The Challenges of Change
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 14 Feb 1980, p. 235-247
Clark, The Right Honourable Joe, Speaker
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The real test of national political parties and of national governments. Certainties that have changed to questionables in Canada. Some details of changes encountered when the speaker's government took over in Ottawa. Then, some changes already started by his government. The larger question is what kind of country do we want? A question of culture, not constitution. The difference between unity and identity. The issue of economic realities in Canada. A new budget and a new energy policy. A reorganization of the cabinet system. The medical care insurance system. The Canada Pension. Canada's strengths.
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14 Feb 1980
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FEBRUARY 14, 1980
The Challenges of Change
CHAIRMAN The President, John A. MacNaughton


Ladies and gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada: This afternoon it is our privilege to welcome to the Empire Club the Right Honourable Joe Clark, Prime Minister of Canada. It is a great pleasure, Sir, for members of this club to have you with us and as the first item of business today I want, on behalf of all the members gathered here, to thank you for agreeing to address us this afternoon and also to thank you, Prime Minister, for taking time off from your busy election campaign to do so.

You will recall, Mr. Clark, that on your two earlier visits to the Empire Club there was a great deal of light-hearted bantering about the non-partisan nature of this forum. In this regard I draw to the attention of the members of the Empire Club present today that I have fulfilled my obligation to that tradition over the last few weeks by welcoming to this podium Liberal Jean Chretien, Separatist Rene Levesque and Socialist Ed Broadbent; as a reward for the forbearance that required I hope the audience will allow me to savour to the full the pleasure of being here today with Prime Minister Clark.

Mr. Clark and his candidates are campaigning for re-election under a banner that reads "real change deserves a fair chance." No doubt people in the audience are aware of the kind of changes he has proposed and many, probably all, are in agreement on the need for a determined confrontation by the central government with problems that our country will continue to face whichever party takes office after the election to be held in just four days.

Ladies and gentlemen, the debate about the changes Mr. Clark has proposed has been intense, so let us detach ourselves for a moment from the passions of an election campaign to reflect on the words of some men who have written and spoken about the wisdom and courage needed to understand and withstand the ordeal of change.

First, former Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller who addressed this club in 1971:

From time to time, we must step away from our day-today tasks and examine the shifting trends and values that will shape our future.

In these times, of course, there is no shortage of pundits and critics who scrutinize modern life. Almost daily, our nation's soul is searched; its psyche probed; and its anatomy dissected as seldom before.

Self-examination can be useful if it warns us against complacency and alerts us to the pitfalls of self-deception. It is even more beneficial if it instructs us in the ways of creating a better future for ourselves and our fellow beings.

If the kind of examination proposed by David Rockefeller identifies areas of complacency or self-deception then strong policies and attitude-altering changes, rather than half-measures or wishful thinking, are needed. Mr. Clark's new government, in such areas as energy pricing, financial management and foreign policy, had no long-standing record to defend and was able to move decisively to introduce bold changes, observing in the process the dictum of one of our speakers in 1923, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who commented: "The most dangerous thing in the world is to leap a chasm in two jumps."

The advocacy of fundamental and significant change, both in governing and in electioneering, is a strategy that contains many risks. As Dostoyevsky put it, "taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most." But it is also an honest man's approach. Joe Clark's answers to the major policy questions in this campaign contain no dissembling, no equivocation, no obfuscation, no algebra -just clear proposals for a clean break with policies of the past. To be so specific requires not only integrity but also courage and Mr. Clark, by continuing to defend what he believes is right for Canada, has exhibited a courage of conviction that has reassured his supporters and, in many quarters, has confounded his opponents.

Sir Wilfred Grenfell, the Labrador missionary doctor who addressed the Empire Club in 1921, spoke eloquently of the kind of courage Mr. Clark has shown when he said very simply, "It is courage that the world needs, not infallibility. Courage is always the surest wisdom."

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a proud moment for me to ask you to rise and welcome the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Joe Clark.

THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JOE CLARK: Mr. Chairman, Rabbi Monson, ladies and gentlemen: It is an honour for me to be back at the Empire Club, and I will naturally restrain my normal partisan impulses and respect the traditions that your chairman has honoured so faithfully.

