An Address Presented During the 1984 Canadian General Election
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 30 Aug 1984, p. 27-43
Turner, The Rt. Hon. John N., Speaker
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Item Type
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
An examination and an anlysis of, and possible answers to, the question "Why is it, with a country such as Canada, with limitless resources, boundless opportunities, no horizons, why is it we are not living up to that potential? A review of various economic events and factors, following the Second World War on the theme that the "traditional thrust of our economy, in terms of resources, has been crippled and has not yet recovered." Such factors include a slow adjustment to a new tough world, an indulgence in abusing our federalism, an attitude abroad that Canada no longer welcomed foreign investment, and a concern about the fate of the public debt. A review of the activities and successes of the speaker's government. A critical analysis of the "hidden agenda" of the Progressive Conservative Party, and a response to them with regard to the Liberal Party's opposing views and plans. A discussion of the multicultural aspect of Canada. Principles for tackling the issue of growth. Concluding positive remarks about Canada and the Liberal government.
Date of Original
30 Aug 1984
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Full Text
Mary Alice Stuart

Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen: This is an important week for our two clubs. This week the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club of Toronto have been concerned about Canada's parliamentary democracy: about the party in power, which forms the government, and about the opposition, which circumscribes it.

Tuesday's meeting and today's meeting are the culmination of long-range planning by both clubs. As Catherine Charlton, the President of the Empire Club, pointed out on Tuesday when introducing the Honourable Brian Mulroney, she and I had originally met in early March to consider the possibility of there being a federal election. Pre-dating, as we did, both the Liberal leadership campaign and the election call, little did we realize how successful our planning would be. This week we have jointly hosted two meetings. Two days ago we had a splendid address by the Honourable Brian Mulroney, the leader of the Progressive Conservative party and leader of the official opposition. And today we are most fortunate and honoured to have with us the Right Honourable John Turner, Prime Minister of Canada, leader of the Liberal party, and leader of the government of Canada.

He holds an office that Peter C. Newman characterized as a "position of prestige as high as that found in any parliamentary democracy", and Christina McCall - who is at our head table today - in her book Grits quoted Grattan O'Leary as observing: "If the Canadian power structure is a pyramid, there is absolutely no doubt who is on top". One distinguished professor of political science stated that the Prime Minister of Canada holds "a position of power in some ways unrivalled even by the President of the United States".

Cabinet, Parliament, party - the Prime Minister is a key figure in each. He (or she? - perhaps some day in the future) - chooses and directs the Cabinet, and keeps it together. He is the "supreme policy co-ordinator". He assures that decisions are made. He organizes the business of Parliament, and takes part in the deliberations of the House of Commons, answering questions, speaking in debate (not counting TV debates), exerting his influence to see that legislation is passed. Finally, he is the leader of the party in power.

Our seventeenth prime minister, John Turner, gained the confidence of his party, the Liberal party, on June 16 of this year, and was installed in office by the Governor General on June 30. Like eleven of the previous sixteen prime ministers, he has a background in law. Son of a Canadian mother and a British father, John went to school in Ottawa, and to the University of British Columbia; to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and to the Sorbonne for graduate studies in French civil law. He was named a member of the English Bar, Gray's Inn, London, and then called to the Bar of Quebec. As a lawyer, he joined the Montreal firm of Stikeman, Elliott. In 1968 he was called to the Bar in Ontario and named Queen's Counsel. He has subsequently been called to the Bars of Barbados, Trinidad, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and British Columbia.

John was first elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal M.P in 1962, and has held various cabinet posts, such as Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Minister of Justice (during which time he addressed the Empire Club), and, for nearly four years, Minister of Finance (during which time he addressed the Canadian Club of Toronto annually). He resigned as an M.P. in February 1976 and joined the law firm of McMillan, Binch in Toronto. Over the years he has been a director of a dozen major corporations, of various charitable and public service organizations - including the Canadian Club of Toronto - and has been a director of the Institute of International Economics, in Washington, D.C. In the course of his vigorous and effective life he has taught, he has published, he has married, he has raised a family of four children, and he has received a number of honorary degrees. In the election five days from now, he is the Liberal candidate for the riding of Vancouver Quadra. Today he speaks to us as leader of the government of Canada - and as a great Canadian.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Right Honourable John Turner, Prime Minister of Canada.

