Have you ever wondered why Brian Mulroney, a successful businessman from Montreal, decided to run for political office in Baie Comeau; or Jean Chretien, a successful lawyer from Three Rivers, Quebec, must run for office in New Brunswick; or John Turner, a successful Bay Street lawyer and former Cabinet Minister in Trudeau's government had to run in Quodra, in Vancouver, British Columbia? The answer is often elusive, especially if you are a Canadian.
But one answer might be found in a book that is all too often overlooked in our busy society. "A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." (Mark 6:4)
Our speaker today, at least at this time in Canadian history, seems to be an exception to this observation. E. Preston Manning is a grass roots populist from Western Canada. Born and raised in the Edmonton area of Alberta, he is a P.K. (Politician's Kid). His father Ernest was Premier of Alberta for 25 years.
Preston Manning graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.A. in economics and then did further studies in systems management philosophy and techniques with a U.S. aerospace firm.
In 1968 he became owner and president of Manning Consultants Ltd., a research and management consulting firm.
A few years ago one of my brothers moved to Calgary with his firm. By the time I went out to see him a few months after the move, I observed that he had really caught the spirit of the West. He even had cowboy boots. When I remarked on them, he quickly pointed out the difference between cowboy boots on Westerners and cowboy boots on Easterners. On Westerners, he emphatically stated, the manure is on the outside.
A quick lesson in East/West relationships--Since Confederation first began there seems to have been a drawing of power to the two central giants, Quebec and Ontario, from the periphery provinces on both the East and the West. Premier Joseph Ghiz spoke to this issue when he addressed our club last year.
Now from the West comes Preston Manning. But he doesn't come as Premier from a little island province. In fact he isn't a Premier at all. But he does come as the spokesman of a rapidly growing political movement from Western Canada. He was elected leader of the Reform Party of Canada at its founding convention in Winnipeg, October 30-November 1, 1987.
This populist conservative party has been growing at a tremendous rate west of the Ontario border. One M.P. and one Senator have been elected from its ranks. There would appear to be strong indications that the Reform Party will take a vast majority of the seats west of Ontario when the Prime Minister calls the next election. We welcome Mr. Manning to The Empire Club today and ask him to address us now.
A few years ago, a movie was produced entitled "The Gods Must Be Crazy." It is now rumoured that the National Film Board is funding a Canadian version entitled, "The Canadians Must Be Crazy," the script being based on the activities of some of our leading politicians over the past three months.
At the end of June we had the Meech Lake spectacle, with the Prime Minister and other leading figures proclaiming that if the Accord was not signed Canada would pass away at 12.00 p.m. on June 23rd, 12.30 in Newfoundland. When that didn't happen, the Prime Minister went into seclusion at his summer residence, and the Quebec Government said they would begin seriously examining the pursuit of a more separate relationship with Canada. But then the Mohawks in Quebec went on the war path, to which the Quebec Government responded by saying, "You can't have different laws for people of different races and cultures just because they claim to be distinct," and called upon the Canadian Army to help solve the problem.
Meanwhile, the democratically elected and supposedly politically accountable Canadian House of Commons passes legislation to institute a tax opposed by 85 percent of the population, while the undemocratic and unaccountable Senate chooses to oppose the tax in accordance with the will of the people.
The Prime Minister, who has opposed every major attempt to make the Senate democratic and accountable over the past six years, accuses the Senate of operating undemocratically and then petitions the Queen for the right to make eight more undemocratic appointments to the Upper Chamber. No wonder people and commentators within and without Canada are saying, "The politicians must be crazy," and ask the question, "What's happening to Canada?"
The response of the Reform Party of Canada to the chaotic state of federal politics has been to ask Canadians to think long and hard about "two Canadas"--the Old Canada that is dying, and the New Canada that is being born. Today I want to describe these two Canadas in some detail and ask you to choose in which of these two Canadas you would prefer to live and work as a citizen.
Old Canada is the Canada which has emerged under the stewardship of the federal Liberal and Conservative Parties and is characterized by three fatal flaws which are bringing about its demise.
1. In Old Canada, the federal government is on the verge of bankruptcy because it consistently spends more money than it receives in revenues. Annual deficits of $30 billion; projected national debt of $440 billion at the end of Mr.
Mulroney's second term, or $17,000 per Canadian. In Old Canada, when doctors deliver babies, they no longer hold the baby up by its heels and give it a pat on the bottom to make it cry in order to stimulate its lungs. Instead, they simply hold the baby up by the heels and say, "You owe us $17,000." The baby starts to cry right away, and with good reason!