I should begin by expressing my wife Maureen's regret at not being here. Some things get delayed by election campaigns: fighter aircraft purchases, the work of Parliament. But some things don't. Maureen has two examinations for her Bar admission course tomorrow morning. She is upstairs boning up on them. If there's anybody here from the Upper Canada Law Society, I want you to think of her! That is the reason for her absence today and she wants me to express her good wishes.

I want to speak to you today about a job that I like, about a country that I love, both of which I intend to hold--the country forever, the job for a reasonable number of years yet to come.

One advantage of being the Prime Minister of Canada in an election campaign is that I have the opportunity to meet a wide number of Canadians and to discuss with them directly some of the most important developments in Canada. For example, two days ago I spoke to one of the policemen on my detail about his son who is six and has started to play hockey. It has not been a particularly good season--he could have been playing for the Leafs! That is until last week, when the boy scored two goals and got two assists. Today, he's Guy Lafleur, and his father, when he's not protecting Prime Ministers against the weather of Winnipeg, is down at the rink testing his slap shot, teaching stick handling, and picking up. a game young scorer when sometimes he stumbles over his six-year-old feet. It brought home to me the fact that youth telescopes life. Changes happen dramatically. That little boy is going to be a hockey player. My little daughter Catherine, who a couple of years ago couldn't get a sentence out, embarrasses me now with the proficiency with which she pronounces her French rs, far better than her father does. As parents, I suppose we become accustomed to seeing that in children. As citizens, we should look as keenly to see it in the country, because the country is changing too, changing dramatically, and the real test of national political parties and of national governments is how truly we reflect that change.

En ce debut des annees quatre-vingts nous devons prendre conscience que le Canada a beaucoup evolue et qu'il n'y a qu'un seul parti qui soit resolument engage dans la voie du changement: c'est le parti progressif conservateur. Nos politiques ne cherchent pas a defendre le passe ou a perpetuer le statu quo. Au contraire, elles sont essentiellement axees vers l'avenir. L'avantage du parti conservateur et de mon gouvernement c'est qu'ils sont representatifs de toutes les regions du pays. Nos politiques et nos attitudes s'inspirent de la diversite du pays et refletent les interets de toutes les regions du Canada. Il est d'ailleurs interessant de noter que c'est sous un gouvernement conservateur, sous mon gouvernement, que le Quebec a commence a etre traite avec le respect qu'on lui doit. Il y a a peine six mois le Quebec etait constamment battu par Ottawa. Aujourd'hui, le point de vue du Quebec est respecte a Ottawa et les echanges entre les deux gouvernements sont civilises. Oui, en six mois a peine, les temps ont bien change au Canada.

You will have read that when I became Prime Minister last June I brought to office a very narrow apprenticeship in politics, a skate board and a forceful chin. Well, I brought a little more than that to the office of Prime Minister. I brought a knowledge that the psychology of this country had changed, that three regions--Quebec, the Prairies and British Columbia--which had been weaned on resentment and on doubts were suddenly as self-confident as Ontario had been: Quebec for cultural reasons, the west for economic reasons. I brought also a knowledge that the sense of security of the country had changed; not just the reaction to external threat, which has become more acute in recent months, but the expectation of domestic uncertainty. This had been a country where certain basic necessities could be counted on, could be taken for granted. They were assured. But in recent years, those certainties have come to be in question, as savings were eaten away by inflation, as young people couldn't find jobs, as personal optimism eroded.

I remember a Canadian of Italian origin, a Canadian by choice, telling me of the anguish in his community where people had made the hard choice to tear up roots they had grown with and come here to a land of opportunity. They were now finding interest rates too high on mortgages. They found that too many other children shared the training that was supposed to be their child's own passport to Canadian security.

We are not the same nation, entering 1980, as we were entering 1970. Some of the changes are negative and one regrets a loss of innocence. Most of the changes are positive--proof not only that we are maturing as a nation, but that we are coming to terms with the special nature of a unique country.

I want to speak with some pride about some changes my government got started to build a better footing for Canada in the 1980s. But first, let me give you a little more detail about some of the changes that we found when we became a government.

One of those concerns the so-called question of national unity, which has become a code phrase for "What are we going to do about Quebec?" It is my judgment that on two old issues, language and the need for constitutional reform, attitudes have already changed almost completely. I am applauded now when I speak French in Hamilton and Vancouver and Winnipeg, and if I may say so, I am appreciated when I speak French in Sept Iles, Quebec, or Dieppe in New Brunswick. Johnny MacKenzie and I were born in the same hospital in High River, and they're almost as proud of my French as they are of his hockey!

