JANUARY 11, 1972
Enough is Enough
AN ADDRESS BY David Lewis, Q.C., M.P.,
LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF CANADA
CHAIRMAN The President,
Joseph H. Potts
It is my great pleasure and privilege to welcome back to The Empire Club, on your behalf, a great Canadian, Mr. David Lewis, Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada.
Sir, we are indeed honoured by your presence here today, particularly in view of the fact that you have taken time out to be with us in the midst of the current political turmoil.
When speaking to the electors of Bristol in 1774, Edmund Burke said:
"It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents . . . it is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfaction, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interests to his own."
Sir, we are not all your constituents in the sense that we reside in your constituency of York South but we are your constituents in the sense that we are members of a Club that has provided a continuous forum for men of distinction for almost seventy years and you, a Canadian of great distinction, are, in addition, the leader of a great national political party.
I can say with confidence-a word which is much bandied about these days-that we followed your election campaign with more than just a passing interest. The major objective in a campaign for any political leader-apart from winning-is to make one's own party's issue one of the central issues of the campaign. You certainly succeeded in doing so with consummate success. The corporate bum issue became the rage-I use that word advisedly-even your aircraft was nicknamed "Bum Air". Having regard to the fact that a vote of confidence will be taken in the House of Commons this evening and that your Party now holds the balance of power, there are some who hope that you won't give the present government "a bum steer" whereas others have a passionate desire that you will give it "the bum's rush".
Our guest today has indeed, in Burke's words, sacrificed his repose, his pleasures and his satisfaction to the people of Canada. His political prominence did not come easily. He was defeated four times as a candidate before being elected in 1962 only to be defeated again in 1963, but was re-elected in 1965, 1968 and 1972.
He arrived in Canada from Poland when he was twelve and is fluent in both the English and the French language.
He was a Rhodes Scholar, and as such was obliged to attend Oxford University, where he studied law, thus being deprived of the much superior legal education available at Cambridge. He was the first Canadian president of the Oxford Union and served as the National Secretary of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation for 14 years.
He has carved out an enviable reputation as a lawyer, particularly in the field of Labour Law. A friend of mine, who has been involved with our guest in many labour negotiations, told me recently that, although Mr. Lewis was an extremely tough negotiator, he was never intransigent, and always bargained in good faith. Consequently, he said, it was usually possible to work out an equitable agreement.
Our guest has been active in the political life of this country for almost forty years during which he has pursued his ideals and his principles with a passion forged on the anvil of conviction. He has been a keen student of, and has cherished, British and Canadian institutions and traditions and has taught us more about them than most of us realize.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honour to present to you Mr. David Lewis, the leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. DAVID LEWIS:
I was, of course, honoured to be invited again to address this interesting audience of political supporters. I am very grateful to you, sir, for your kind introduction and, if I will not be thrown out for saying so, may I take the liberty of congratulating this Club for having become a Club of the Twentieth Century and being ready to admit ladies as members.
I recall my struggles at Oxford when I was first Treasurer and then President of the Oxford Union about the admission of undergraduates to that august body.
We made progress in this country and Parliament, I have found, is always an interesting place. You people and others may feel frustrated about its mysterious workings, from time to time, with some reason but it is a fascinating forum for the competition of ideas and for the thrust for power. And I suppose you know that at no time were these aspects of our democratic process more striking than in the present parliament.
If I may speak about myself for a moment, Mr. Chairman, having fallen in love when I was only in my teens and having been married for thirty-seven years-to the same companion-may I add-I never experienced the delights and the discomforts of being wooed by more than one suitor at the same time. But I am having this experience now. There have been times in the past when the N.D.P. presence in Parliament was resented by the two older parties. They may still resent us but I am glad to be able to tell you that we don't suffer the psychological wounds inflicted by rejection. Oh no, we are very much wanted, for the time being.
