Where Canada?—From An Albertan's Point of View
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Mar 1966, p. 265-275
Lougheed, E.P., Speaker
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Where Canada is heading from the point of view of an Albertan. A brief sketch of Alberta, and the Alberta scene today. Then, a detailed response to two questions: What sort of a perspective and outlook has this new Alberta? Where Canada? The response to the second question includes a list of 10 needs and directions for Canada. A concluding section headed "Conclusion—participation" looks at reasons for the lack of participation by the community generally, and the business community in particular in politics, in comparison for example, to the United States or to Britain. Encouragement for participation. Time for a fresh new approach to Canada's political affairs.
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17 Mar 1966
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Full Text
MARCH 17, 1966
Where Canada?--From An Albertan's Point Of View
CHAIRMAN The President, Lt. Col. E. A. Royce, E.D.


Reverend Sir, Mr. Frost, Mr. Controller, distinguished guests, gentlemen

We of the Empire Club of Canada must, of course, maintain an interest in politics for under the democratic system politics-which in happier times were considered an art--are the day-today Government of the country. Since the welfare of the Commonwealth, and Canada within the Commonwealth, is the prime object of this Club, it is our duty to so interest ourselves and in regarding the appalling chaos that characterizes our House of Commons as we approach our one hundredth birthday, I feel the average Canadian is in the same situation as the grizzled old prospector that staggered into the mining camp with an Indian arrow protruding from his back. After receiving such rough first-aid as was available, he was asked by a younger prospector "Did it hurt much?" To which the old chap replied "Only when I laughed." While there is no doubt that the rest of the world is laughing heartily at our present position, I suggest there are very few Canadians, no matter what their political persuasion, that find the present situation even remotely funny. It is said to be an axiom that a country gets the government it deserves and it may be that you and I and all of us in Ontario enjoying the excellent administration and leadership which characterizes the provincial scene have been too preoccupied with business and general prosperity to devote more than the most perfunctory attention to our national processes of Government. Most of us in this room are veterans of one or another of the wars of this century and when the chips were down we put aside our careers and our families and all the things that made up our lives because we realized that freedom was at stake and as Andre Maurois said after the fall of France "If a nation values anything more than freedom then it will lose its freedom and when freedom is lost nothing remains." I suggest to you that the time has come for all of us who love our country and who value the democratic way of life to take a more active interest in national politics for surely Canada deserves more than a combination of leaders who on the one hand cannot govern and on the other will not govern.

Finally, gentlemen, a quotation from John Henry, Cardinal Newman, and I quote: "There is such a thing as legitimate warfare: war has its laws; there are things which may fairly be done .... He has attempted, as they may call it, to poison the wells." He was speaking of another age and another situation but the words are apt indeed today.

When I say that we must all reproach ourselves for permitting the present situation to develop, I welcome our speaker, a man of great ability who not only feels that the democratic process is important but is doing something about it. Born in Calgary, he attended various schools in that city and then proceeded to the University of Alberta. Later he studied at Harvard University, graduating as a Master of Business Administration in 1954. He was President of Students' Union while at university and also, while attending the University of Alberta, played professional football for the Edmonton Eskimos. He joined Mannix Company, the well-known contractors, in 1956--leaving them to form his own Calgary law firm. He is First VicePresident of the Banff Olympic '72 Committee, a Director of the Stampede, a Director of the Calgary Community Foundation and is active in many other areas in his home city. In 1965 he was appointed provincial leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.

Gentlemen--I have the honour to present to you a young Canadian from the West-the type of man who may in the years to come lift our Parliament from the depths of vicious vendetta and partisanship to which it has sunk in recent months. That he is a Progressive Conservative is incidental--the refreshing and reassuring thing is that he is an able, sincere and dedicated Canadian of the finest type, whose family helped to build Alberta for three generations.

Gentlemen--Mr. Peter Lougheed.


I have been looking forward to this opportunity with great anticipation. For a provincial politician from Alberta it is an enjoyable situation. I can tell you exactly what I think and, if you don't like it, you are unable to register a vote against me! It has always been good political sport in the West for a western politician to go East and tell the East how to run their affairs for the benefit of the West. You might not like what I say but I assure you that this approach is very well received in Okotoks.

I am particularly pleased that by a happy coincidence I am here on March 17th. Up to a few years ago I had always thought that the Lougheeds were Scotch and thrift was the order of the day. But, my good brother, in typical thorough engineering style, returned from a trip not too long ago and announced that all was wrong--we were Irish--and always had been! However, to my concern, my wife recently remarked that this pronouncement had changed my entire personality including my attitude towards spending--I regret to advise that my auditor has not as yet completed his review of our joint chequing account!

I want to speak to you about where Canada is heading from the point of view of an Albertan. I recently proposed to the annual convention of the political party I represent that one of our guide posts be that we should work towards an Alberta Government which considered itself Canadian before Albertan and hence promoted the cause of national unity and economic sovereignty as well as the determination of national purpose. This might not be in the most popular political position for me to take in our western province, but it is, nevertheless, the position I intend to always maintain.