2. Old Canada is a "house divided against itself'--a country where the national government is prepared to adopt different laws (including constitutional laws) for different groups based on race, language, and culture. This is the path that has led to Meech Lake, to PQ and BQ, and to Oka. The national symbol of Old Canada is not the maple leaf but the hyphen. Its federal politicians talk incessantly about English-Canadians, French-Canadians, aboriginal-Canadians, ethnic-Canadians, but rarely about "Canadians, period." It has become patently obvious in the dying days of the 20th century that you cannot hold a nation together with hyphens.
3. Old Canada is a country where the Parliament doesn't work. In Old Canada 25 percent of the seats in the federal Parliament, those in the Upper Chamber, are still filled by a 19th-century patronage appointment system. In Old Canada, the Members of Parliament represent the government or their party to the people, rather than representing their people to the government. In Old Canada, Parliament's decisions increasingly reflect the will of influential political elites, not majority opinion. For example, when 84 percent of the Canadian people say the federal government should cut spending and not raise taxes (Gallup, March 1986), the government proceeds to increase both spending and taxes. When 67 percent of Canadians say they want a chance to express themselves on constitutional amendments by a referendum (June, 1990), the Prime Minister says, "Referenda are not the Canadian way." Old Canada--bankrupt, hyphenated, undemocratic, even anti-democratic at the highest level of government--no wonder it's falling apart.
Two Ways of Looking at the Death of Old Canada
Hysterical Pessimism--the country's disintegrating, Quebec is preparing to leave, English Canada has no identity, it will be every province for itself; we'll fly into provincial fragments and be absorbed by the U.S.
Cautious Optimism--yes, Old Canada is dying, but something new is being born. A "New Canada" is emerging on the northern half of the North American continent, and it is the task of forward-looking citizens and political leadership in the 1990s to give it shape and substance. This is the perspective of the Reform Party of Canada.
What should be the distinguishing characteristics of "New Canada"--the foundations which will enable this nation to survive and prosper in the 21st century? This is the question that Canadians must answer in the 1990s, and the Reform Party is dedicated to helping you do so.
Reformers say that New Canada is a place:
--where citizens insist that governments live within their means.
--where real jobs with real incomes are provided, not by the government, but by internationally competitive, financially viable, environmentally sustainable businesses and industries.
--where the Parliament works because it has been reformed.
--where the national government is dedicated to the proposition that all Canadians should be treated equally (by federal law and the Constitution) without regard to race, language, and culture.
Let us take a few minutes to examine each of these characteristics of the New Canada more carefully.
"New Canada is a place where citizens insist that governments live within their means. "
All across the country, people are saying, "We must live within our means (households, unions, businesses), why shouldn't the federal government be required to do likewise?"
All across the country, people are saying, "The federal government should not be given any additional tax revenues or levers like the G.S.T. unless and until it controls its spending."
What has been the federal government's response? Its response has been to talk about spending reductions and to increase taxes (over the last five years, increases in personal income tax of 46 percent, corporate income tax 21 percent, sales and excise taxes 67 percent, and now the G.S.T. at 7 percent)
To change that, to get a new Canada in which the federal government lives within its means, will require the election to the next Parliament of candidates who are committed to reducing federal spending in absolute terms:
--who will support a freeze on federal hiring;
--who will support a 10-15 percent across-the-board reduction in all federal spending;
--who will rip out the G.S.T. if it has been imposed against the will of the Canadian people;
--who will put forward concrete proposals for getting federal spending lower next year than this year (spending cuts at the top; reductions in the thick layers of middle management; elimination of grants, handouts, tax concessions to private corporations and special-interest lobby groups).
I would go so far as to say that if the New Canada is not a place where governments learn to live within their means, then there will be no New Canada at all. Instead, this nation will stumble backwards into the 21st century on its way to becoming a country with a third-world economy like Argentina or Brazil.
"New Canada is a place where real jobs with real incomes are created not by the government, but by internationally competitive, financially viable, environmentally sustainable industries and businesses."
All across the country, younger people are saying, "Where are the real jobs with real incomes going to come from, and who will provide them? We can't all work for McDonald's and the Post Office."
The traditional response, of traditional politicians in all federal parties, has been to imply that it is the government which will arrest the recession, get the economy going, and create real jobs with real incomes. Our response is different. We say that the majority of real jobs with real incomes are not going to come as some "hand-out" from government. These jobs and incomes will be created--if they are created at all--by internationally competitive, financially viable, environmentally sustainable industries and businesses, many in the small-business sector.