John Turner

Thank you very much. Thank you ladies and gentlemen, and may I thank Mary Alice Stuart and Catherine Charlton for their joint invitation to address your two clubs. I am encouraged by the good attendance, encouraged because one might think that the polls and media are trying to tell us that the election is over and that we need not bother voting on Tuesday. Despite all that, there is still interest, there is still suspense, and I believe that the Canadian people are making up their minds now, do not want to be told how they are going to vote, and I am confident of the decision on next Tuesday, September 4.

I see so many friends in the audience. Six months ago I would have been sitting out there listening to somebody else, but I made a decision to seek a return to public life in Canada. I made it for one primary reason and I have a feeling that the sentiment I felt is one that you might have experienced yourselves individually. I felt that the brutal years of the recession in 1981, 1982, and 1983 had sapped and dissipated the confidence of our country; that the unemployment, the economy, having been threatened by world economic turmoil had deprived us of what I had hoped was a Canadian attitude towards expansion and investment, and that uncharacteristically we were holding back. We had lost that sense of optimism and that sense of purpose. When the Liberal leadership came open, I thought that I could and should try to make a contribution, to see whether I could participate in leading our country back to the mood in which I had grown up, where Canadians had a confidence and optimism which made our country an exciting place in which to live.

The one question I am asked more often than others across Canada (and I want to tell you I have had five and a half months now of a crash course about what this country is about, and I do not need any polls to tell me what Canadians are thinking) the one question that crops up and particularly in smaller meetings:

"Why is it?" people ask me, "Why is it, with a country such as Canada, with limitless resources, boundless opportunities, no horizons, why is it we are not living up to that potential?"

I felt that I should analyse that for myself, and perhaps it would be helpful to you, to explain why I am here and what I believe we are about. Since the War the natural resource industries gave us our growth. When the recession hit worldwide, those resource industries were hit most severely - mining and forestry in particular - and we have been faced since those recession years by brutal competition, particularly from the Third World, some of whose countries are selling those metals and those products at distressed prices. What I am saying is that the traditional thrust of our economy, in terms of resources, has been crippled and has not yet recovered.

Secondly, we have had a tendency in Canada to be slow in making the adjustments to a new tough world - adjustments in terms of efficiency, in terms of cost, in terms of competitiveness, inclining to shelter declining industries. I believe we have been slow to make those adjustments.

Thirdly, we have been indulging in the luxury, I believe, of abusing our federalism. We would not have been a country had we not become a federal state. This country is too diverse in its regions, too diverse in its attitudes, its intuitions and instincts. But we cannot continue to enjoy that luxury of Ottawa fighting the provinces, the provinces against Ottawa. Economically the separatist threat in Quebec did hurt, not only Quebec, but the country - the failure in terms of management and labour to come to a common cause. This bickering and quarrelling as a nation has hurt us as newly industrialized countries have moved into our markets even here at home.

Fourthly, I think there was an attitude spread abroad, somehow, that we Canadians no longer welcomed foreign investment as we once did. I believe that the Foreign Investment Review Act is a permanent part of our legislative landscape, but that it ought to be applied in accordance with our international obligations; and it should be applied to major structural transactions of acquisition or extension of business in a way that makes it clear that it should be for the benefit of Canada and should relate to our major economic structure.

Finally, I am concerned about the fate of the public debt. I am going to put this in personal terms, partly by way of explanation, partly I suppose by way of de fence, having been Minister of Finance of this country for four years. When I left that portfolio the public debt of this country was under $30 billion. We now have a public debt of $180 billion. It cost us, in 1975, about ten or thirteen cents for every tax dollar to service or pay the interest on that public debt. It now costs us between thirty-three and thirty-five cents to service or pay that interest. At current rates of interest that debt threatens to double every five years. An it concerns me that we are mortgaging this country in a way that is going to make it almost impossible for our children to have the same opportunities and the same manuverability in handling our country as we had.

