- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Oct 1984, p. 61-78
- Worthington, Peter, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Wide-ranging address with personal anecdotes, reminiscences, opinions, suggestions and comments on a variety of topics germaine to Canada; being a Canadian, Canadian politics and the economy. Some specific topics include the military and National Defence; the Veterans' Allowance scheme; the need for a new economic philosophy; foreign investment; the deficit and taxes; the need for politicians to gain the trust of the people; freedom; peace; threats to peace; what Canadians need and want in their politicians; whether or not Canada can become a great country.
- Date of Original
- 11 Oct 1984
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- C.R. Charlton
Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen: It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this first meeting of the fall season, although it is in fact the fifth meeting of the 1984-85 Empire Club year.
We began in June with the Canada Day luncheon. Then the summer election, followed by the Pope's visit occasioned three very important meetings. In August, we joined the Canadian Club to host the Hon. Brian Mulroney and the Rt. Hon. John Turner; in September the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli, marked the Pope's visit with his address to a special dinner meeting.
This month the visit by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has been significant in the club's history, even though the Empire club itself did not host any specific event. Two of our very distinguished Past Presidents served as chief organizers for the Queen's visit to Ontario: Colonel Robert Hilborn chaired the provincial organizing committee, and Been. Reginald Lewis chaired the Toronto planning committee, as well as serving as the president of the Toronto Sesquicentennial. It is an honour to be associated with both of these gentlemen whose services to Queen and Country reflect the best of the Empire Club's traditions.
Our speaker today is another Canadian who has served his country well in a number of roles. At the same time, we note that some people seem to prefer sailing on the troubled waters of life, rather than sitting it out, with flapping sails, on a backwater. Peter Worthington is certainly one of these people. One reason for his obvious preference in lifestyles, may be that he was born in Fort Osborne Barracks, Winnipeg, son of a Captain in the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry. His father later became the so-called "father" of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps in World War 11, with the rank of General.
Perhaps most, but by no means all, of Mr. Worthington's battles were fought in civilian life. But it is hard to say, because although under age, he enlisted as an Ordinary Seaman on the outbreak of World War II, later going to the Fleet Air Arm as a telegraphist air gunner, earned a commission, and served overseas - at eighteen years of age probably the youngest sublieutenant in the RCNVR. During the Korean War, he joined his father's old regiment, the Princess Pats. By demobilization he had become a paratroop officer. In between these wars, he went to the University of British Columbia and attained a bachelor's degree. But even in the "serene groves of Academe" he did not lapse into pacifism, but won the light heavyweight boxing championship and the Golden Glove award.
The turbulence of his life carried over into his distinguished civilian career. As a roving reporter on the late Toronto Telegram, he specialized in covering trouble spots, such as the UN forces in Gaza, crises in Lebanon, the Iraq revolution, Israel's Six Day War, and many more news "hot spots". During this time, our speaker managed to get himself jailed in Portuguese Mozambique; publicly denounced by the premier of Southern Rhodesia and bitterly attacked in the Russian newspaper Pravda. When the Telegram folded in 1971, he was one of the three original founders of the highly successful Toronto Sun. Perhaps just to leaven the boredom of success, he became the first Canadian editor to be subjected to an RCMP raid. The case, as you may remember, was thrown out of court. His highly publicized severance from the Sun last weekend, adds "grist to the mill".
For two elections, he has endured - or perhaps I should say "enjoyed"-tumultuous elections in a Toronto riding and has been defeated. The Toronto Sun recently commented that what was "Broadview-Greenwood's loss was the Toronto Sun's gain" - although recent events tend to belie this. I could go on and on about his adventurous journalistic career, but here he is to speak for himself.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Peter Worthington.
I suppose I should say thank you. With the credentials outlined by Catherine Charlton, I do not know why I have trouble being a Tory. I have been warned that if I speak too long people will walk out as they have to return to work, and if you do walk out, I warn you I am not going to take it personally.
Before I start, I must say that I am relieved that you have managed to put together a head table. About an hour ago my wife was talking to John Bassett, who wanted one of the books which she has just reviewed, and she mentioned coming here. He said that he had been invited to be at the head table. She asked with some surprise if he was going to attend and he said, "Hell no, I'm not going to appear at the head table for somebody who hasn't got a job".