Government, of course, has a role to play, but that role is primarily to remove the barriers that hinder or prevent responsible entrepreneurs, investors, labour leaders, educators, and scientists from creating and sustaining the jobs and incomes of the future. Those barriers include excessive taxation; high interest rates; inter-provincial obstacles to trade; and outmoded science, training, and labour-management policies. The world economy and world trade is being realigned into three huge trading blocs. The North American free trade area--soon to be expanded to include other countries--is one of these, and provides the basis of a new north-south economy. Canada has taken the first step toward participating in that new north-south economy, but we have not followed it up by realigning our taxation, interest-rate, transportation, training, science, and labour-management policies to correspond to the new realities.
Our challenge to business, labour, education, and scientific leadership is to say, "You get on with the job of creating internationally competitive, financially viable, environmentally sustainable businesses in a free-trade, free-market environment. We will dedicate our efforts in the next Parliament to removing the road blocks that stand in the way.
"New Canada is a place where the Canadian Parliament works because it has been completely reformed."
The people say, "The Parliament doesn't work We send good people to Ottawa, but within two years they become Ottawa's representatives to us." This legitimate complaint gets no response whatsoever from the traditional parties, other than the response that "You don't understand......" We say its high time to acknowledge the truth of what people are saying, and to send a group of people to the next Parliament committed to fundamental reform.
These reforms must include the complete reform of the Canadian Senate to make it Elected, with Equal representation from each province, and powers to make it Effective in providing regional balance and fairness in national decision-making. New Canada must be a place where the federal Parliament would not permit an exploitive NEP or CF 18 decision. Reform of the federal Parliament must also include fundamental reforms to the operations of the House of Commons--changes in the rules to permit Members to defeat a bill without defeating the government; freer votes; and opportunities for direct public input through national referenda on important issues. It is a reformed Parliament which would be the key governmental institution in establishing a New Canada, and our recommendation to Canadians will be that if you want to reform something, you should send Reformers to do the job.
"New Canada is a place where the national government is dedicated to the proposition that all Canadians should be treated equally."
Now by this statement, I mean "treated equally" in federal law and the Constitution without regard to race, language, and culture, rather than being treated specially in federal law and the Constitution because of race, language, and culture.
Please understand me. Insisting on the equality of all Canadians does not mean that racial or linguistic or cultural distinctions are not important and should not be preserved. It does not mean abandoning the Canadian mosaic and jumping into the American melting pot. In the New Canada, however, the task of preserving linguistic and cultural distinctions, where necessary, is assigned to individuals, groups, and lower levels of government, while the national government is dedicated to the principle of the equality of all Canadians and the development and preservation of those things which we all share in common. And so, as we move from the Old Canada to the New, the federal government says to Quebec's politicians, "Do you want to negotiate new constitutional arrangements with the rest of Canada?" Fine, we're prepared to negotiate. "If you are 'in,' we propose delegating to you the legal and financial responsibility for preserving the French fact within Quebec while accepting the fact that the federal government will be pursuing the equality in law of all Canadians and provinces in a new Canada. And if you're 'out,' our sole interest in negotiation will be in protecting and advancing the interests of the New Canada in which such equality will prevail." The question for Quebec is not, therefore, "Do you want to leave the Old Canada," but "Do you want to be part of the New Canada on these terms and conditions?"
Similarly, as we move from the Old Canada to the New Canada, the federal government says to our aboriginal peoples, "Do you want to negotiate a completely new relationship between aboriginal peoples and the government of Canada?" We believe that such a new relationship is absolutely essential to the future well-being of aboriginal peoples, and that its negotiation is long overdue. We would invite aboriginal leaders to conduct their own constitutional convention--to spell out, for all to see, their vision of a New Canada, and their place in it. We believe that such a convention would produce concrete proposals for doing away with the Department of Indian Affairs and transferring the majority of its functions and responsibilities to aboriginal agencies and governments. We believe that such a convention could go a long way toward answering such questions as how to hold aboriginal agencies and governments accountable, to their own people and to society at large, for their own actions and for the welfare of aboriginal peoples. Negotiation of such arrangements would assign both the responsibility and the resources for aboriginal development to aboriginal peoples themselves, while assigning to the federal government the responsibility for establishing equality of opportunity for all Canadians without regard to race, language, and culture.
Finally, as we make the transition from the Old Canada to the New Canada, the federal government says to new Canadians, "Look, we made a mistake in the past when our politicians met you at the boat or the plane and offered you a grant to preserve the culture which you were trying to get away from. From henceforth, you and your group and lower levels of government decide upon and assume responsibility for those aspects of your cultural heritage which you want to preserve. We endorse and encourage that. But the role of the government of Canada will be to provide equality of opportunity for you and your children in a New Canada, and to promote a Canadian culture consisting of those things which all Canadians share in common. Such a policy does not destroy the Canadian mosaic. Rather, it puts the construction and maintenance of the mosaic on a more solid foundation.
