- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Apr 1926, p. 128-144
- Tory, H.M., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Some Canadian characteristics. Taking the broader vision and looking out upon the world in which we live and seeing ourselves in the larger relation of the great world of which we form a part. Asking and responding to three questions, in order to get at the heart of the subject: "Have we in Canada the natural conditions which go to make a civilization?; Have we these things in such abundance as to give us a fair chance of success in competition with the world?; How are we going to realize upon our inheritance?" A detailed discussion in response to these questions, with several issues raised and many subjects addressed, including the following. What it is that a nation requires in order to develop a civilization of a substantial character: a list of six. The certainty that we have in Canada all the natural things in fair abundance: the land, the climate, healthy and happy people, forests, mines, etc. The question as to whether or not we have these things in such abundance as to make for us an assured place in competition with the outer world. Comparisons with other countries, both old and new. Canada's advantages, with illustration, looking at various factors. Canada's transportation system. A look at the people of Canada. How Canada is going to get possession of our inheritance. Recognizing frankly the problems that we are facing. Seeing ourselves as others see us, or in an appropriate relation to the problems we have to solve, in order to get on with the solution. Dealing with the transportation problems. Seeking to make Canada a self-supporting nation. The need to stop criticizing each other, in terms of provincial or regional relations. Working out the French-English relations. Finding the foundation for unity in our pride of one another.
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- 1 Apr 1926
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OPTIMISM VS PESSIMISM
AN ADDRESS BY H. M. TORY, M.A., D.Sc., LL.D., PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
April 1, 1926.
I suppose if anyone in Canada can claim to be a Canadian, I can. I was born in the Maritime Provinces: I lived in Quebec for many years; those that I love dearest are in this province; and I have lived for a great many years in Western Canada; and I think I know even the Pacific Coast province very well. So that from that standpoint I think I can be a Canadian, and I will say this that I have conquered the habit of thinking of myself as anything but a Canadian. That is, I am not from Ontario, I am not from Nova Scotia and I refuse to be regarded as a Maritime Province man: I am a Canadian. I have ceased long since to think of myself as being located in a province, in the ordinary sense of the word.
There was a special reason why I selected the subject upon which I am going to speak to you today, and that reason grew out of the great Winnipeg conference that I had the good fortune of attending some time ago. It was the result of a conversation I overheard between two gentlemen walking down the street in the evening. I was not eavesdropping, but I was walking behind them and they were talking quite loudly and I could not help hearing what they were saying. They were speaking about some resolutions that had been presented by some gentlemen from another part of Canada, and one made the remark to the other, "The difficulty with those fellows is that one minute they are telling us what great fellows they are, and the next minute they are shouting about their difficulties." And I just said to myself, these two gentlemen that are making these remarks were probably, under similar circumstances, capable of doing exactly the same thing themselves, for if there is a characteristic we as Canadians have, it is the characteristic of boosting at one time and knocking at another, and our boosting and knocking are both founded on-you will forgive me-"ignorance and prejudice." And we have not shown a very great zeal in our effort to get at the kind of knowledge that will stimulate and regulate our boosting and our knocking along legitimate lines. That is not said in any offensive spirit; I am speaking to myself as well as speaking to you. That is a feeling I have had as I have gone up and down this country a great deal, and I thought I would give expression to it today. Now if you want a justification of that statement, I think that we can look back over the events of the last six months and find a fair justification for it. If you will look back for the past three years you will find it more intensely justified. I am going to speak quite frankly and freely, and I want you to understand I am not talking politics -I never do-but I think there are a few things one ought to have the privilege of expressing a judgment about, even if they touch upon things about which public men are talking.
When we speak of ourselves as Canadians there is another fact that stares us in the face, whenever we undertake to make comparisons with other people. That fact is that we are living side by side with one of the greatest nations of the world, a nation which has, by a set of circumstances which we need not discuss here, been fortunate in her economic position, and in almost every other way, so far as her outer life is concerned; and we have rather acquired the habit of thinking of ourselves in relation to the United States rather than thinking of ourselves in relation to other parts of the world. Now personally, I have been teaching myself to do this: to think of Canada as a young, rising, aspiring country, not yet having quite found her place, and destined without question to find it ultimately. And when we come to make comparisons of ourselves, I give it to you as my judgment that we are not fair to ourselves when we think of ourselves only in relation to a great nation like the one that lies at our door. We should take the broader vision and look out upon the world in which we live and see ourselves in the larger relation of the great world of which we form a part. And it is to stimulate your thought in that direction that I have chosen the topic I have taken for discussion to=day.
