NOVEMBER 4, 1982
Let's Make Canada Great Again
AN ADDRESS BY Peter Pocklington, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, POCKLINGTON FINANCIAL CORPORATION
CHAIRMAN The President,
Henry J. Stalder
Distinguished members and guests, ladies and gentlemen: One of my unfulfilled hopes during my year as President was to bring Wayne Gretzky before this audience. However, today we have with us the man who owns Gretzky!
We have had famous people address the club; we have had wealthy people speak to us. Today's guest of honour is not only both of those but, on top of them, is worth fifteen years--the sentence given to the man guilty of attempting to kidnap Mr. Pocklington in April.
Permit me to mention as well that Mr. Pocklington has offered to run our country for one dollar a year. That is exactly one hundred and twenty thousand, three hundred and ninetynine dollars less than what we pay the present head of state. Sounds like a good deal.
One might say quite fairly that Peter Pocklington is no politician, but one has to admit that he is a very successful businessman, a good administrator, and that he has the respect he deserves within his organization.
I am noted for the mistakes I make about birthdates and I'd like to say that our honoured guest is sixty-six, for at age fifteen--so he has said--he was already forty. Mr. Pocklington was a born trader, entrepreneur, and builder with his own business by age twenty-three. The Pocklington Financial Corporation, of which he is chairman of the board, is a business organization which includes financial houses, packing plants, sports franchises, automobile dealerships, energy companies, and sizeable real estate interests throughout Canada and the southern United States. It employs sixty-five hundred people and in the last year it did $1.1 billion worth of business. Peter Pocklington has been quoted as saying "Canada's interests can best be advanced when the business community takes every opportunity to speak out in support of the free enterprise system."
As I am sure will be obvious in Peter's remarks today, he has a great love for Canada and the free enterprise system upon which the nation has been built.
Another good thing about Peter is his birthday, November 18. On that day in 1903 The Empire Club of Canada was founded in Webb's Restaurant. It is also my wife's birthday and our wedding anniversary.
But let me get back to what we are here for--comparing options: First we have socialism--you have two cows and you give one to your neighbour. Then communism--you have two cows; the government takes both and gives you the milk. And facism--you have two cows; the government takes both and sells you the milk. Nazism--you have two cows; the government takes both and shoots you. A bureaucracy--you have two cows; the government takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and throws the milk away. And, last but not least, capitalism--you have two cows; you sell one and buy a bull.
But--no bull--our guest of honour stands for capitalism. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Peter Pocklington.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: In recent weeks my Canadian speaking tour has been described in many ways. Some have kindly reported the tour as "Pockling ton shares a message of hope," or "Let's make Canada great again." Others have reported it as "Pocklington attacks federal Liberals," or "Pocklington is a Trudeau-basher."
Trudeau was asked the other day by a reporter if it was true that he was born in a log cabin. He replied, "No, you must be thinking of Abe Lincoln. I was born in a manger."
I'm not saying he has a high opinion of himself, but the other day he was out for his morning stroll--and nearly got hit by a motor boat.
I was reading the classified ads in the Globe, and I noted that there was one which read: "Pierre Trudeau supporter wishes to meet another Trudeau supporter. Object: to find out if there is another Trudeau supporter.
I'm not here to bash the man but his basic philosophy of state socialism. His solutions are bankrupting us.
On Wednesday, August 13, 1969--thirteen years ago--Trudeau went on national television in a major press conference to talk to the Canadian poeple about inflation and the country's financial future. He said then: "We would be on the way to financial disaster if nothing were done to bring spending under control. To spend vast sums on welfare, education, and other programs while allowing inflation to continue would merely place hundreds of thousands of Canadians on a treadmill they could not escape."
The Prime Minister also committed his government to a substantial cut in the federal civil service.
What has happened since August 13, 1969? Government spending has increased by $65 billion--a 400 per cent increase! The federal civil service increased by three hundred thousand individuals. That's double what it was!
In the last fourteen years our government has created a collectivist or statist society where rights and privileges, freedoms and responsibilities, are being destroyed for the sake of rules, regulations, and bureaucratic control.
In 1968, Canada was the third industrial power--today, in 1982, Canada is the fourteenth industrial power. In 1968, the Liberal Party was a force to be reckoned with in western Canada. It was the party of laissez-faire capitalism that also looked after the poor. Today, in 1982, the Liberal Party has destroyed itself west of Ontario and is headed to the far left of the political spectrum--in fact, left of the NDP platform of 1968.
In 1968, Canada produced a strong dollar, inviting foreign investment. We were a country on the verge of sailing into the future with little or no worry about jobs, inflation, or energy. Today, in 1982, we have a government close to bankruptcy--our ship is sinking!