I might remind you that I was the last Minister of Finance in this country to have two successive surpluses, or any surplus for that matter, and that the average deficit in those four years was three quarters of a billion dollars. This is why I made an undertaking to the people of Canada at the beginning of this election that any programs I introduced on behalf of the Liberal party would not infringe that public debt, and that we would set forth the cost, and we would describe where the money was coming from. And I have done that. I challenge your speaker here last Tuesday, to do the same thing. Here before your two clubs, Mr. Mulroney gave his long-awaited costing of those campaign promises. I take some pride in forcing that issue, because when he began his campaign he said he would cost his promises, and then in Halifax said he would not; then he began in Prince Albert. I believe that the accounting should have come earlier. It is going to be difficult to ascertain the price of every one of the 338 promises set forth in the catalogue and given to the press of this country. And I believe that he should have costed each one of those promises as it was made. I have done that myself. We have made fewer than fifteen undertakings. Each proposal has been costed. The total net, after showing where the revenue comes from (because we have added some tax as well) is $1.7 billion over four years. I am glad to see that the Globe and Mail, in a very small box on the second page, corrected that headline of yesterday.

Well, those 338 commitments did not appear either in the speech before you on Tuesday, or in the supporting material that he gave to the media. And I ask you, what is the significance of the omission in his accounting to the electorate of Canada - 338 commitments, most of which have now disappeared? I do not know whether he means that they are no longer valid and he is withdrawing them, or whether he has not bothered to put a price tag on them. The leader of the opposition talked of economic activity. At the beginning of his campaign he talked of thousands of jobs overnight, yet he omitted in his plan for the first two years some of his major economic proposals. I am not going to detail them for you completely, but I can say that some of the lost economic promises include: homemakers' pensions, $900 million annually; acceleration of the oil sands projects, offshore development fund, replacement of the PGRT tax with a provincial tax which is a $10 billion item if he doesn't re-tax. New export incentives did not appear; there were no training programs for women costed; he did not cost his plan to meet his target of doubling government Research and Development, which would have amounted to $6.6 billion to 1988.

I asked the Minister of Finance to go through those programs yesterday. At least fifteen big ticket items are missing from the costing that he gave to these clubs and to the media, and those fifteen big ticket items amount to at least, over the period of the mandate, $20 billion. So Mr. Crosbie was right after all! Nor did he say how he was going to raise the money to pay for the remainder of his promises, or how he was going to meet the goal that he set for himself of slashing the deficit to $3 billion by 1990! With the amount of those promises now before the Canadian people, unless some of them have been withdrawn, the Conservative party, if they were ever to form a government would have only three opportunities, three options - either to welch or renege on those promises, or raise our taxes, or to cut deeply into the social programs of this country.

Des economistes ont severement critique le genre de comptabilite de Brian Mulroney, que Brian Mulroney a presente devant ces Clubs, a la population canadienne. Mais au-dela des chiffres et des analyses plus ou moins compliques, il y a une question de credibility, de franchise. Oui, une question de confiance. C'est la premiere fois a ma connaissance qu'on voit un politicien renier ses promesses avant meme la date des elections. Je dis que vous meritez mieux. Vous meritez plus de franchise et plus dans les faits. Et cette danse des milliards, ce n' est pas finalement surtout une affaire de chiffres. C'est beaucoup plus important que cela. C'est une affaire de confiance. Et je suis revenu a la vie politique, parce que j'estimais que j'avais une honnete contribution a apporter a la solution de nos difficultes economiques. J'ai ete honnete avec vous, et je n'ai aucun regret. C'est ma fagon a moi de faire de la politique.

This is not just a numbers game ladies and gentlemen, there is something more than that in this costing exercise. There is first of all the issue of credibility. Are these just empty promises made to the jobless, to women, to communities across Canada? If they were not costed before you, are they now abandoned? It is a question also of reliability. Will Mr. Mulroney do what he says he will do? He had a chance to live up to the first promise of his campaign to cost his promises and he did not deliver. If it is like this before September 4, what about after?