There are three parts to a mosaic. There are the individual pieces with their distinctive character, which must be cut and polished and fit into some overall pattern. But there is also the common background on which those pieces are placed, and the glue which must hold them together. Reformers say, "Let the individual and the group, and even lower levels of government, devote their attention to the shape and form of the individual pieces that make up the mosaic. But let the national government--the Government of Canada--provide the common background onto which those pieces must be affixed, and the glue which must hold them together."
Whatever the shape and substance of the New Canada (and the outline I have sketched today is by no means complete) there are two key questions which you and I must answer if the 1990s are to be the era of transition from the Old Canada to the New. Who in the current Parliament would you trust to lead the transition from the Old Canada to the New Canada? What are you personally prepared to do for your country in its hour of need?
Who would you trust. . .
... to reduce federal spending? Can you look for leadership to the Liberals and Conservatives who between them have managed to pile up our $400 billion national debt? Or can we seriously look to the federal NDP, whose guiding principle has always been to support higher rather than lower levels of public expenditure? Do we not need to look for new people to reform federal spending?
...with respect to reforming the Parliament itself? Can you look for leadership from the current inmates of the asylum? from the very people who have made Parliament a mockery and a laughing-stock? Do we not need to look for real Reformers to do the job?
... to negotiate completely new arrangements with aboriginal peoples? Can you look for leadership, could we even think of asking aboriginal people to look for leadership, to the politicians and bureaucrats who have been running the Indian Affairs Department for the last 120 years?
...and to negotiate new constitutional arrangements with Quebec? Would you trust any federal party led by a leader from Quebec, dependent upon Quebec seats for a majority in Parliament?
Your answers to these questions are similar to those which we have received from audiences all over this country.
The Canadian people have no real confidence in any of the traditional parties or politicians who currently dominate the federal political scene, particularly when it comes to leading the transition from the Old Canada to the New.
Which leads me then to one final question: Are you prepared to trust yourselves?
What are you personally prepared to do for your country in its hour of need? A New Canada with a balanced budget, a reformed Parliament, a revitalized economy, and a new Constitution cannot be created by Acts of Parliament. It can only be created by the individual and collective acts of hundreds and thousands of individual Canadians committed to creating a new future for themselves and their children. It is therefore necessary to ask, "Would you be prepared to reduce your demands on the federal government and the federal treasury, if you could be assured that other Canadians would do likewise?" If you find the present parliamentarians untrustworthy, would you personally be prepared to get involved in recruiting and supporting a new breed of federal politician in the 1990s? (If we're honest, we'll admit that most Canadian towns and cities give more thought and attention to hiring their rink managers than they do their Members of Parliament.)
Recruiting and supporting a new breed of federal politician means far more than simply showing up at a nominating meeting or polling booth once every four years. It means becoming involved in publicizing the job description for a Member of Parliament; drawing up the profile and qualifications of the type of politician you would be prepared to trust; becoming involved in advertising and recruiting new people into public life; supporting these people after they are elected, as well as before. And if we get into new constitutional discussions, would you and I as Canadians be willing to settle for simple equality for ourselves and our group within the federal system rather than special status, if other Canadians were willing to do the same.
In other words, would we be willing to give up some of our cherished "hyphens," if that was the price of doing away with hyphenated-Canadianism in other parts of the country? If we answer "no" to these questions on a personal level, then the idea of a New Canada replacing the Old Canada will be nothing but a pipe dream. But if our answer to these questions is a resounding "yes" then nothing can prevent the New Canada from prevailing over the Old.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Lord Durham took a hard look at the old colony of Canada and said he perceived two nations--the English and the French--waning in the bosom of a single state. Today, when I take a hard look at Canada, I also see two nations warring in the bosom of a single state--but the two nations are the Old Canada and the New Canada. As we peer into the future from the slopes of our Rocky Mountains, we can see the outlines of that New Canada, and I believe our view is just as valid as the view from Mount Royal in Quebec, or the Peace Tower in Ottawa, or the office towers of Toronto. We intend to employ our influence in the federal arena (however great or little that may be) to ensure that the New Canada prevails over the Old--that fiscal responsibility prevails over uncontrolled spending, that free markets and free trade prevail over government intervention and protectionism, that democratic constitution-making prevails over top-down constitution making, that regional fairness anchored in a reformed Senate prevails over extreme centralization or decentralization, that "Canadianism, period" prevails over "hyphenated-Canadianism," and that equality prevails over distinctions based on race. It is to these ends that the Reform Party of Canada will direct its efforts in the 1990s, and I invite you to join with us.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by M.Gen. Bruce Legge, Partner, Legge & Legge, Chairman, Metro International Caravan and Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.