In order to get at the heart of the subject, I am going to ask three questions, and I shall try to answer those three questions. Taken as individual questions they are very simple ones, and perhaps you will, at first blush, think I am discussing a subject that does not require any discussion at all; but I think that the sumtotal of the discussion that comes out of asking and answering those questions will be considered at least interesting to you, if not of any great value. The three questions I ask myself are these
First,-Have we in Canada the natural conditions which go to make a civilization ? That is a simple and fair question to ask.
Secondly,-Have we these things in such abundance as to give us a fair chance of success in competition with the world? That is a fair question, too. I do not think we can discuss the question of whether a man ought to be an optimist or a pessimist without answering those two questions.
Then, if I am able to answer the first two questions in the affirmative,-How are we going to realize upon our inheritance?
You will see that I have laid out for myself a task of some dimensions in undertaking to ask and answer those three questions. When I undertake to answer the first one the answer can be very simple. I begin by asking this, What does history teach us are necessary things to make a civilization? What is it that a nation requires in order to develop a civilization of a substantial character? I answer in the following terms, and here I am drawing upon the facts of history that as are common to you as to me.
The first is, land upon which food supplies can be grown. No nation in the world has ever achieved eminence that had not its foundation in agriculture. In the modern world it may be possible that a great industrial nation might live without agriculture, especially if war could be eliminated. But in the building up and developing of nationhood, agriculture has in the past always been a basis.
Secondly, a climate suitable to the production of necessary supplies and to the maintenance of a healthy population, under reasonable conditions of life. In the long run people, if they could, have moved away from conditions that were not suitable for the development of a healthy life; and the wreck of many efforts to establish new communities is found to be due to the fact that climate and conditions did not make permanency possible.
Thirdly, natural resources of mine and forests capable of supplying the necessities, and with a surplus capable of being turned into wealth.
Fourthly, a country large enough and varied enough to support a population sufficient to create the internal competition which is necessary to make a general culture possible. That is to say, a small country with a limited group of people very rarely develops a culture that we could call a civilization of its own.
Fifthly, the parts of the country to be so situated as to make communication easy and direct.
Sixthly, a people virile enough to use what they have, intelligent enough to make themselves independent and progressive enough not to fall behind in the race for and the use of knowledge. I mention this last because the surest road to perdition for any man or any nation is the road of ignorance and self-assurance.
Now I think I need not enter into much discussion of the first question. There is no doubt we have in Canada all these natural things in fair abundance. No argument on that is necessary. We have the land; we have the climate; we have produced nine millions of healthy people in it, living happily,-I believe the happiest people in the world, We have the forest and the mine and the other things I have mentioned. The only question then is the second one, Have we these things in such abundance as to make for us an assured place in competition with the outer world? Now I propose to spend just a few minutes making that comparison with you.
Let us in the first place take our lands. I said in the beginning that I prefer to think of Canada as a young aspiring nation with a future before her, with everything stimulating her to aggressive action in the world of affairs. But I am going to begin by making a comparison with some of the older countries. Leave out all the great northern part of Canada with its ice-bound shores, and take only that portion of the country today which the surveyor and the agriculturist have marked out as being suitable for the production of agricultural products, for field crops and meadow and pasture land. Just take that alone; we have more land of that sort than is found in France and Germany, in Belgium, in Holland, in Norway and Sweden, Denmark and Great Britain, all put together. And they are supporting 160 million people within the area I have mentioned in Europe. Before the war Germany was producing 75% of all the supplies necessary for the upkeep of 66 millions of people, and that on an area no greater and no richer than some of our great western provinces. I think that one need not argue further with respect to the possession of land values that go to make a civilization. We are producing now in one of the provinces of Canada sufficient wheat to feed thirty millions of people, and we have hardly scratched the surface of the three great western wheat-producing provinces in this country. Well, when we pass from the older countries to the newer countries-you will say to me at once, Germany is a developed country. Just so, she could not support 66 million people if she were not a developed country. I think the joy of our situation is that we younger men of this generation have an outlook on a great country undeveloped, with resources lying at our hands for development. I think if there is one thing that has been an impediment to us it had been the very wealth of the things we knew we possessed. Many of our set-backs have been due to the fact that we have striven to grab so much of the wealth for our own generation, that should belong to the generations that are to come, that we have handicapped ourselves in the business of life by overcapitalizing our efforts; and like every great business that has too much overhead, when the time of calamity comes, suffering necessarily follows, as night follows day.
