being held in Montreal is not going to hurt Toronto; not in the least. It will be of considerable benefit to this City, directly and indirectly. We Torontonians have no reason for envy. I do suggest, however, that we have some reason for sober reflection.

I spoke a moment ago about the querulous response of too many English-speaking Canadians to the assertiveness of our French-Canadian fellow citizens in Quebec. I sug gested that instead of being querulous we should welcome this evidence of vitality and respond in kind. A loud cheer for the Canadiens should be met by a loud cheer for the Maple Leafs.

In a similar vein may I suggest that Toronto should be asking itself whether it is assuming its responsibility as a Metropolitan Centre as effectively as is Montreal.

I know, of course, that circumstances are very different. Montreal has the largest French-speaking population of any city in North America. In that respect, it has no rivals. On the other hand, while Toronto is by far the largest Englishspeaking city in Canada, it is dwarfed by the English-speaking American cities which are magnets for Canadian ability and talent and the source of many of our ideas and much of our North American way of life.

This is another way, really, of stating the Canadian dilemma. The French-speaking society is close-knit, its institutions protected to some extent at least by its distinc tive language. English-speaking Canada, on the other hand, is far flung, exposed throughout its length to the surging dynamism of American culture.

From this the pessimists draw the conclusion that the effort to create a genuine Canadian nation is bound to fail, that the odds are too great. One of our distinguished philoso phers, George Grant, has already written his lament for a nation, which he subtitles the defeat of Canadian nationalism.

The answer to the pessimists and the lamenters is surely that in spite of the odds, which were there from the beginning, we have survived for a hundred years as a separate political entity, that our national life-political, cultural, economic-is more vigorous than it has ever been and that the desire to retain our identity is growing not abating. The soul-searching that we engage in so freely these days is surely the best evidence that can be brought to bear on that point. Certainly, any Canadian, who travels abroad, in the United States or elsewhere, knows that Canada is recognized as a flourishing place, with an image and a policy of its own. No doubt Canada is developing in ways that are inconsistent with the concepts of nationalism of some Canadians. Throughout the world, in the West and in the East, men are having to revise their ideas of nationalism under the impact of changing technology. We live in the most revolutionary period of human history. All countries are becoming more interdependent and, as I have already said, we Canadians live next door to one of the most dynamic cultures in the modern world.

Our national purpose it seems to me should be not to attempt to insulate ourselves from these world influences, near or far, which would be a futile and self-defeating exercise in any event, but to adapt them to our own use and to impose upon them a Canadian pattern that reflects our own needs and aspirations.

So I return to the role of Toronto. As one of the two great Metropolitan Centres and the principal Metropolitan Centre of English-speaking Canada, this community faces

a great challenge. As one of its respresentatives in Parliament, I hope and I believe that it will measure up.

I can think of no better or appropriate place in Englishspeaking Canada for the promotion of better understanding between our two societies. We live close enough to the Province of Quebec for quick and easy communications and the links through business, within academic circles, in the arts, in music, are many and can be many more if we make the effort. There can be a greater two-way flow of ideas and opinions between Toronto and the great Metropolitan Centre of Montreal than between any two other communities. Already, and that is why I am encouraged and bold enough to talk in these terms, I have observed a growing awareness and a growing understanding in Toronto of the problems of national unity. From Toronto, this awareness and understanding can spread most readily and rapidly to the rest of English-speaking Canada through the communications media located or centred here.

I have also been encouraged as I am sure we all have been by the rapid development of Toronto as a centre of learning, of the arts, and of entertainment. I suggest, however, that we can do better in this respect. We still do not yet fully recognize our own importance in the Canadian scheme of things, or our resulting responsibility to the rest of the country. If Toronto cannot provide a home for Canadian theatre, a training for Canadian actors, a living for Canadian artists, what other community can?

In short, I would like to see Toronto giving more of a lead and more of an example to the rest of Canada. It is a community of which you and I are proud. I believe it can also be a community of which the whole of Canada will be proud, if it accepts and lives up to the challenge of our times.


Thanks of this meeting were expressed by Mr. E. B. Jolliffe, Q.c., a Director of The Empire Club.

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The Quality of Canadian Life

The quality of Canadian life. Toronto and Montreal as the two big centres in Canada of comparable size and influence. The advantages of healthy competition between the two centres. The vigour with which French Canada is asserting itself these days. Some remarks on EXPO '67. Some comparison remarks about Montreal and Toronto. The influence of American culture. The role of Toronto, and the challenge for Toronto. Toronto as the place for promotion of better understanding between Canada's two societies. Some encouragement to Toronto from the speaker.