Building a Nation
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Apr 1979, p. 316-327
Clark, The Honourable Joe, Speaker
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Item Type
Some issues in the election campaign, and also some broader questions of approach to the country. Some important party policy differences. The choice, on May 22, between two very different ways of seeing the country. The discussion which follows is a critical view of the federal Liberal party and government. Proposal's from Mr. Clark's party, in a detailed discussion, as to what his party would do if elected into government. Proposals for a constitutional and economy policy which would provide momentum. The purpose of their first budget. Stimulus and restraint. Bringing together economic partners in a national policy. A change in attitude in Ottawa by a new government.
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19 Apr 1979
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Full Text
APRIL 19, 1979
Building a Nation
CHAIRMAN The President, Reginald W. Lewis


Madame Minister, distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: When Joe Clark accepted the club's invitation to speak to us it was a long time ago--long before the election was called--so we are particularly grateful that Mr. Clark wanted to come to speak to us in the normal course of events.

Our speaker was born and grew up in High River, Alberta--a place that has become very familiar to Canadians since his election to the leadership of his party in February, 1976.

After graduating from the University of Alberta, Mr. Clark lectured in political science at that university for two years and then was a practising journalist for CBC radio and television, The Calgary Herald and The Edmonton Journal.

Our speaker was first elected to the House of Commons in October, 1972 as the member for Rocky Mountain. However, his political career began long before that time. Although much is made of our guest speaker's youthfulness, it belies the fact that he is a seasoned political veteran who became politically active over two decades ago. In fact since 1959, he has held progressively more responsible positions within his party at both the provincial and federal levels.

Since Joe Clark assumed national leadership of his party, over three years ago, I believe it is fair to say that under Joe Clark's stewardship his party is being seen more and more as the viable alternative government. Indeed, when Laura Sabia spoke to this club earlier this season she referred to our speaker and she said, "He is no longer 'Joe Who,' he is 'Joe When."'

For millions of Canadians on May 22, it will be "Joe Now." Mr. Clark, I am sure you are aware that many, many in this room wish you the utmost success on May 22. But have you considered, Mr. Clark, the unusual situations that can engulf a Prime Minister? For example, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was visiting a small town in the north of England when he was invited to tour the local mental institution. He accepted and was met at the gate of the institution by the superintendent. As the superintendent walked with the Prime Minister up the long driveway leading to the main building, they saw a man walking towards them. The superintendent said, "Prime Minister, you see that man approaching us. He has been a patient here for three years and we are releasing him today fully cured." By this time the man was upon them and the superintendent said to the patient, "Rodney, meet the Prime Minister." Rodney looked pityingly and said, "Never mind, mate--they'll soon cure you. When I came in here I thought I was the Shah of Persia."

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with the utmost pride that I present to you the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, the Honourable Joe Clark.


Ladies and gentlemen: I appreciate that warm response, although as I think John Robarts in the same position will attest, it is always a mite more comforting at the end of a speech than at the beginning.

I should say that I am very pleased that I can come to an event which none of my critics in the media can call a controlled party event, because how could this be a controlled party event with Joe Potts here? I'm not going to give you a travelogue, but I can say that while I have been calling for this election for a long time, I am pleased that it came at this season because it is a great time of the year to be travelling across Canada.

The Prime Minister didn't quite keep his promise that we wouldn't be campaigning in the snow and the slush. Some of us are campaigning in the slush more than others! But it is a time to remind oneself of how fortunate we are in Canada, when you can travel Canada in the springtime and see the great diversity of the country, see the sense of reawakening, and feel the confidence that seizes Canadians in all corners of the country in this season of the year. I naturally have a particular interest in giving them something to be confident about on May 22, but that is in their hands.

What I want to do today is speak to you, not simply about some of the issues in the election campaign, but also about some broader questions of approach to the country. I think we recognize that in every election there are important substantive policy differences, whether about mortgage deductability, or about energy self-sufficiency, or about the fundamental question of whether or not Jean Chretien can count. There are always those important questions. But there are also, occasionally, elections which involve a choice between two quite different ways of seeing the country. In my view, Canadians will have that kind of choice on May 22.