Many of you are probably wondering why the Empire Club, in its wisdom, would invite a failed Tory politician, when there are so many successful ones around. Some of you may also wonder why the Empire Club would ask an unemployed journalist to speak to you. In defence of the Empire Club, they did not know at the time, but on second thought, maybe that is the attraction. It takes rare talent for a Conservative to lose in the middle of a Tory sweep when the winners outnumber the losers by a ratio of almost four to one. And how often do you get a chance to hear a journalist who is fired from the newspaper he helped start and who became an instant "unperson" at that paper?
Neither of these reasons is why I am here today. I was not invited because of politics or journalism; I was primarily invited because the original speaker, Dr. George Gallup of the poll fame, died. And since I have just written a book I was asked to replace him. I would like to reassure you now that I have not called you all together to declare that I am running for the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives.
... it takes rare talent for a Conservative to lose in the middle of a Tory sweep ...
The title of the book is Looking for Trouble and I must say I found much more trouble in BroadviewGreenwood, and at the Sun, than I ever expected. At first I thought that the title was a bit exaggerated, but now I find it somewhat of an understatement. I am not only banned at the Sun these days, but before that happened, I was banned from parts of Broadview-Greenwood. When Coles Book Store wanted me to go in and sign books, the owners of Gerrard Street Mall, with some consternation, overruled them and said they could not allow it because I was too controversial, and it might start a riot or something. I considered asking June Callwood to lead a protest on my behalf. I assumed immediately, and I say this with some seriousness, that with both recent incidents, I wondered momentarily if it was not a promotion gimmick by my publisher, Anna Porter, because it is well known that she will do almost anything to sell books. I think the reaction, in both cases, was somewhat extreme, against someone who has once fallen to the charisma of Bill Fatsis, and twice succumbed to the charisma of Lynn McDonald - all in the space of two years, and someone who voluntarily gave up his job as editor!
I have fairly strong views on many things, although I think they are all terribly reasonable, low key and simply commonsense. Instead of prattling on about the book, I will discuss more relevant topics. My abortive foray into politics was motivated primarily I think because after chirping on the sidelines and telling various governments what they should do and, more, what they should not do, for some eleven or twelve years, I felt the time had come to put up or shut up. I should try to get rid of one government and to help the other government - the replacing government - rule judiciously. But it was not to be - that is another story.
I think one is a captive of one's background. As Catherine said, I was born in an army camp, and I grew up in an army family where my father, who spent between-war periods trying to persuade the Canadian government to get tanks into the army, because he saw that they would be the land weapon of the coming war, was regarded as some sort of crank and a bit of a screwball. He had a lot of trouble but he encouraged a family where problems of the day would be laid out before his children, and my sister and I were always invited to give our opinions on this or that. I have tried to continue this in my own household, and unfortunately it has not only taken effect with my children, but has also taken effect with my Jack Russell dogs who now let no other opinion but theirs prevail in the house. A danger of too much democracy!
As a child, I remember three main villains in Canada: one was Hitler, who was going to start a war - it was as inevitable as the sunrise; the second villain (not necessarily in this order) was the Treasury Board, which was depriving Canada of enough resources to get equipment for the military, to fight the threat of Hitler; and the third great villain was Mackenzie King, who was prime minister, and was not only a draft dodger in World War I, but had no sympathy and no understanding of, and no interest in, the military and as a consequence damaged Canada's future.
I might say that subsequent events have shown that things have not changed much in Canada. Just the names. I think one of the great problems that the new government is going to have to face, is the military and it has given an indication that it is going to tackle this problem, and wants to revert to the old uniforms, which is symbolically important. Frankly, however, the priorities should be for equipment. I think most soldiers, and most people in the military, want updated equipment so they can do whatever job they have to do, rather than the uniforms. But uniforms are important - the restoration of the old uniforms will help create jobs and I think will revive the morale of the military which has taken a battering over the past sixteen years. Not only that, the green uniforms need not go to waste; they could re-issue them to Petro Canada employees. For all we know, they probably outnumber the military!
Our military has virtually been abandoned during the decade of the seventies. National Defence is the only department of government that was underbudgeted during that inflationary period. The Liberal government had no real interest in the military and that can be seen by the way that, as soon as they took power, Trudeau tried to withdraw Canada from NATO. A compromise was established where we half withdrew; withdrew our nuclear role and maintained a brigade, which has become, in my mind, like one of the ghost legions of Hitler.
