The Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, Former Prime Minister of Canada
THE VALUE OF CANADA, THE RISKS IT FACES
Chairman: David Edmison, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Maria Roman-Bricknell, Managing Supervisor, Fleishman-Hillard Inc. and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Thobey Campion, recent graduate, Upper Canada College Prep School; The Rev. Dr. John Gladstone, Minister Emeritus, York Minster Park Baptist Church; Professor Patrick Monahan, Osgoode Law School; Ron Atkey, Q.C., Partner, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt; Clifford Hatch, Chairman, Fleming Packaging Corp. and Ontario President of Council for Canadian Unity; Ron Goodall, Partner, Goodall & Peacock and President, The Royal Commonwealth Society; Tom Wells, President, T.L.W. Consulting and Chairman, Ontario Chapter, Royal Overseas League; William McAleer, President and CEO, Johnson & Higgins; Margaret Wente, Editor, Report on Business, The Globe and Mail; Kendall Cork, Chairman and President, E-L Financial Corporation Ltd.; and the Hon. Henry N. R. Jackman, C.M., K.St.J., B.A., LL.B., LL.D.
Introduction by David Edmison
Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, we have an eminently distinguished head table this afternoon. Before introducing our guest of honour, 1 have the privilege to welcome His Honour Hal Jackman, the 39th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, to this special Canada Day celebration.
His Honour is, of course, no stranger to our combined Clubs. As a distinguished Past President of The Empire Club, as a frequent guest speaker, and now as the representative of Her Majesty in our province, he has graced this podium on many occasions.
His Honour has had a very successful and distinguished career in business, and has been involved in a great number of charitable endeavours. He has also been active in the political life of our province and country. His outstanding contributions to public life have earned him widespread recognition for his achievements.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to call on a great friend of The Empire Club and Royal Commonwealth Society to extend greetings from Her Majesty, His Honour Hal Jackman.
The Hon. Henry N. R. Jackman
Thank you very much David. It is obviously a pleasure for me to be here once again for your Canada Day luncheon. The Royal Commonwealth Society and The Empire Club of Canada, as you have said, are two organisations which are very, very close to me.
I think that when we celebrate Canada Day we should be conscious of the heritage that this country owes to the monarchy--to our principles of parliamentary freedom which came to us under the British Crown. Canada was not the product of a revolution like the United States. What defines our distinctiveness is the fact that we, unlike the United States, are not a republic. We are a monarchy. We have evolved to our self-governing independent status through the monarchial system rather than by means of a revolution.
I'm very pleased that my old friend Joe Clark is here today. No one could speak with more passion and more conviction about what Canada means than you do and I am honoured to be here in your presence today and look forward to your speech.
Thank you very much.
Introduction by David Edmison
It is a pleasure for me to introduce a great Canadian, The Rt. Hon. Joe Clark. Our guest has often described Canada as a "community of communities," and an example of this is the town of High River, Alberta. This community was originally called "Spitzee." It's a Blackfoot word meaning "place where the river is easy to cross." And in 1939, who could have known that the town's newest son would one day become its most famous. In his adult life, Joe Clark has crossed provinces, countries, continents, oceans and, yes, more than a few rivers. He crossed rivers of doubt, rivers of controversy, rivers of challenge and rivers of change. And not always where it was easy to cross. You see, unlike his home town, in Joe Clark's career, those spots weren't always within reach. But he crossed anyway--armed with a remarkable combination of passion and purpose. And today, Canadians are all richer for his experience.
Mr. Clark has spoken from this podium several times before. He has addressed us in many capacities: while in opposition, while in power, while prime minister and on more than one occasion, while in the heat of a federal election campaign. Indeed, his political involvement spans over 35 years, beginning in the late 50s when he first became active in the party. He started young, but it's often said that "the younger you start, the faster you grow." And Joe Clark is living proof. Before we knew it, he became the youngest elected prime minister in Canadian history.
After earning his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Alberta, he taught political science. Then, as a journalist, he worked for CBC radio and television and for the two major Alberta newspapers--an experience that served him well as he waded expertly through the media scrums outside Parliament years later. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1972, and dramatically rose to the leadership of his party against a strong field of 10 contenders less than four years later.