It is also an issue of trust. What is the hidden agenda of the Conservative party? What is the social agenda against those promises? More taxes? What about energy? What about foreign policy? Both of these Mr. Mulroney said he would not discuss during this election campaign because as Pat Carney, his energy critic and the member for Vancouver Centre put it so nicely here before a group Toronto businessmen and women: "We have", she said, "a secret accord with provincial premiers not to talk energy during the election". Joe Clark put it even more succinctly. "We do not want Peter Loughheed and Bill Davis destroying another election for us as they did in 1980."

There were two issues that Mr. Mulroney did not discuss before you, but which I have found to be absolutely fundamental to the way the country is developing and to the election. The first is that we are living through a peaceful revolution and we are living through the revolution of an awareness of a new majority in this country. I am talking about the women of Canada, symbolized quite accurately by the fact that we have two co-chairpersons here, Mary Alice and Catherine.

I am committed to the economic equality of women; the total accessibility of women to the public, private, business, union, and academic life of this country. The party I lead is committed to affirmative action in the federal sphere to ensure that this happens and to do it in a way that recognizes that women are human beings first, that they share the dreams of all human beings. As I said here last week in Toronto, there are no such things as women's issues, all issues are women's issues, but women have taken a leadership role in making us sensitive to some of those issues. What we are really saying and feeling is an instinct towards fairness and equality and partnership in Canada. We are also saying to women that they must have freedom of their options to work either at home or to work at the office or in the factory, professionally or industrially and that our educational system and our opportunities must open up those options for them. It is not only a moral and ethical problem in terms of fairness, it is also an economic issue and that economic equality is paramount for the future of women in this country.

I am proud to say that Liberal governments have been world leaders of women's issues. I have forty-three women candidates running with me under the Liberal banner in this election - twice the number of 1980. My campaign, the Liberal campaign in Ontario is being run by two women, Kathryn Robinson and Barbara Sullivan. I believe that women have helped set the agenda for the next decade, and now it is up to women to run for public office to help implement that agenda. I believe that is happening and I believe that we are living in very historic times with a groundswell that is going to change the face of this country.

... We are now a land of minorities ...

There is another swell or movement in this country to which I want to draw your attention. Names like Turner are no longer part of a majority in this country. We are now a land of minorities and the varied cultural heritage has enriched the very economic, social and political life of Canada, and our minorities are stirring. They are seeking political recognition; you can feel it here in Toronto where they are seeking political office. They have challenged strenuously the nomination in several of our ridings. Those minorities are struggling against bias and they are struggling against discrimination. They are fighting for acceptability and accessibility into the mainstream of our national life whether that be in politics or in business or academia or labour; and our institutions, let me say including the Canadian Club and the Empire Club, must reflect the new diversity in Canada and in this city visible or invisible. Equality is not just a matter of law or of statute or of regulation, or of charter, or of code. Equality, to be really effective and to be completely sincere, must be a state of mind in Canada and that is where in my view and under my leadership it will be going.

Finally, I want to outline for you my political approach to growth and change. It is based on two principles. The first is that government must create a climate, or environment for growth and econmic activity. There has to be a sense of confidence and security for all our decision-makers whether they be in labour or in business or in government so that there are no capricious changes particularly at this fragile stage in world economic history. There should be no capricious changes in policy and an economy must be stable and predictable. The second general principle is that we must end the antagonism between those decision-makers, encouraging a spirit of enterprise and innovation and adjustment to change.

Those principles are absolutely fundamental and my government would tackle growth in four ways. First by expanding our markets. We are still a great exporting nation and twenty-five to thirty cents of every dollar we put in our pockets or in our purses comes to us from foreign trade. We have got to take advantage of the value of our dollar at the moment. We must continue to improve our export performance. We must resist the trend to protectionism in our larger markets particularly the United States, Europe and the Pacific rim. We must work to change the international financial situation and we have to get out and sell.