This government has little regard for our basic liberties and no respect for the concept of private initiative, private opportunity, or private ownership. What this government understands is state socialism--a form of government in which government runs virtually everything--and what it doesn't run, it cripples by over-regulation. In effect, they are trying to change Canada, and we must ask ourselves, are we going to let them do it?
And if we are not going to allow them to take us down this path, then we must reject this government.
If we are going to get this country back on track, then we're going to have to make some changes, and those changes must be more substantial.
And remember, we might not have seen the worst of this government yet. Mr. Trudeau still has two more years ... and who knows how much more damage he may do in that period of time. Quit listening to what he says, watch what he does: economically, he's destroying our once great country.
Look at the shameful economic record of this government. Surely economic common sense begins with balancing your budget. The ordinary family has to live within its budget, and the government has exactly the same responsibility. Being in business, I understand there are reasons for debt--debt to build projects of national use and the debt retired over its useful life, not debt to finance Mexican oil and worse. But Mr. McEachen--before he finally got kicked back into external affairs--told us last November that he was budgeting for a $10-billion deficit. And if you were like me, and you were horrified by that, how did you feel in June when he announced that the $10 billion was a little on the optimistic side--that the real deficit would in fact be $20 billion.
Now it appears it will be closer to $30 billion.
Thirty billion dollars of debt in a single year! Does anyone seriously think we can avoid a worthless dollar under this kind of fiscal mismanagement?
We have already gone from being among the top three countries in the world in Mr. Diefenbaker's time, to the edge of national bankruptcy under Mr. Trudeau! Today, we are headed towards a socialist abyss of economic ruin--and the rest of the world is watching us, wondering if we have taken leave of our senses. Let me quote from The Economist in London, which last month ran a special issue on Canada. The article summed up our government's economic ability in six words. Here are those six words: "Fiscal discipline is nowhere in sight." End of quote.
This government seems not to have the slightest idea of how to control itself--how to put this country back on its feet. But what must be done, I believe, is really quite clear.
No more ninety-day Band-Aid solutions. In their place we must have a five-year program of balancing our budgets, printing no more currency than is produced by the total economy, which will restore single-digit interest rates! This will put our people back to work.
And in achieving these objectives, we will bring back that deep sense of purpose into the thinking of the average man on the street. This is why I'm talking to you today. I want to remind you that Canadians used to have a sense of purpose.
It's hard to believe that this is the Canada which had so much going for it back in the sixties: the sense of excitement we felt in the idea of the whole world coming to Expo '67; the great celebration we had for our hundredth birthday; the sense of enthusiasm which filled our people with energy, vitality, and hope. Everybody had a project--a new home, a new car, a new business, a new job. We were a country on the move, and nothing was going to stop us.
That flame must be rekindled.
I am convinced that we are just as resourceful, just as resilient, just as capable of carrying our own weight now as we were in 1967. But we cannot carry the weight of a government which demands the right to run every facet of our lives. We can't afford that style of government: it's too expensive, it's chronically inefficient, it encourages bad habits, and it attacks the very dignity of a free and independent people.
Abraham Lincoln set out the principles of good government and good citizenship more than a hundred years ago--not just for the United States, but for free people everywhere. He stated: "You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence. And you cannot help men by permanently doing for them what they should be doing for themselves."
People have asked me what a leader of this country should be doing to create a dynamic atmosphere for our citizens.
My answer... restore faith in our dollar. No more tinkering with the money supply, either by the inflationist's method of simply printing more or by the monetarist technique of allowing public debt to expand without printing the equivalent currency. Restore the concept of private enterprise--which means remove government from the marketplace.
I wonder how many of you realize there are now six hundred thousand civil servants on the federal payroll--many of them doing jobs they ought not to be doing. A civil servant should never be put to work at something which can be done better, cheaper, and more efficiently by private enterprise. A civil servant should never be able to tell a private citizen how he must run his business. And a civil servant should never, ever be allowed to do both--not only set the rules for the competition, but compete with the citizen for the same consumer dollar.
privatize Air Canada,
privatize Canadian National Railways, privatize Petro-Canada,
privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and never permit a man like Marc Lalonde to give such power to the National Energy Board that it can almost destroy the whole of the energy industry in Canada in just eighteen months.
Dear Mr. Pocklington:
Could you please advise me on the following problem. I am twenty-five years of age and have two brothers. One is working for Petro-Can and the other is serving a nine-year sentence in Stony Mountain for murder and arson.
My two sisters are on the street and my father is living off their earnings. My mother is a psychic.
Recently I met a charming girl, a single ex-prostitute and mother of three children. My problem is this: should I tell her about my brother who is working for Petro-Canada?
Our national debt must be repaid to avoid us becoming another Mexico or Argentina. There are only four ways in which any government can repay a national debt:
1. Print more paper money.
2. Borrow from Peter to pay Paul.
3. Increase taxation or chop expenditures.
4. The most workable alternative--sell assets, of which our government owns hundreds of billions of dollars worth.
We should have long-term agreements to sell coal and other natural resources to Pacific-Rim countries.