Sir John A. MacDonald said: "Canada is a difficult country to govern." Our guest, I'm sure, would not disagree. Despite the many challenges, his career in politics is one of outstanding achievement. It is marked by a commitment to national unity that, against all odds, made him the key in generating constructive dialogue and consensus on the divisive issue of constitutional reform just a few years ago. Clearly his contributions as Minister of Constitutional Affairs are among the most important since Confederation. During this pivotal period, diplomacy, negotiation, understanding and a passion for Canada carried Mr. Clark to a special place in Canadian history.
Our guest has accomplished a great deal. He's been a politician, a statesman, an educator, a journalist, a broadcaster and a recent author of a book on Canada called "A Nation too Good to Lose." But first and foremost, he's a Canadian--a Canadian who has always put the interests of the country above all else. For this he has been awarded many honorary degrees, and most recently was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.
As our two Clubs today celebrate the 128th birthday of our nation, I can think of no one more appropriate to address us than Joe Clark, a man who has done a great deal both in and out of public life--and, more often than not, in the name of Canada.
Ladies and gentlemen, 1 ask you to warmly welcome our special guest, The Rt. Hon. Joe Clark.
I am genuinely pleased to be back at The Empire Club, and to celebrate Canada Day, a strategic 48 hours before the festival of St. Jean Baptiste. But I am conscious of having come here before to virtually the same audience with virtually the same message about the value of this extraordinary country, and the risks it faces.
I don't doubt the passion for Canada of anyone in this room, but the thought has crossed my mind that we are letting this discussion become too routine. We recite our catechism about Canada--this free, diverse, tolerant, compassionate community--yet those are certainly not the qualities that characterise public debate today, in a climate preoccupied by issues of debt, and trade, and cracking down on perceived abuse of the system.
Certainly, I would not dispute the importance of the issues of debt, and of trade. You may remember that I tried to do something about the debt before most other Canadians were ready. My point today is simply that, if those other qualities which we claim characterise Canada are critical to creating a sense of Canadian unity and purpose, we have to demonstrate them regularly in our actions as a community, not just recite them on patriotic occasions.
We talk about the threat to our unity and future, but we don't often act as though the threat were real. I would wager that most Canadians have no idea what is being done in Quebec by the forces which seek the independence of that province. On this first day of a spectacular Canadian summer in the year of the referendum, we are paying more attention to the stories of Les Nordiques, or the Expos, than we are to the campaign of Messrs. Parizeau, and Bouchard, and now Dumont, who want to break up our country.
Mr. Parizeau and his allies are changing the referendum question. It is a change in tactics, but not in purpose. The pretence is to negotiate; the purpose is to separate.
It is one thing for Quebec to say to the rest of Canada: "You must negotiate with us to build a new federation." This proposition is quite different. In effect, the Parti Quebecois, and its allies, are saying: "You negotiate what we want, or we leave."
No one would negotiate under those terms. Quebec would not, and neither would anyone in this room. But negotiation is not the point of this strategy. Winning the referendum is, and I believe this proposition can be made to appear more reasonable, less risky, than a straightforward vote on separation. After all, it proposes another negotiation with the larger Canada. The implication would be that, if this negotiation fails, that would be Canada's decision, not Quebec's. It plays upon the sense in Quebec that, while the Rockies might be wonderful, the people who live there are none too friendly.
We should all remember that many sovereignists in Quebec believe that, in the 1980 referendum, Quebec played by the rules, and Canada did not. They believe the changes promised then, at Paul Sauve arena, meant something different from the constitutional changes Mr. Trudeau subsequently introduced.
You can contest their view, if you wish, but you should understand that the architects of this referendum campaign do not intend to be burned twice. They will conduct an all-out campaign. We can argue that they do not know the advantages of the country they would leave, nor the perils of the future they would embrace, but we should understand that they are determined to win.
I make those observations for two reasons. The first you may interpret as a warning. Ever since my crash course in Canada during the constitutional debate--and you can interpret "crash course" any way you wish--I have believed that indifference in the larger Canadian community is a more serious threat than separatism in Quebec. That province is not just a "distinct society." It is a community, accustomed to acting as a community. For various reasons, that community is looking to define its future, and the referendum will provide a choice between options. The separatist forces are in the process of defining their option vigorously. In a real sense, you and I and other Canadians who prize this nation represent the other option. If, in the next several months, most of us treat the future of our country as a spectator sport, that future will be decided by the players who are active in the field. This is not a time for indifference.