Remember when the Russians were approaching Berlin? Hitler in his bunker, without enough troops to fend them off, simply subdivided his divisions; with ten Russian divisions in front, he would divide his five in two, making ten. So, on paper, he had enough resources but not the manpower to fight the enemy. The Canadian Infantry Brigade in Europe, I think, is similarly under strength; the battalions are under strength; the companies are under strength; the platoons are under strength; the tank squadrons are under strength. So, in effect, we have on paper, a brigade, when in fact, we do not. What we have, puts me in mind of Hitler's "ghost legions".
...What we should do is expand the military ...
What we should do is expand the military. Instead of taking one in twelve volunteers into the Armed Forces, we should take one in five, one in six. I think the military are the best teachers in the world. They can teach anybody anything. We could use the Armed Forces as a teaching device for young people - to teach them accounting, bookkeeping, mechanics, construction - anything. I think it would alleviate a lot of the unemployment. It would give young people a chance to learn a trade, learn some values and traditions which are important to them as citizens. It would also give young people a chance to reassess their lives, and perhaps go of in new directions.
It would not be out of place to re-institute the Veterans' Allowance scheme which was done after World War II, where, for the number of years of military service, one could go to school or trade school free. This was one of the most far-sighted, productive policies that this country produced after the War, and it could be used again.
We should also increase the militia. We have the smallest regular forces of any developed nation in the world. There are very few Third World countries that have a more depleted military than we have, and yet our regular forces far outnumber our militia. The militia are the reserve, and the reservoir and the custodian of traditions that saved us in World War 11. In the thirties we had an army of something like 3,500, and four warships and one aircraft on loan from the RAF. We had nothing - but the militia saved us.
I think we should change the role of the military. What is going on now is a blessing in disguise because we simply cannot regain the generations of equipment that have been made obsolete. We have an opportunity to change the role of our army, with stress on a form of the British SAS- Special Air Services or Airborne Commandoes - where a few men can do the job of many, and soldiers can operate in units of two, three, four or conventional size. The British have done this and the SAS have served in something like eighty-five or ninety campaigns since the end of World War 11 with a loss of about eighty-five lives. That is one life per campaign, and that is a very efficient use of men at a low cost. An SAS style army would make Canada easy to invade, but impossible to occupy.
If you think back to the decade of the sixties when we had the FLQ in Canada, we had Canada in turmoil for a decade; and how many were in the FLQ- fifteen or twenty people? You can imagine how the military would be if the army were this able; we would not need the great numbers that we conventionally have to have. I think more money should go into the air force because we have got to get the planes that will do the job for Canada - not the cheapest planes, or the most available planes, or single engine planes. We are a big country which needs sophisticated aircraft. Money should also go to the navy, because right now I suspect we have about four effective warships, and we have the longest coastline in the world. We are a maritime nation without a navy, and that is wrong. At any rate, revamping the military is not only necessary, but it would be popular; the military has always been more loyal to Canada, than the Canadian government has been loyal to its military.
I suppose the key aspect the new government must handle is the economy. It really needs a new philosophy, not necessarily detailed plans as to how to handle the economy. Most important is a realization that as far as economics are concerned, government is the problem and not the solution. I think we, of all countries, should have the greatest protection against inflation and economic hardships. We have endless resources; we have a small, manageable, literate population that really wants to work if encouraged; and we should not suffer the economic ailments that other countries experience.
If you look at us, our taxes are higher than the Americans, our productivity is lower, our deficit is fifty per cent higher proportionately than the Americans, and our unemployment is fifty per cent higher. Yet America has to police the world; it has to safeguard the world, it has to aid the world; it feeds the world. The expenses America has do not even compare with ours and yet we do not do as well. Instead of criticizing America, we should perhaps be emulating it. North America was built by people, not by governments. We are the envy of the world now and I think it is people who make it that.
Philosophic changes are needed in Canada. A change in attitude that government is not here to help the people, but here to create an atmosphere where the people can help themselves. Most people are prepared to work for themselves if they are encouraged to do it, if there is some confidence. The differences in attitude between Canada and America are profound. I think they were shown best in 1980 when Reagan was elected and Pierre Trudeau was resurrected. Reagan's first announcements were his intention to get government off the backs of the people, and the people of America believed him. Trudeau's first reaction was, if you remember, that if you do not improve, if you do not do well, government is going to become more involved in your lives. The Canadian people believed him, and did nothing, and we stagnated. All we need in this country is an excuse basically to be optimistic. That is what Reagan has done for America; Americans have suddenly revived, despite all the dooms-saying by the critics.