But I would like you to think of us in comparison with the newer countries that are developing like ourselves. I look abroad in the world and I see the countries awaiting development are portions of Africa that Britain has under her possession, Australia, New Zealand, certain parts of Asia that are under British mandate, and still open for at least British effort. Then when we look at the outside nations of the world, that are not under the flag, I would take countries like the Argentine, and portions of Russia, and I would make my comparison in relation to these. There are two great advantages we have over all these countries I have mentioned. The first is that we are nearer the centres of population from which flow the currents of human life that help to develop a country. That is a tremendous advantage. The overflow from us at the moment is going to the south; the time is not far distant when that overflow will come our way. But in any case the great populations of the earth that are now pressing upon the shores of the Atlantic to get out are looking in this direction. Our nearness makes it necessary for us, not to open our doors too wide, but to have an even restriction on the movement of population. And the other advantage over any other of these countries is that our lands are not occupied by inferior races.
Now that may seem like a strange thing for me to say, but I regard as one of our greatest assets, as compared with Africa, the fact that we have not to deal with great populations-with all due respect I use the term inferior races, races of men different from ourselves, incapable of developing the kind of civilization or participating in any real measure in the kind of civilization for which Anglo-Saxons have always stood.
I will give you an illustration. Germany was fifty years in German East Africa. When Britain took over the mandate for that country there were two thousand whites and ten million blacks. Can you conceive of a European civilization being built up under those circumstances? Absolutely impossible. The same thing is true of the great part of Africa that is now under the British mandate. However, the call is not for the white man in the ordinary routine sense of the word; the call is for the administrator, the man capable of undertaking large affairs, who has directive capacity; and the genius of Great Britain is that she has shown herself capable of adding to these other things that administrative capacity and that capacity for just treatment that has given confidence to native races all over the world.
One of the secrets of many of the treaties that have been made between the colored races of Asia and Africa and Great Britain has been the fact that when it came to the necessity of having somebody be their guide, they preferred Great Britain to any other nation because of this peculiar quality I have spoken of. Now there is just one thing about tropical countries that gives me a little anxiety,-I am speaking now in comparison with Canada-and that is the work that is now going on in developing the resources of these tropical countries and the scientific work that is going on that to make them countries where white men can live.
The British Government sent out a commission to Africa to study the economic possibilities of Africa. That ommission made a return and said there were, under British rule in Africa, natural resources equal to the natural resources of the United States at the beginning of their career. And forthwith Great Britain provided thirty-five million pounds to begin the development of Africa. Side by side with that there have been put into operation forces for the scientific control of the diseases of Africa, that ultimately may make Africa a white man's country. The only fear I have is that because of our rather exclusive attitude towards people coming from the old land to this country, we may some day find ourselves faced with the fact that British capital and British intelligence have sought a door of opportunity in a country like Africa; and knowing the British character as we do, we know they are not likely to turn back if they once set their foot on that path. It seems to me that that is the only danger Canada has in her future development in comparison with countries like Africa.
Then I turn toward Australia and the same thing applies to a limited extent. It is far away. It has the complications that I have mentioned with regard to races, although not so great as they are in Africa. But in any case the door of opportunity looks wider open here than it does in Australia. The difficulty of our development is much less than hers.
Then I will take the Argentine, which is one of our great competitors; there is no doubt about that. The development of the wheat growing areas in the Argentine, corresponding to the great prairies of the North American continent, opens the doors of competition. But this fact remains: Argentina is likely to remain permanently the home of the Latin races, and it is not likely to be a country into which there will be a large flow of the Nordic races, of the people of northern Europe. Our door is wider open, the opportunity more readily available, and the conditions more suitable to the people of the northern races if we are reasonable in our attitude toward their coming and going.