My second motive is to try to begin some discussion about the practical things that might be done by Canadians who want to have a constructive influence on developments in Quebec.
One of those is quite basic. More of us should make a point of speaking well of our country. There is a lot of anger in Canada today--and uncertainty about the future, if not outright fear. That is the case in many western democracies. But it is a more critical moment here. At a time when the worth of Canada is being directly questioned in Quebec, many of the Canadian voices which get reported are hostile, or at least critical. That includes some business voices, or voices speaking to business, whose fervour about the debt, or the tax burden, leads them to write off the country. For better or worse, business voices are heard beyond the boardroom now, and can affect, for example, the assessment of Canada which might be made by a previously uncommitted voter in Quebec.
It is instructive that much more prudence has been shown recently by people in public office. Those leaders, outside Quebec, whose views would have an impact in that province, have been careful and constructive. It must be a disappointment to Mr. Parizeau, who was trolling for some angry reaction, and found interest only in some of the darker recesses of the Reform Party. Speaking personally, and not to be partisan, I thought it was extremely helpful that, in his first statements as Premier-Elect of Ontario, Mr. Harris chose to say something in French. (And it was a very familiar French to me. He and I could converse.) That attitude is, of course, firmly in the tradition of Ontario premiers, but it is a small example of the sensitivity which should be followed.
There is something deeper here than simply being careful about what we say.
You may recall that I did not volunteer to become Minister of Constitutional Affairs. I was conscripted, and many of you have heard of our daughter Catherine's reaction after I left External Affairs for the Constitution. She said: "Well, so long Paris; hello Moose Jaw." Since my conscription, I have had several surprises. Let me tell you about one that troubles me more than others.
Again, you know that the United Nations assesses the quality of life in all the countries in the world, and regularly judges Canada to be the best place in the world to live. Naturally, I quote that finding at every opportunity and I am surprised by the number of Canadians--from sophisticated people in Toronto to farmers and clerks in Yellowhead--who seem to dispute that judgment.
Now, perhaps, their farm just failed or some other personal hardship has brought them down. But the refrain is broader than that. Most other countries in the world would put that U.N. judgment up in bright lights. Imagine what the Americans would do if anyone said that about their society. There is something in Canada that discounts our accomplishments instead of celebrating them.
In another era, Joseph Howe, the great "Tribune of Nova Scotia," urged his compatriots to "brag about your country." In fact, he said: "Brag about your country, boys," but that really was another era. Joe Howe was right. A successful society needs to be reminded of its accomplishments. That is neither boosterism, nor blindness to our faults. It is the basis of building new successes--and we need new successes.
So speak well of Canada. Make it a habit.
A second simple action open to people in this room is to find reason over the next few months to go into Quebec, listen to what people are saying, and talk about the country you know. I am not suggesting formal speeches, but family holidays, a weekend in the Townships or Quebec City, some time in Gaspé or Lac St. Jean, a different kind of baseball at the big "O."
Remember that many Quebeckers, who will vote in a referendum, have very little personal contact with the larger country they are being asked to leave. Much of what they have heard makes them feel unwelcome, and it is in the power of everyone in this room to help turn that attitude around.
Finally, much as I hate to propose anything that sounds like constitutional discussions, we should begin to talk more about the kinds of arrangements we think could work in a modern federal Canada. It may well be that governments should continue to stand back from that process, at least until after a referendum.
But we cannot let the separatists pretend that Canada is wedded to a particular status quo in our constitutional arrangements. We have to find ways to demonstrate that Quebec is not alone in wanting changes. Because, while it is important to speak well of Canada and to broaden the network of personal contacts, this problem will be solved only with some changes in the Constitution, including changes in jurisdiction. And Canada's hand in any referendum would be stronger if Quebeckers were confident that they had allies in seeking change.