Alberta sketch:

But, first let me sketch briefly the Alberta scene today. Since 1956 Alberta has been the fastest growing province in Canada. What sort of a province is this new Alberta?

1. It is a province where the Provincial Government proposes this year to spend the fabulous amount of $455 for every man, woman and child in Alberta-this is almost double the proposed Ontario expenditure rate.

2. It is a province where 42% of the provincial revenues comes from natural resources-only 35% of provincial revenues comes from normal tax sources as compared with 65% average in the other provinces-there is no sales tax.

3. It is a province where the major investment industry--petroleum--is dominated by a very few foreign companies in an industry that is at least 70% controlled outside of Canada. (This compares with Canadian manufacturing industry where approximately 55% is owned outside the country and where there is obviously a much larger number of separate enterprises.)

4. It is a province where the two major cities-Calgary and Edmonton-are the fastest growing in the nation and at the same time have the highest municipal debt per capita and impending urban renewal problems.

5. One of these cities-Calgary-includes in its population approximately 20,000 United States citizens who play an important--but a non-political role-in the community.

6. It is a province which has still an agriculture base--a base where wheat is the key commodity in a situation where 57 % of Canadian wheat and flour equivalent is exported to China and other Communist countries.

7. It is a province which despite its prosperity still has hard core pockets of rural poverty.

8. It is a province with low unemployment but a severe shortage of skilled workers.

9. It is a province where very few of the people were born within its boundaries-where in the cities many of the people come from other urban centres in English Canada and in the province as a whole where many come directly from other countries as is the case here in Ontario.

10. And perhaps most important it is even now a province where over half of the entire population are under the age of 25.

It is thus a most interesting province-the action and interaction of these 10 factors will have some very significant consequences-Alberta of course has an obvious need to avoid coasting on its petroleum revenues and move into a third stage of development-building upon the base of the agriculture and petroleum foundations-a diversified economy such as you have here in Ontario -a third stage of industrial development with secondary manufacturing leading the way-supported by a substantial growth in the tourist industry.

What sort of a perspective and outlook has this new Alberta?

The very nature of the Alberta economy should result in it being both national and even international in outlook. The province is significantly dependent on wheat sales as the foundation of its agriculture economy--this means that fluctuations in purchases by the Communist countries have a marked effect. The continuation of investment by the petroleum industry is the basis of the provincial revenue structure--its continuation is dependent upon the effectiveness of a national oil policy and also upon developments in the international petroleum industry. Alberta's future depends on a third stage of industrial and tourist development -the national parks policy, a national water policy, and the growth of central Canada's industrial base here all require Albertans to look beyond our provincial borders. Finally, the fact that few Albertans are native to the province-strengthens its obvious national and international perspective.

Yet strangely enough we have in Alberta a province that could easily in the next decade be one of the least amenable to the central Government-already in the area of national park, the policy, and medical care, Alberta is moving to the outside position.

The anomalous situation is a matter of concern to me and many Albertans. Why? Is it inevitable? Desirable? And from your point of view, how significant?

I submit that its resources and its particular location nearest to B.C. Yet the wealthiest of the prairie provinces make Alberta's direction and mood most significant in the total Canadian picture.

So this is the new Alberta-probably the most rapidly changing province in the nation--but a province whose changes are less obvious and more subtle than most.

Where Canada?

But I do not intend today to talk merely about Alberta--I have described the Alberta scene to frame my own views and to show the significance of one province in the total Canadian picture.

Where is Canada going? This is a matter of concern to all of us and particularly so in this distressing week. Where in particular is Canada heading during the decade of the 1970's? I would like today to give you the views of an Albertan coming from the province I have described. Views as to the public needs of this nation-needs which arise from the necessity for the political community to catch up to the social, cultural and business communities of Canada.

There has been a tendency in this country to decry our problems and not emphasize our needs and directions:

1. We need in Canada a halt to the growing regionalism in this country-a return to a strong central Government. We will need more than a consensus with Quebec. We need an awareness by the provinces of their responsibilities to support the central Government--an attitude which has been effectively stated by the Prime Minister of Ontario. Certainly within the economic realities of Canada there is a place for such vehicles as the Atlantic Union and the Prairie Provinces Economic Council. But our peculiar combination of parliamentary system within a federal state requires statesmenship by the premiers in resisting provincial political gains to the detriment of national strength.

2. We need now in Canada a White Paper on the legislative jurisdictions clearly delineating the provinces' responsibilities-and establishing the existence of federal direction over fiscal policies. We need this to be followed by a public conference to move towards a Canadian constitution. This matter cannot be allowed to drift.

3. We need in Canada a fresh look at our parliamentary system-does it work for us in Canada in 1966? Let's not always be so critical of our politicians-let's look at the system within which they operate. Let's recognise that the fact that the system apparently works in Great Britain is not too relevant--the U.K. Government does not have 10 strong provinces to deal with--or a population spread over the one of the largest countries in the world. By nature I am in favour of tradition--but let's see if today's custom is in fact in accordance with tradition--for example, on the matter of free votes, I am convinced it is not.