Secondly, by reducing the balkanization in our own economy we must expand our foreign markets. Canada must again become one economic union. There have been barriers among and between the provinces in the free movement of people and goods. There has been protectionism building up in one province against other provinces. Here we are having a devil of a time with a market of twenty-five million people competing with the United States and Japan and Europe and we are balkanizing our markets down into ten further units. There has to be, under federal leadership and in conjunction with the provinces, a code of conduct that will bring our provincial governments to act once again in the national economic interest. We cannot afford, as I said earlier, the luxury of a discordant federalism. We need to pull together, we need to work together; only in that way will we have a chance to regain our economic position in the world. We must be one market, we must be one economy, we must be one country.

... We cannot afford the luxury of a discordant federalism ...

Thirdly, we must improve Canadian productivity and efficiency. You have heard speechs like this continually. It is not just a problem for labour and the working man and woman, it is a problem for management and we have to improve our skills in management and government, and government must be managers as well. We must encourage efficiency by encouraging competitive behaviour and by eliminating those laws and regulations and licensing processes that are deliberately making us less competitive. We must adjust, as I said earlier, and protect our working men and women as those adjustments are made.

Mnally, we have to raise the level of investments. Only that, from abroad under proper control and domestically - only that will bring rehiring and new jobs. That means that we have to invest as a nation in training and education with provincial cooperation because the second question I hear after, "Why aren't we living up to our potential as Canadians?" is "Why are we not educating our children for the skills that they need for today and tomorrow?"

Well, I believe that Canada is at a critical junction. We Canadians face serious decisions and the issues are serious in this election and not merely the quirks of the leader. They are not merely some of the imagery that has been paramount during much of the election period. Maybe it is the heat of the summer. But I have tried on behalf of the party I lead to face these issues squarely, some say too squarely. I have set forth the problems, as I have described them to you today and in detail across the country, and the solutions I believe most respond to those problems. I have said where our priorities must be in the short term and I have costed every one of them and I have not infringed the public debt of this country. If we work together and pull together as Canadians, if we make the right moves, then that limitless future that I believed in and that my generation believed in, that limitless future and that limitless potential for Canada will be there.

But we have got to become better marketers; we have got to become more competitive, more efficient, and we have to get our act together as a nation in a sense of coordination and harmony. Your chairperson mentioned that I am running in Vancouver Quadra. I have roots there. It would have been easier in Ontario. I have spent a very happpy time with Geills and the children, a very happy time in the business and professional community of this city and province. But I am running out West because I believe in the unity of the ocuntry. I am concerned that Western Canadians feel alienated and frustrated and remote from the decision-making process which they think is conducted in a tidy cosy little triangle between Toronto and Montreal and Ottawa. I feel that I can contribute by giving British Columbia a strong national voice in Ottawa. You can rest assured that I have not nor has our party neglected Ontario; this is where elections are won or lost. So I ask you over this weekend to pose seriously that vital question as to who has been honest, straighforward, frank and responsible in this election and if that is still an element in your good judgement I believe that I have met that test.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Catherine R. Charlton, President of the Empire Club of Canada.

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An Address Presented During the 1984 Canadian General Election

A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
An examination and an anlysis of, and possible answers to, the question "Why is it, with a country such as Canada, with limitless resources, boundless opportunities, no horizons, why is it we are not living up to that potential? A review of various economic events and factors, following the Second World War on the theme that the "traditional thrust of our economy, in terms of resources, has been crippled and has not yet recovered." Such factors include a slow adjustment to a new tough world, an indulgence in abusing our federalism, an attitude abroad that Canada no longer welcomed foreign investment, and a concern about the fate of the public debt. A review of the activities and successes of the speaker's government. A critical analysis of the "hidden agenda" of the Progressive Conservative Party, and a response to them with regard to the Liberal Party's opposing views and plans. A discussion of the multicultural aspect of Canada. Principles for tackling the issue of growth. Concluding positive remarks about Canada and the Liberal government.