When we come to the question of climate, I suppose if will be forgiven for saying we have an abundance of climate. That is to say, we can suit everybody's taste. From the Atlantic to the Pacific we have great varieties. We have the rather cold and austere climate of Ontario, and the mild, banana-like climate of Alberta, and on the Pacific coast conditions most suitable to people who, having' advanced in life, think they would like to pass their days under almost subtropical conditions. I want to emphasize this fact, that we have developed in Canada a race of men, nine millions now of us, as wholesome, as vigorous, as strong and as healthy, and, I believe, more happy than that of almost any race under the sun. A good deal has been made of our severe climate by those who did not want to promote Canada's interest. One never likes to use the aygumentum ad hominem, but I did it once. I was speaking to some English friends and they spoke of the awful climate we had in Canada and what an unhealthy country it might be. The man who was saying this was a rather emaciated fellow, and I said, "Look at me; do I look like a fellow that is going to die soon? I was born and brought up there and I have lived in nearly every province; it is the healthiest country in the world. " There was no come-back to that.
I now come to this fact that Canada ranks high in her mines and minerals and forests. There was a time when we spoke of Northern Ontario and the disconnecting link, and I used to wonder whether some day we would drift apart because of that barrier of the northern shield that comes down across and separates us, one from another. What are the facts today? The geologist, the mineralogist, the chemist, and the great business executives have gone into that country, and today it looks as if one of the greatest sources of wealth Canada has, lie in that thing that at one time looked like a barrier between the east and the west. I am confident as time goes on, with the knowledge we have now of the possibilities in this great northern section, that here will lie one of the places where great development will take place in forest and mine. The one thing we should be on our guard about is that we do not allow these things to be wasted, and that as far as possible we conserve them to our own advantage and to the advantage of our children who will come after us.
Then we have this transportation system. I know, Mr. Chairman, it is a very dangerous thing to talk about the transportation system. As a matter of fact, if you judge this one item by my definition of transportation -easy access between the parts-we have not got that in Canada. We have had to make an artificial transportation system, for part of our country anyway. Our friends to the south under similar conditions have developed their transportation system, not along the lines nature laid out, but along lines they had to mature and develop to meet the conditions of settlement. There is no doubt we overdid the transportation system at one time, and that is one of the things that makes us a little blue today, but I am going to say a good word for the transportation system. I have said it two or three times and you will forgive me if I repeat myself. I believe one of the greatest assets Canada has today is her railways. The real difficulty was that when we started building our railways we had a double policy, a railway building policy, coupled with an immigration and settlement policy. Then the War came on. I do not want to say much about the way the railways were built; I have not many words to say about that even in Toronto. I may say this: if we had put some thought, some study, the application of knowledge that was available to our railway system relating it technically and by expert advice to the requirements of the country, we would not find ourselves where we are today. But the truth is that some of our great railway builders, seeing the opportunities for railway building, and the great wealth in it, seized the opportunity to build away ahead of their time, hoping they would get the benefit of what really belongs to the next generation. In doing this, we were acting at that time as we were in regard to everything else-we were boasting. The time of knocking came along later. But the fact remains we could never have settled Western Canada without our railways. Let me call your attention to this fact: during 1925 we produced in the prairie provinces sufficient new wealth to pay the capital charges and the losses that have occurred since on every line of railway built in Western Canada. That development of national wealth could never have taken place if our railways had not been built. During the War the men in the settlement business were in the armies and we were in quite unfair conditions so far as making a judgment as to our affairs was concerned. We had that setback. But I will make this statement and I challenge contradiction that if we were without our railways today, we would not, in all probability, have the courage to build them. But if we had that courage they would cost as us much to build them today as they did then, in addition to the charges to keep them up. In the meantime we have our railways and the possibility of developing the great national wealth on lines still unused in Western Canada.