We should be selling a percentage of our huge surpluses of natural gas to the United States instead of capping the wells and letting the gas companies wither into bankruptcy.
We should be selling surplus water--a renewable resource from Great Bear and Great Slave--to the eager markets of the parched American Southwest.
In short, the world cries out for the resources we have in tremendous surplus. We are a blessed country. And if we undertook the intelligent marketing of a small percentage of these resources, in a spirit of co-operation with private industry and our foreign neighbours, we would wipe out our national debt within a decade.
A federal law is required that will demand an "economic impact statement" for every new piece of legislation. In the United States, they require "environmental impact statements" for business proposals; why not "economic impact statements" that clearly lay out the real present and future costs of legislation? It's one way to ensure fiscal sanity in the federal budget process, which, of course, requires a properly recorded consolidated balance sheet.
Our foreign policy should be run on the concept of full partnership and contribution to the free nations of the world. At home--remind our citizens that virtue and charity begin at home. It is not the job of government to act as Big Brother to a whole population. There's a big difference between helping the little guy--the guy in need--and so orchestrating his life that it's virtually impossible for him not to be in need. The
responsibility for the person in need cannot be solely the responsibility of government. Among a free people who believe in free enterprise, some of the responsibility for those in need must be taken up by the family, the church, the community, and the individual himself.
Broadly, what I advocate is that each individual must be given the chance to develop his own life according to his own desires, according to his own aspirations, and according to his own abilities. If the government controls your life, you are being disenfranchised from your own destiny.
But what of the citizen who is genuinely needy? I accept, with deep compassion, that there are such citizens. There are those who have been stricken with illness or accident, those who have chronic or permanent disabilities, those with nowhere. else to turn. I believe we are our brother's keeper, and must help these people in any way we can. Whatever the task requires, it should be freely and creatively given by us all. But--I do not believe in making the safety net too comfortable. I do not believe you motivate people by offering to take care of them from cradle to grave. That isn't helping them--that's enslaving them. When a person is down, you give them opportunity, encouragement, a bridge to another job--not a lifetime of handouts.
Universal welfare programs are not only expensive, they are ineffective. But, most of all, they are morally destructive. A nation is not made great by carrying its citizens on its back. A nation is made great when its citizens have the freedom and the resources to live a life of their own choosing. This only happens when a citizen gets to keep the fruits of his labours. If the major portion of his income is spent in paying for his government, that citizen is not his own master.
The only purpose of any tax, as I have said to audiences across this country, is to provide essential services. No frills, No give-aways. No dead horses. Essential services. The defence of the country. Care of the chronically disadvantaged. Programs designed to stimulate both the citizen and the corporation to full productivity.
I propose that these essential services could be paid for at a flat tax rate of 20 per cent. Everyone would pay it except families making less than twelve thousand dollars a year. They would pay nothing.
For all of us, that would mean that eighty cents of every dollar we earn would be ours--to spend, to save, to invest. Every corporation would also pay the same flat rate--twenty cents on every dollar of profit.
And there should be no shelter of any kind in the tax laws. We could do away with tax lawyers. We could shrink the huge civil service involved in tax collection. We could do away with a tax form longer than a single sheet of paper. We could do away with millions of man-hours spent trying to figure out not only how much we owe, but how to beat it.
And, with a national government cut down to rational size, that tax base is more than enough to meet all of the expenditures of a balanced budget. Plus some. In fact, it would net more than our present archaic "destroy the middle class if you can" system. The Fraser Institute in British Columbia is in the midst of preparing a complete study of the flat-rate tax system. It demonstrates that this system raises equivalent revenue.
Ladies and gentlemen, don't be made nervous by this plan's simplicity. Simple ideas and simple solutions are quite frequently the best ideas and the best solutions. And consider the immediate advantages to all of us. There is, first of all, the knowledge that nobody is getting a free ride. Everybody pays--and we all pay the same percentage. Instantly, more money is in circulation--in the hands of those who earned it. And money in the hands of citizens will always mean more trade, more manufacture, more commerce, more employment, more purchasing power--more of all those elements which make for a healthy economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, 1984 isn't that far off. We have a choice then, between more of Big Brother or a return to running our own lives again.
To quote Benjamin Franklin: "A nation of well-informed men, who have been taught to know and prize rights which God has given them, cannot be enslaved!"
It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.
I want to see Canadians running their own lives again. I want to see Canada great again.
I want all of us to know that our future is in our hands. Let us go forward together to meet that future with great determination. Let each and every one of us firmly believe that a people can only be great if every individual citizen is free to reach the highest limits of his destiny. That's what I want for Canada--and if we want it enough, there's nothing to stop us.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Patrick Boyer, Secretary of The Empire Club of Canada.