I am not here to offer advice to Mr. Chretien. He respected my responsibilities when I was minister, and I certainly respect his, as prime minister. As you would know, I am notorious for supporting prime ministers. In his successful election campaign, he was clear on two principles about Quebec and Canada. The first was that he was going to give priority to other issues rather than the Constitution. The second was that he would preserve Canada.
I admire the atmosphere of calm which Mr. Chretien has brought to his conduct as prime minister. On other occasions, we can discuss whether his government has done much in substance, or wants to, but there is no doubt that the atmosphere of calm--almost of business as usual--has been welcome, particularly after the turbulence of the historic changes of free trade, the replacement of the manufacturers' sales tax, and the all-out attempt to get agreement on institutional and Aboriginal and constitutional questions.
I am proud of the accomplishments of the government of which I was a part, but every Progressive Conservative knows that part of Mr. Chretien's success is that he is not us.
But Canada is the same country with the same qualities that win envy around the world, and the same fault lines, which we ignore at our peril. If we don't talk about ways we might meet those challenges, that suggests we are not interested in solving our problems together. And I believe that if we do not talk about them, we will find that some of the goals of Quebec, respecting jurisdiction, are shared by other provinces--including large provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, and perhaps Ontario.
Two factors that are new since the Charlottetown process add momentum to the prospects of re-shaping our Federation.
One is fiscal reality. Canada cannot afford the duplication of services that has prevailed for decades--and moreover, there is no longer much taste for the kind of assertiveness by the central government that characterised the 1970s.
The second factor is a genuine societal change, that places more importance on local communities, local initiatives. That has to do with more than just a reaction against distant bureaucracies. Technology allows decentralisation as never before. It allows people to work together, without being physically in a central place. It makes use of the higher levels of education and knowledge, the greater sense of efficacy, and the greater knowledge of local conditions, that exist in local communities.
We should not be so haunted by past failures that we refuse new initiatives, particularly if simply discussing those initiatives might help encourage Quebeckers to stay in Canada.
Let me recall three points about our country.
First, that United Nations judgment is no accident. With all our imperfections, we are both a lucky and a successful society--a nation too good to lose.
Second, this is not an easy country. We cover an immense geography. We are not all alike. There is no simple, binding common myth, such as the British, or the French, or the Americans have at the core of their patriotic identity.
And, while other nations were created by conquest, or accident, or geography, we have always depended upon political will. That was how the country was formed, at Confederation; how it expanded across a continent, and to three oceans; and how it developed the qualities that distinguish Canada from other countries--the equalisation principle which makes our federation more equal; medicare; a mixed economy; a remarkable prosperity; and a respect for different cultures, that is deeply rooted in Canada in a way that is rare in most of the world.
We have always depended upon political skill, and political will--and that is more complicated in this more educated, more populist age, because we now need the will of citizens as well as leaders.
The third reality about Canada is that we could come apart. We take so much for granted in this rich society, far from the war and conflict that consume other continents, knowing little of our own history, knowing few of our fellow citizens from other Canadian cultures or communities, and undervaluing the advantages which this large, successful country brings to all of us.
In my province, the government talks about "The Alberta Advantage," to evoke the climate of opportunity they seek to establish. But the real Alberta advantage is to be in Canada. That is also the Quebec advantage and the advantage of all of us.
As Secretary of State for External Affairs, I have seen societies that are truly divided--where people kill each other or react to their neighbours with hatred or fear. There is virtually none of that here in Canada--no historic hatreds, none of the fears and antagonisms which pull communities apart. And as a Canadian minister, prime minister and party leader, I have been into every part of every province and territory, and talked, and listened, to thousands of Canadians. Throughout that experience, I have not seen a single issue of substance that was insurmountable. There are no fundamental divisions in Canada.
There are, of course, different views--about the appropriate power of the central government, or the appropriate role of the province of Quebec as the safeguard of the Quebec community, or the rights of Aboriginals, or the Senate, or a thousand other important details.
Many of those issues are urgent and real, and cannot simply be shunted aside. But they are not irreconcilable differences. None is so fundamental that it should cause a country to fail. Nor is the sum of those differences overwhelming. This is a country that has every reason to succeed--and to thrive. But that is really up to us.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Ron Goodall, Partner, Goodall & Peacock and Chairman, The Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada, Toronto Branch.