I want to say this other word: I do not believe there could have been a Canada in any real sense without Western Canada. The Fathers of Confederation saw that and they said, " If we are to have a real Canada it must go from the Atlantic to the Pacific. " And when they completed the first elements of Confederation they took steps to bring in the whole thing right to the coast in order that ultimately there might be a place for our race to expand across this whole continent with its industrial life, and with conditions for producing the things men require for living. I do not hesitate to say that. I am convinced I am right that any real substantial Canada would have been impossible but for Western Canada and our western railways. The thing we want to do is to do our utmost to see that settlement and development in our country shall be of such a character as will make the railways themselves self-supporting. In the meantime I am glad we have got our railways, even with a deficit. If I were building them, there are some lines I would not build; there are other places I would put railways where there are none; but the fact is they are there and they make possible a great, growing, developing Canada.
I said the sixth thing was a virile race capable of using its opportunities, intelligent enough to use them, wise enough to apply knowledge to the development. A moment ago I said Germany and England were developed countries, and we are undeveloped. I will say this; that if we use the knowledge that is available to us, knowledge greater than had the men who developed these older countries, we can do in twenty-five years what it took them a hundred to do, if we only set our minds to it. Perhaps I may be called a theorist; it is common practice to call a man a theorist when you disagree with him. If there is one thing we want to learn in Canada it is that knowledge is a useful thing and and that it can be applied to the solution of the great problems we have. I fire up, Mr. Chairman, and Sir Robert Falconer, when I hear men condemning expenditures on universities because they are not useful. No greater lie was ever uttered in the presence of an intelligent audience. The university is performing its function, that of laying the foundation of knowledge, that can be applied in the development of the nation's life. No nation that does not from now on build its industry on knowledge, will be able to build industry at all. It cannot get anywhere.
We have two races in Canada; we have the French race and the British race. I am going to ask you this question: Do you think there is a race of men on the face of the earth that could have made out of Quebec what the French race has made out of it, other than the French? When I go along the sterile rocky shores of the great river St. Lawrence, and I see what that great race of men have made of that country, I say to myself, "The scions of one of the greatest races of the world have achieved what was worthy of the race to which they belong. " I do not think I can say a much greater thing for them than that. I do not think there is another race that, starting with 60,000 men and women a hundred years ago, could have made of Quebec what they have made of it today.
Now I come to ourselves; now we have to be more careful. But I do want to say that the men and the women who entered the valleys of the Maritime Provinces, who entered the forests of Ontario, who turned these fair lands into gardens of the Lord, where men of the right kind of quality. There was something in them that we do not have to be ashamed of. If any shame beats in our hearts it is that we are not worthy of the traditions they established and set up for us. When I hear men complaining of the conditions of life under which we are living in Canada, and I think of what our forefathers did, I look at the conditions of life from which they came originally, and say the man who complains is not worthy of the stock from which he comes. I can hope for no greater thing for this generation of young Canadians than that in the development of their country they shall prove themselves worthy of their fathers. I can think of nothing higher to say about them.
I went last summer down to the little valley in Nova Scotia where my forebears settled after the Revolutionary War. It took them two generations to get out into the world again. And I asked myself this question
Were they foolish? Well, if men are foolish because they live by a great inspiration, they were fools. If men are foolish because they love something more than they love themselves, these men were fools. But so long as patriotism, love of country, inspiration to be free permeate men's minds and make them worthy, the names of these people will be on the record as being worthy.
My third question is: How are we going to get possession of our inheritance? There are certain things we have got to do, and the first is that we have got to recognize frankly the problems that we are facing. It does not do for me to come to you and utter words of condemnation for your attitude toward me or my attitude toward you, unless our statements are founded upon exact information. The first thing to do is to recognize frankly the situation. I do not blame our politicians. I think we can look back over fifty or sixty years of Canadian history and say that no finer political traditions was ever established by any people than was established by our forebears. We have had our ups and downs, our crooked politicians, and our none too straight ones too; but in the solid development of constitutional life in this country we have everything to be proud of in comparison with other places. I dislike to hear denunciation of our public men.