There was fear in this country. There was hatred in this country. Those forces are receding, and we can turn our attention now to the practical problems of how we translate the statutes of Manitoba into French, how we assure fairness to public servants who were denied a bilingual background, how we implement the Schweinar Report. As for constitutional change, everybody now wants it, and we have literally volumes of proposals, from those of John Robarts through those of Claude Ryan, from the governments of Ontario, of British Columbia, of Quebec, from committees of Parliament, from the Senate, from individual citizens across the country. The question for most of us at one point was should there be any change? And here I do not pretend to speak for Pierre Trudeau, who has held fixed ideas on this question for a long, long time. But for most of us, the question now is what changes can we fashion to maintain a nation that is strong as a national economy, strong as a national idea, and yet encourage the expression and the expansion of its diverse parts? My government, as you know, has commissioned Senator Arthur Tremblay, a distinguished Quebec constitutionalist, avec une profonde connaissance du Canada tout entier, a man, by the way with no known connections to the Conservative Party when he accepted my invitation to the Senate. Senator Tremblay has accepted the commission to consult the work of Robarts, Ryan and everyone else, and to prepare a federal proposal for constitutional reform for discussion in the Parliament of Canada, and I hope, if possible, if it can be agreed with the provinces, discussion in all the Legislatures of the land some time in the late fall. We have timed it deliberately so that that proposal will appear after the referendum, so the P.Q. can argue neither federal interference nor federal indifference, and also to demonstrate our conviction that this federal system must be modernized, whatever the result of a provincial referendum in Quebec.

The larger question remains. What kind of country are we? And that question, in my view, is more cultural than constitutional. I spoke of a concept last spring, talking about Canada as a community of communities. It is a concept which I believe draws near the nature of this nation, a nation which is proud of its whole but which is formed in its parts.

As with so many important questions, the country arrived at that concept ahead of the politicians. Long ago, Northrop Frye distinguished between unity, which is national, and identity, which is local. That theme of a community of communities is one that I would have liked to elaborate today, but with energy crises, elections and the other diversions of the past few months, we have only begun serious elaboration of the concept. I believe it contains the elements of a Canadian definition, but the definition, like the country, has not yet taken final form.

The other basic change we found in the country, with which we had to deal, is economic. More precisely, it is the willingness to face reality about Canada's economic circumstances. Most Canadians now accept that while our potential is enormous, there is nothing automatic or guaranteed about Canada's success. We will have to earn that success in the future, just as we had to earn it in the past. That new economic realism is a valuable ally to government, because it creates a context of support for policies that might otherwise be unpopular.

We have acted on that assumption, introducing both a budget and an energy policy that cannot perhaps be accused of being popular, but that can be defended absolutely as being necessary and being honest.

I think that you know the premises and the detail of our budget and of our energy policy. We have cut the spending of the government of Canada and we have cut the cash requirements of the government of Canada, because we believe that that kind of proof of discipline is the only way to restore investor confidence and to give the government of Canada the authority to urge restraint and responsibility on others. It is an essential base for more jobs, for more growth, for less inflation. It is the basis of John Crosbie's honest budget.

Our energy policy is based on the belief that it is dangerous and foolish for an energy nation like ours to deepen our dependence on insecure foreign sources of oil when we have such abundant hydro-carbon and other energy sources right here at home. We decided in June to move deliberately away from foreign sources and towards Canadian self-sufficiency in energy by 1990. Events since that decision have proven just how right we were to take it. We acted before the revolution in Iran, before the Soviet thrust towards the oil wealth of the Persian Gulf, before OPEC increased by nearly one billion dollars this year the cost to Canada of imported oil.

Of course, those policy changes will not suddenly solve all of the difficulties we face as a nation. Problems build up over time and they require solutions that work over time. We came to office after a decade of deficits, after a long period of escalating reliance on foreign energy. We tackled those problems at their root and changed the fundamental direction of Canadian policy, away from deficits, away from dependency. We are spelling out in detail a ten-year plan for energy self-sufficiency and a five-year forecast on economic policy. My colleagues are running for office to stay in office, and we intend to be around to accept the responsibility for the plans we are putting into effect today.