Mr. Trudeau's view speaks for itself, in his record of eleven years as Prime Minister of Canada. My view is less well known, because I am less well known--Laura Sabia to the contrary notwithstanding--because most of my work has been within a national party and within Parliament that usually escape broad public attention. I think that our respective strengths, Mr. Trudeau's and mine, can be compared some other time. I like to think that one measure of our relative wisdom is that now he has Jack Horner and I don't. But today as a prelude to some remarks about what a new government would do, I want to give you some idea as to why we would do it.

Let me start with a compliment to my opponent. The one important thing Mr. Trudeau has done well in his eleven years is to make the national government attractive to large numbers of able French Canadians. He did that well because he knew personally the discomfort that French Canadians have felt in not being active at the centre of their national government. That discomfort continues, of course, but Mr. Trudeau has reduced it considerably and that is one tradition of his on which I and my party intend to build. What is important is that in that case he understood the problem.

As you will know, I think a central cause of the general failure of his government is that he did not understand, and sometimes did not try to understand, other aspects of Canada's very complex reality. Too often, he and the quite similar people he drew around him tried to change the country to fit their theory about what the country should be. In economic policy, in constitutional policy, in their attitude towards the instincts of the individual Canadian citizen, they have been governing against the nature of the nation.

To govern a nation, one must first understand it. I want to -sketch briefly my understanding of this nation, Canada, as we enter the 1980s. First, as the Commission of which Mr. Robarts was such a distinguished member found, our diversity in this country is both utterly inescapable and immensely valuable.

It's typical, I think, that our official emblem--the maple leaf--is not indigenous to two of our provinces and two of our territories. For there are thousands of happy and productive Canadian citizens who are most at ease when they speak neither of our two official languages. We are a nation that is too big for simple symbols. Our preoccupation with the symbol of a single national identity has, in my judgement, obscured the great wealth we have in several local identities which are rich in themselves and which are skilled in getting along with others.

If that truth has been lost on Ottawa's planners, it is not lost on the people of Canada, whether those people are artists like Alden Nowlan or Monique Leyrac or W.O. Mitchell or Gordon Lightfoot or Emily Carr or any of the Group of Seven, whose work evokes their locale, or whether they are citizens who are starting heritage societies, starting history clubs, organizing walks through their own back yards. In an immense country, you live on a local scale. Governments make the nation work by recognizing that we are fundamentally a community of communities.

Of course the national government has to be strong, particularly on economic questions. But it must also be sensitive to the damage that neat theories can wreak upon a diverse country. There is nothing new to that view. Indeed, the successful Prime Ministers of Canada have incorporated that idea into the makeup of their governments, ensuring that every region had senior ministers who were strong enough to keep the government in touch with local realities. That is a fact of life in Canada to which we must return.

A second thing that is important is my view, and that of my party, that our economy in Canada is potentially one of the strongest in the world. We have in abundance resources which are elsewhere in short supply, whether of food or energy or minerals. Capital will come to us, and come to us in ways that we can control. So will as much population as we want. Our challenge in this country is not to cope with scarcity. Our challenge is to build on abundance. Other nations might well be forced, legitimately, to contemplate limits on growth. But our very different challenge here in Canada is to plan and to manage growth.

Finally, our people are ambitious. Whatever cultures we come from, whatever heritage we bring to these shores, we are all of us North American in aspiration. We want to build. We want to grow. Generally, the goals of Canadians are personal goals. A few people in our history have helped build our nation by consciously pursuing national goals, but many more have built this nation by pursuing the personal goals which the nature of this nation allows. The personal goal of most Canadians has been freedom and some security for their family. That caused the settlement of new regions, caused the immigration of new citizens, caused the transplanting of old roots to new ground. A policy designed to make the nation grow must build upon and must not frustrate the instinct of most Canadians to build a stake for themselves.

So what we propose in this election campaign is not just a change in government, but a fundamental change in the very direction of this country, a change that would reflect the value of that cultural and regional diversity, that would build on the natural strengths of our economy, and would recognize that the best instrument of national achievement is the individual initiative of the private citizen and the private sector in this country.