4. Let us establish after public debate a sensible list of legislative priorities. A case for such a need has been ably put by Premier Roblin of Manitoba. Let us tie this list in with the legislative priorities for the provinces. Let us see if our aggregate revenue sources for the federal government and for the provincial governments can meet the aggregate demands for public expenditures. Let us in this way expose political platforms that are irresponsible.

5. Let us establish soon a practical approach to the development of our national parks-there are now 7,000 square miles of national parks in Alberta-11 in Ontario. I am confident that the apparently conflicting views of the conservationist and the developer can be reconciled. They had better be else on this issue Alberta will move strongly in conflict with the central governments.

6. Let us start now with a recognition as to the importance of our water resources. Let us realise that in the area of U.S.-Canadian relations that water will probably be the dominant issue of the 1970's. Let us recognise that water could be our highest card in international trade. Let us start now to demand that our federal and provincial governments move quickly to the position that they know how to play this card for the benefit of future Canadians--or whether or not it should be played at all. Let us not be prepared to accept the excuse that the water study is too large to be comprehended by the Canadian public. Alberta is the key stone province in this issue. But the moves of the future will have to be joint federal and provincial cooperative efforts.

7. Let us never weary of a continued Canadian dialogue and discussion as to the implications of foreign ownership of parts of our Canadian economy. Let us though not be alarmists. But let us also recognise that this factor has more than economic implications-that it can have grave influences on our younger Canadians-on the degree of their pride in our great nation-on their respect for Canadian institutions.

8. Let us develop programmes by Government, by political parties, by the community--to channel the energies and aspirations of young Canadians in building a greater nation. Let us not merely preach about how important are the youth of Canada--let us show that we meant it--let us support such endeavours as the Olympic movement--let us give young Canadians the responsibility over their own affairs that can be sensibly assigned--and let us most of all listen very carefully to what they say.

9. Let us in this country not be quite so quick in our criticisms. Let us put the emphasis on the positive and on the constructive. Let us have a recognition that the issues, the problems, and the questions facing Canada are not simple-that they are complex-but let us be completely confident that they are not too complex and that they can be solved.

10. Let us finally require our political parties to state the framework of their philosophy in clear terms. Let us not expect, or even want, that the philosophies be diametrically opposed. But let us know what our political parties stand for and compare constantly their actions with their declarations.


It is on this last point that I wish to conclude. I believe we should be justifiably proud of our economic, cultural and social progress. I admit that the progress of our political community has not kept up to the rate of progress in the other areas of our society--why?--simply because there is lots of talk but far less participation by the community generally, and the business community in particular in politics in this country compared for example to the United States or to Britain.

There are a lot of reasons for this lack of participation--some are valid--but is the excuse valid of avoiding participation with an opposition party because of its supposed adverse effect on one's business? In my view it is not-in-fact-most businessmen who are involved in politics are respected by politicians of opposing views. The politician is least likely to be influenced by the businessman who is afraid to participate-he often considers him politically naive.

How you have heard many speakers urge you to participate in politics. But most of the time it is to urge you to run as a candidate. Let us face it-we all know-that with certain exceptions this is impractical. We also know that many consider that they are participating by helping with an annual brief from their business association to the Government of the day mainly directed to the civil service. That is not politics--that is lobbying!

There is a wide area of political activity between lobbying and running for public office. Don't merely criticize from the sidelines--get into the fray of a political party--I know--I have had my bluff called.

The most important political decision in this country is the selection of party leader at the national and provincial levels. I doubt that many realise just how easily one can play a significant role in the selection process--or how satisfying it is to be part of the action. If you can negotiate with business traders-you can negotiate successfully with the lawyers, teachers, farmers and civil servants that dominate our political parties. If you can afford one night a week for your club these past ten years--why not shift your interest to one night a week for your political philosophy? If you want to be helpful in a practical way--prepare an actual speech for your political leader or member or candidate on a subject upon which you are well inform--edit will save him many difficult hours of research.

I come from a young growing and virile province--no different than here--no different really than the nation as a whole--a nation of potential--a nation of promise--you want to know what you can do about our political institutions--if you have conquered the boardroom why be afraid of the backroom--if you have met the shareholders why not the party organizers.

If you want dignity and competency in public affairs why not bring your dignity and your competency to your constituency and in due course to the political party of your choice at every level.

This week we have heard indignation and dismay--criticism and disgust--most of it justified--if it bothers you think how it must bother young Canada--but let us not be content with indignation--forgotton tomorrow in light of tomorrow's personal problems--isn't it time for a fresh new approach to our political affairs in this country.

Thanks of the meeting were expressed by Mr. H. N. R. Jackman.

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Where Canada?—From An Albertan's Point of View

Where Canada is heading from the point of view of an Albertan. A brief sketch of Alberta, and the Alberta scene today. Then, a detailed response to two questions: What sort of a perspective and outlook has this new Alberta? Where Canada? The response to the second question includes a list of 10 needs and directions for Canada. A concluding section headed "Conclusion—participation" looks at reasons for the lack of participation by the community generally, and the business community in particular in politics, in comparison for example, to the United States or to Britain. Encouragement for participation. Time for a fresh new approach to Canada's political affairs.