In this election campaign, we have all heard a lot about image. We have not heard much about management. Yet government, basically, is management. I say to you without qualification that I am proud of the team of ministers we have built, I am proud of the priorities that our government has established, and proud of the thoroughness with which we have begun the basic change which we were elected to achieve, and the thoroughness with which we have begun important policy reviews that will be the birth of change in other fields.

We reorganized the cabinet system of Canada, because when you get as many as thirty people around one table you tend to talk too much and decide too little. We introduced an expenditure management system, because respect for your tax dollar has to be every minister's business, not just the business of the President of the Treasury Board. When spending is out of control, government is out of control. We proposed reform of Parliament. The package was there, on the table of Parliament. Members of Parliament are sent to Ottawa to represent people and to represent constituencies, not just to vote for or against a government. There is no representative democracy when thirty ministers have all the power and 250 elected members have only frustration.

We recognized that our medical care insurance system has developed flaws over a decade and we need to examine how its basic principles can be made effective in the 1980s. So with the agreement of all the provinces save Quebec, the Honourable David Crombie assigned that review to the architect of Canadian medicare, Mr. Justice Emmett Hall.

We recognized again that over a decade we have built up the Canadian pension system, a separate piece at a time, and that what is needed now is a comprehensive review of retirement needs in the 1980s. So we gave a select committee of Parliament a mandate to undertake that review.

We had ready, for consideration by Parliament, important reviews of the direction of Canadian foreign policy, Canadian aid policy, Canadian cultural policy and Canadian fishery policy. We had ready for January the first national economic development conference ever convened in this nation, the first opportunity for labour, business, federal and provincial governments, other partners in the Canadian economy, to come together around one table, to plan together the nature and the evolution of the Canadian economy in the 1980s. We recognized that research, development, innovation simply cannot be turned on and off a year at a time, so we established five-year budgets for national research funding agencies.

Ladies and gentlemen, those were some of the changes that we got started, in just six months, as a young government that recognized that we cannot build the 1980s by repeating the mistakes of the 1970s.

We began one other fundamental change in our way of governing. It is a change to which I want to refer in closing, because it goes to the very nature of Canada.

For years, particularly under Mr. Trudeau, most of our national effort went to building strength at the centre of Canada, and to resisting strength in the regions of Canada. Of course, the Canadian central government must continue to be strong, particularly in its capacity to direct the Canadian national economy and to direct Canadian foreign policy, but it need not be so strong as to stifle the initiative of Canada's people or of Canada's parts. What makes this nation unique, and what can make this nation successful in the 1980s, is that we encourage individual initiative and individual identity. We can have strong regions and draw from them strength for Canada.

Canada grew because individuals were prepared to reach out and to build a stake in Canada, because regions, above all this province of Ontario, built strength and shared the advantages of that strength with the whole nation. Culturally, that is why we are now developing such pride in our regional and ethnic identities. And ladies and gentlemen, that is no threat to Canada. Canada is where diversity comes together. In a sense, my cabinet reflects that fact. The Honourable Jake Epp spoke German before he spoke English. The Honourable Steve Proposky spoke Polish first. The Honourable John Crosbie still speaks Newfoundland.

We live in a remarkable country. I remember one day last May starting my morning in Yellowknife where the oldest restaurant had been built in 1937 and travelling on to Charlottetown, where the Fathers of Confederation had met to form a nation, seventy years before that first restaurant opened in Yellowknife. We had frontiers then. We have frontiers now--some physical, some cultural, some intellectual--but we remain a land to reach out in, a land without limits, and the work of government, the role of leadership, is to bring Canadians together to build Canada together. That requires different approaches in different times.

I have other occasions to debate the past. For six months my government faced the challenge of helping to build the Canadian future. We knew basic changes were necessary. We faced them honestly and we faced them with confidence, and it is with that same confidence in the judgment of Canadians, in the country that we can build together, that I and my government ask a fair chance to make Canada strong in the 1980s.

The thanks of the club were expressed to Mr. Clark by the Honourable John P. Robarts, Honorary Solicitor of The Empire Club of Canada.

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The Challenges of Change

The real test of national political parties and of national governments. Certainties that have changed to questionables in Canada. Some details of changes encountered when the speaker's government took over in Ottawa. Then, some changes already started by his government. The larger question is what kind of country do we want? A question of culture, not constitution. The difference between unity and identity. The issue of economic realities in Canada. A new budget and a new energy policy. A reorganization of the cabinet system. The medical care insurance system. The Canada Pension. Canada's strengths.