We must frankly see ourselves as others see us, or in an appropriate relation to the problems we have to solve, and I am sure we will get on with the solution. Then we must learn to think of Canada as a whole. I said in the beginning, there is one thing I feel that I have achieved personally, due to my long association with Canadian life, and that is that I no longer think of myself as other than a Canadian. I think one of the things we have to learn in this country is to think of Canada as a whole. I know that geography is against us. We must learn to think of Canada rather than think of Western Canada and Eastern Canada and the Maritime Provinces. I do not think there has been any problem that we have to solve in holding Canada together that the Americans did not have to solve in keeping the East and West together, except this barrier we spoke of. All the problems of transportation that we have to solve they had to solve. I do not hesitate to say there is no danger to us in trading north and south as against east and west in Canada, especially whenever our materials have to go to he markets of the world. When they go to the markets they have to cross the Continent and I do not see any difference whether they cross Canada or the United States from an economic point of view. But we must seek to make Canada a self-supporting nation. I believe that is something we ought to strive for with all our hearts. As I look at the Canadian Confederation this is the way it appeals to me, that the central provinces of Canada got the best of Confederation, not by design at all but as it turned out; that the development of the West, which our forefathers dimly saw would come in the form in which it came, and as related to the central Provinces, the heart of the Confederation. The result is-will you forgive me if I say this-prosperity sometimes has made Central Canada just a little irritable with respect to claims of other parts of the country. The mental attitude you sometimes take toward the man from the West is not quite fair to the Western man. I do not believe there is a single Province of Canada that stands superior to some of the Western Provinces, even in their political development.
You sometimes speak as if some of the Western Provinces were bankrupt. The Western Provinces are no more bankrupt than Ontario is bankrupt. The actual conditions all over the country have been depressing since the War, but those that have been prosperous have resented the claim made by those not so prosperous. A dear friend in one of the cities here, when discussing this question, said, " You Western men never know what you want." My answer was, in all good nature, "My friend, do acquire the habit of seeing both sides of the question." As far as I am concerned my attitude is this; I am a great believer in the ultimate justice of the British and the French people taken together, and I believe that when we get together to an understanding we will each be willing to go half way in the settlement of our problems. All I am pleading for is that we seek to get that understanding.
Then let me say that we ought to stop slamming each other altogether. May I give you an illustration? Out in a province of Western Canada a public man was discussing something, I think a railway policy, and he said, "They are trying to build a railway to a God-forsaken hole called Guysboro down in Nova Scotia." Now Guysboro was the place where I was born; it is one of the most beautiful places in God's world. It was naturally a God-forsaken hole to a man three thousand miles away who had never seen it. The Department of the Interior thinks the place where my mother was born is so beautiful that they made a photograph of it and it is hanging in the office of the Canadian High Commissioner in London. It is not quite so Godforsaken as it seems.
Down East a gentleman who was discussing the West got a black headline in the papers when he spoke about "the Prairie parasites. " How are you going to get Canadian unity on that basis, the basis of ignorance and knocking, without knowledge. The tendency of it, whether it is done in the East or in the West, is to disrupt feeling and create a disposition to work separately from one another. Now the only thing I fear between the East and the West is the growth of the mentality of the West because of the difference in the occupations of its people from the occupation of the people in the Last. If we take care of that kind of mentality and develop the spirit of patriotism we need have no anxiety. Western America has fought its battles with Eastern America more vigorously than we have but nobody ever talks disruption, because deep seated in the heart of the American people is a confidence in the unity of their own nation. That is what I want us to get. When we get that we will not be talking about Confederation being broken up, but as man to man we will meet and face our problems with a determination to solve them. We have the ability to do it if we will try. We have to have confidence in one another. I believe we have the finest intellectual stock in America. A great American once said this was the greatest intellectual recruiting ground in America. Wherever I go I make a plea for the training of our men for better work and for confidence in their ability to do it. And when I heard someone speaking as if an American was a better man to bring in to do a job than a Canadian, it was then I used the word the newspapers took up wrongly. I spoke of our having an " inferiority complex. " I meant we had a disposition to think more highly of other people than of ourselves. I do not want you to pray the Scotchman's prayer for the Lord to give us a good conceit of ourselves, but a confidence as man to man that we can do our own work.
Then I would that we could leave behind us the quarrels of the Middle Ages in our relations to one another on these racial matters. I would that we Englishmen could think of the work of French Canada and be proud of it, and French Canada think of the work our forefathers have doe and be proud of it. And in our pride of one another we will find the foundation for unity that we have not got today. We the English stock can lay the foundation for that if we lay ourselves to the task.