Through the last decade, government has been properly concerned with services to citizens, and we now have a good basic system of services in place. But the challenge of this next decade is to make this nation grow in wealth and to make our people grow in understanding of the great good fortune that we have here in Canada.

We can do that.

I come, as your Chairman said, from the foothills of Alberta, and I have learned late the second language of our country, mais je peux le parler a High River sans danger, sans risque, mais avec le veritable avantage que maintenant je peux comprendre le Quebec assez bien a communiquer les aspirations des Quebecois aux Albertans, aux Ontarians et les autres Canadiens, et je peux, je croix, communiquer aux Quebecois les aspirations, l'interet, la determination des Canadiens des autres provinces de bdtir une pays avec le Quebec. L'avenir duCanada est plus qu'une question de loi. C'est une question de volunte et de comprehension. Il y a deux jours j'etais applaude quand j'ai defendu la bilinguisme devant un auditoire de la Colombie Britannique. Le peuple canadien a eu assez de toutes les querelles plus ou moins artificielles entre gouvernements. Its cherchent un terrain d'entente. Its cherchent des objectifs communes qui respectent la diversite des traditions de chacun.

The great need now, whether it is in constitutional policy or economic policy, is for momentum in this country. In constitutional terms, the fact is that a new national government can get agreement on several changes--more likely changes in practice than in law--but several changes and soon, and that will break the impasse of distrust. Once trust is restored to federal-provincial relations, we can begin toward the more profound reforms, reforms whose end purpose must be to confirm national leadership in economic development, and to confirm provincial leadership in the development of the cultures that are strong in the regions and the provinces of this country.

In economic terms, stimulus now will help generate new growth, and signs of permanent restraint by the government in Ottawa will help restore the kind of investor confidence whose absence has bled us in these recent years of so much of the capital we need to cause jobs and growth.

That will be the purpose of our first budget and our first months in office, to generate Canadian consumer demand and to demonstrate Canadian government restraint. In those first months, we will cut spending on advertising and consultant contracts. We will begin the attrition of public service growth. We will start to privatize activities where the government of Canada need not be active in the 1980s. In that first budget, we will cut taxes for low- and middle-income Canadians. We will allow partial deductibility of mortgage interest and property taxes. We will establish some investor tax credits for small business. We will permit the exemption from capital gains of common shares in publicly traded Canadian-controlled companies.

That stimulus and restraint will create the climate for the kind of agreement on national economic goals which has marked the periods of real economic progress and real economic growth in this country. From the National Policy of Sir John A. Macdonald, through to the reconstruction policies of C.D. Howe, when we have been successful there has always been a framework of economic goals within which government and private economic decisions could be set. Today there is no agreement on national economic goals, yet there has rarely in the history of this nation been a time when that kind of agreement, that kind of consensus, was more urgent for our domestic or international requirements.

The national government cannot impose those goals, but only the national government, only the government of all the people of Canada, has the authority to bring together the economic partners whose agreement is essential to any effective new national policy.

As you know, as a party in opposition we have begun that process of agreement, with conferences on national development policy, first at Montebello, a national conference, and then at Sherbrooke, a regional conference dealing with the economic future of Quebec. As a government, we would begin that official process very quickly, with a representative national conference on Canadian economic goals sponsored by the government in the fall of this year. Our purpose will be to establish a framework for economic development which will identify the strengths upon which Canada can build in the world and guide the decisions of private investors and of public policy.

There is no sense of direction in the Canadian economy today, and that is one reason why so much investment leaves Canada, and also why so much investment that comes or stays here is directed towards acquiring existing operations rather than starting new operations in this country which should be a place of growth. It is absurd for Canada to go to GATT, as we went to GATT, without any coherent agreement on Canadian national industrial policy. It is foolish and wasteful for a coastal nation like Canada to let our shipbuilding capacity run down and then buy our ferries and fishing ships abroad. It is nonsense that this country, of all the nations in the world, is moving towards greater reliance on foreign sources of energy when we have the capacity to be self-sufficient in energy by 1990.