Our problem is not only how to get foreign investment into the country, which Mulroney says he wants to do. The main problem is how to get Canadians to invest in their country. We have the greatest savings of any country on earth, and we want to get that money out of socks and term deposits and invested in the country; it is our only salvation. The government cannot do it. So how do you do it?
It seems to me the government should be giving some symbolic indication that things are going to be better by cutting the capital gains tax which amounts to a "hill of beans" when the country is going nowhere. This would be an indication for people to invest in the country to make a tax-free profit. It would churn a lot of money into the economy and create jobs. You could also have, say, a five-year moratorium on taxes for new businesses starting up, so the company could solidify before it gets taxed, thus encouraging business. Mortgage interest tax deduction could be reviewed; I think you could have home repairs tax deductible. Areas like BroadviewGreenwood, which are not affluent areas, would not be penalized by property taxes going up if homes are improved. This would create jobs, it would churn more money into the community. We could look at something like holidays or vacations spent in Canada, being tax deductible, to a certain amount.
The attitude in the past of soaking the rich to redistribute their wealth to the have-nots, is totally wrong. I think that most people who work for a living are worried about their profit or their welfare. There is no way, realistically, to ever get the rich. You can stop the rich getting richer but you cannot really redistribute their wealth because it will be somewhere else. So what you want to do, it seems to me, is get the people with wealth investing in the country, because they are the ones who have the money to create jobs. And let the people who work for a living get wealthier too. I think most people who work for a living, excluding the trendies and the socialist teachers and the academics, would agree. Most people accept, understand and desire that the deficit be tackled; the deficit has got to be cut. You cannot run a country in such a way that, if you ran your home or your business in such a fashion you would be bankrupt or put in jail. Commonsense tells you that. And if the deficit is going to be tackled, it must be tackled in the first two years of a new government, not the last two years when they are up for re-election. If the people believe in the politicians or believe in the leadership, they will accept restraint, they will accept sacrifice and they will do what is necessary because it has to be done.
The problem, of course, is that politicians do not have the trust of the people. I think the politicians of Canada, federally and at all levels, have betrayed the Canadian people. Politicians have almost become as discredited or as disreputable as journalists and lawyers. We have a kind of a me-first leadership and politicians are perceived as looting the till when they get in there. The politicians give themselves enormous pay raises and privileges. They have given themselves what amounts to 250 per cent pay increases since 1971; they have gone from $18,000 a year ($6,000 tax free) to $70,000 ($17,000 tax free). They have given themselves what amounts to a sixty per cent pay boost since 1980, at a time when much of the country was asked to show six and five per cent restraints.
Indexed pensions for members of parliament is wrong. Severance pay of a minimum of $25,000 is wrong. The Canadian people see this and I do not think Canadians are apathetic. They are disillusioned, cynical, frustrated, and feel helpless. We are constantly bombarded with the myth, perpetrated by politicians, that if you want good politicians you have got to pay high wages. This is totally wrong. Politicians today, with their high incomes, are no better than the politicians of the past, when they got little. If people go into politics for the money, they are not usually the kind of people you want governing you judiciously.
Mulroney should freeze the M.P.,s wages; if he cannot rescind them or if he cannot cut them back, he should end the automatic pay increase. He should rescind indexed pensions and cut the severance pay for the losers. At least put it to a vote - a well publicized vote, so that all can see what they voted for themselves.
... peace is the fashionable slogan of the times ...
On a more global issue, I think peace is the fashionable slogan of the times. We all know that our politicians want to get on the peace bandwagon and even Brian Mulroney now says that his greatest priority is peace. dankly I think this is untrue. I do not think peace is the great priority, in fact I think peace is relatively easy to obtain. All you have to do is surrender or die, and you have peace. But it is not the peace most of us want. A cow has peace. A cow is well fed, sleeps in a warm place; it has a marvellous view most of the time, and it is certainly a tranquil life - until the day it is taken to the slaughter house. And that is not the kind of peace most of us want.
I think the big issue in the world, for us, for free people, is freedom. Peace, without freedom, is absolutely meaningless and temporary. And freedom without security is irrelevant, does not exist. So the goal, surely, is peace with freedom and with security, and that is not so easy. Churchill said that courage is the most important virtue because, without courage, all the other virtues are meaningless. In a political sense you could say that freedom is the most important political attribute, because without freedom all the other benefits of any system are totally irrelevant. It is the key to the things that human beings aspire to and should get.
So what is the great threat to peace? Well, we are told today that things like nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to peace - or world hunger, or overpopulation, or poverty, or environmental issues. These are not the threat to peace. The greatest single threat to peace in the world today, as we see it, is the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, since its inception, since 1917 and on, has sought only to dominate, has sought power, has sought control. Ideology does not enter into it, idealism does not enter into it, Marxism does not enter into it. They want power and they want to control, and every leader from Lenin, through Stalin, through Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov and to Chernenko, has aimed in this direction. Once you realize this, or accept this, it becomes easy to deal with. The Soviet Union is a bully nation, and you deal with a bully the same way in the international forum as you do in the schoolyard. You cannot appease a bully. You cannot show your goodwill or rely on his goodwill, or his decency, or his friendliness. You just have to stand up to a bully. That does not mean going to war with him, it just means standing for what you believe, and not buckling down and not giving in. The Soviet Union intends to win and it does not matter whether it takes one year, ten years, a hundred years; it intends to eventually win. It is up to us to prevent it from winning, of course - not to defeat it, but not to let it win. Which brings us to President Reagan.
Now President Reagan is depicted variously as a semi-senile grade B movie actor, or the "Mad Bomber"; but the fact is that the four years of Reagan government have been internationally peaceful years as far as great power confrontations are concerned. They have been the most peaceful years that we have known in recent times. The Soviet Union has done nothing internationally. It has done its espionage and subversion, but it has not instigated any foreign adventures. It was in times of detente, under Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter, that it sent Cubans into Angola, dabbled in Mozambique, Ethiopia and Yemen and went into Afghanistan.
With the Russians, of course, when their rhetoric is high and they are talking nuclear war all the time, their actions are low. It is when their talk is low-key and friendly, that is the time you watch your wallet because that is when they are active everywhere. And that has happened time and time again. I wish there were some indication that the Tory government had some awareness of this.
I think the greatest threat the Tories have in their new role, and I have struggled for sixteen years trying to get them there, is that the majority is too large. Inevitably, they are humans, and they are going to be convinced that they got there through their own virtues, rather than the fact that the people turned against the previous government.
I feel very strongly that the best way to ensure good government is to have a strong opposition, and I think it is premature to write of the Liberals until the end of the century as some people do. Nothing is so resilient as a political party and no wounds heal as quickly as political wounds; witness Goldwater and the Republicans' revival and witness the post-Nixon Republicans. I think the luckiest politician in Canada is John Turner. The electorate has done his dirty work for him. It has cleaned out all the rot and mediocrity within that party and he now has raw material. He is the only westerner in that party, or in parliament, and the opportunity now for him is to mould the Liberal party into a party of his philosophy, or his image, or the way he wants it. He can do, theoretically, for the Liberals in Canada, as Lougheed did for the Tories in Alberta, if that is his bent - if he has the strength or the stamina or the philosophy or the courage to do it.
You must have a philosophy, or an ideology, if you want greatness. I think the opposition leader should have it, I think the Prime Minister should have it. You cannot become great through pragmatism. With pragmatism, you may hold power for a term, but it will inevitably disintegrate into opportunism. We need more than pragmatism for greatness and I think, personally, most Canadians want their country to be great. We have a chance now if Mulroney lives up to his mandate and develops a philosophy that affords the country a vision. If Turner, also, fills the vacuum with his own traditional centre-road liberalism, I think they will both succeed in their mandates; it will not matter who wins the future elections, so long as it is not the N.D.P., and the country will improve.
Canadians are tired of blind, knee-jerk partisan bickering. Question period has led most Canadians to wish that the politicians would do what is best for the country and not just become adversarial and fight for the party. We want politicians to lead from the front and not try to follow opinion polls and stay in power. I must admit that this theme did not work for me very well in Broadview-Greenwood, but that does not mean that the message was wrong, only that the messenger perhaps was not the right one. If politicians of the future are guided solely by opinion polls and pragmatism, more than they are by their conscience, their country or their constituents, I think we will become or we will stay a little people. We will never become a great country and we will never find the greatness that beckons us.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by H.N.R. Jackman, a Past President of the Club.