The list of waste and misuse goes on, and its principal cause is that we have lost the sense of common economic purpose. The most basic challenge for a new national government is going to be to bring Canadians together in pursuit of new national economic goals.

Some of the elements of our economic future are evident already. The purpose of a national policy, from Macdonald to Howe, was to put in place a strong manufacturing sector. In the past decade in Canada, Ottawa's neglect has weakened that base. That, as you know, is the cause of most of our trade deficit and much of our unemployment. We can turn that around, and we intend to do it by introducing tax policies which will help the manufacturing sector in Canada modernize their plants and reduce our dependence on second-hand technology. In that context, naturally, we intend to give particular attention to the small business sector which extends growth and jobs right across Canada, and which has a remarkable reputation in innovation and in productivity.

Again, we have in this country an immense resource base, a base in energy, in minerals, in food, in the skills of our people. But tax law, tariff negotiation, transportation policy have too often worked against the development of those resources. We have to change that, so that tax law, transportation and tariffs are designed to develop those resources, designed to process an increasing proportion of them here, designed to use our surpluses and our products to build a better trading balance.

That resource base can also be a significant source of a stronger manufacturing base. We were in Fort McMurray the other day. It is dramatically evident to me that when a Fort McMurray is developing it ought to mean much more prosperity in manufacturing and technology than the service industries of central Canada. That is precisely how other nations are using Canadian resources to build their manufacturing sectors and their industrial strengths. And I say that it is time for Canada to begin to build on our own strengths, and stop exporting that strength to other nations to be the base of their growth.

We need policy here that recognizes the need to build upon Canadian strengths as well as to continue such exports as we are committed to and which are surplus to our needs, but the rule has to be that we will put a much greater emphasis in this country upon processing and upon realizing the technological and job benefits of having those resources right here at home. The opportunities in that regard are probably most evident for the machinery industry, the construction industry, for transportation. Indeed, it is a striking fact that Canada is the only industrial nation that now imports over fifty per cent of its machinery and equipment.

There are very real opportunities for Canada in resource-related technology, whether that has to do with the recovery of non-conventional oil, or northern ocean technology, or innovation in transportation and communications. As those skills and strengths are developed here, we build a capacity for the export of Canadian-based technology and equipment and skill to the rest of the world.

All of us can think of Canadian innovators who have moved successfully into the world. But they have been left to do that on their own and they have often succeeded in spite of uncoordinated federal policies concerning taxes, trade, research and development, and in spite of an indifference in Ottawa to Canada's industrial future. We intend to remove those specific obstacles.

Even more important, we intend to change the attitude in Ottawa. We intend to create in Canada an atmosphere in which the innovator and the entrepreneur are encouraged to go out and to build in the world. No one who travels in this country, no one who knows it, can escape being impressed mightily by the great potential that is here, and by the knowledge on the part of the people of Canada that we are a fortunate nation, a fortunate people of unparallelled potential.

The Prime Minister, for reasons that I don't understand, has been suggesting that this is a time when people will have to lower their expectations. He is dead wrong about that. He is selling Canada short when he says that. This is a time for Canadians to raise their expectations. Only if our expectations are high, will we go out and go to work to build. There is a great deal in this country to be confident about.

There is no question in my mind nor in the minds of my colleagues. There is a tremendous potential upon which to build here in Canada. There is no doubt that the people of this country are seized with that spirit of potential. What we need is a government in Ottawa that will encourage and recognize how essential to our future it is that the policy, the attitude, the approach of government get in line with the attitude and the hopes of the people, that we have a government in Canada that is as confident and proud and as buoyant about the future of this country as are the people themselves.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Mr. John A. MacNaughton, First Vice-President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Building a Nation

Some issues in the election campaign, and also some broader questions of approach to the country. Some important party policy differences. The choice, on May 22, between two very different ways of seeing the country. The discussion which follows is a critical view of the federal Liberal party and government. Proposal's from Mr. Clark's party, in a detailed discussion, as to what his party would do if elected into government. Proposals for a constitutional and economy policy which would provide momentum. The purpose of their first budget. Stimulus and restraint. Bringing together economic partners in a national policy. A change in attitude in Ottawa by a new government.