Seriously, Mr. Chairman, in this situation we have two alternatives. As everyone here knows, there is a much wider gulf between us and both the other parties than there is between them. We don't like or agree with either of them or, as I have put it jocularly, we love them both equally. Now the most comfortable role for us would be to bring down the Trudeau government and follow this by bringing down a Stanfield government. We would do both with clear conscience and with some delight. But the consequence would be a barren parliament and another immediate election, which could quite easily result in another minority government. And this road seemed to us unreasonable, unprofitable and pointless.
We have, therefore, chosen the other alternative. My colleagues and I decided to try to help Parliament work in a productive manner. To that end it was logical, first, to give the Liberals an opportunity to govern because they have the most seats and because they are actually the government in place. When, at some point, we find it conscientiously impossible to support a government proposal which it places before Parliament and the present government falls, we have made it clear that we would extend the same opportunity to the Conservatives. I have emphasized that, in our view, a defeat of the present government should not be followed by dissolution. Mr. Stanfield, heading a party which has only two seats fewer than the Liberals, has a right to be given the opportunity to form a government and present his program to Parliament. And I have deliberately emphasized this point publicly more than once in the hope that the constitutional authorities which may have to make the necessary decision will be fully aware of our position.
Now the Tories are, or act as if they are, unhappy about our decision not to support the ritual non-confidence motion on the Speech from the Throne which will be voted this evening. And, Mr. Chairman, I assure you that I made certain, or as certain as it was humanly possible, from those who forecast the weather that I would be able to get back to Parliament in time for the vote or I would not have been here. Now they take that position despite the fact that Mr. Stanfield has said that his tongue is not hanging out for office. I told him in the House of Commons last Monday that, judging from his party's behaviour, his tongue is not only hanging out, it is tearing at the roots. I said to him, have patience, Bob, you may well have an opportunity to do no better than Pierre.
Now we don't intend to be doctrinaire in our attitude. We don't, because we can't expect a Liberal or Conservative government to introduce our program. We hope-perhaps without the help of most members of my gracious audience-to have that opportunity ourselves in the not too distant future. But we do intend to insist in this Parliament on a number of priorities we want it to tackle. Since the election I have set them out quite specifically and they are well known.
I need only summarize them very quickly and very briefly. We would like to see action to whittle unemployment down to a humane and economical level. We want to see tax relief for the ordinary Canadian, the ordinary Canadian family. We want a serious attempt to halt or at least to slow down the cost of living, with emphasis on food. We want to see a substantial increase in the old age pensions and related pensions in our society. We hope that we can persuade the Government to institute a major housing program larger than we had until now, better organized and better planned so that we would end speculation in land and bring lower interest rates on mortgages. We want much more effective measures to check the further foreign domination of our economy and steps to strengthen the western and Atlantic economies in this country.
Now we are determined to seek relief in these areas, if we can obtain it, and because we want to see action on these fronts we do not intend to play any games the Tories may propose. Thus last Tuesday the Conservatives presented a motion to adjourn the Throne Speech debate allegedly to deal with old age pensions. This was a pointless piece of play-acting. They knew perfectly well that there was no pension legislation before Parliament and that their move to adjourn the debate, if adopted, would simply have wasted a day and we would have gone back to it the next morning. Their obvious purpose was to try to embarrass us even if to do so they had to play a hoax on the pensioners. We didn't intend to fall for that or any other ploy. We are, I hope, a little tougher than that.
But neither have we given the government a blank cheque. We are giving them an opportunity to deliver useful policies. If they do, we shall gladly support the policies and the government will continue; if they don't, we shall oppose the policies and the government may fall. I say "may" because at that point the Conservatives will have to decide whether they agree with us.
On second thought I suspect, that whether they agree with us will be an irrelevant question. I suspect that if the Conservatives had to vote for the Communist Manifesto in order to occupy the government benches they would do so with alacrity, even perhaps they did so with some discomfort.
I have said, Mr. Chairman, that we do not intend to be doctrinaire but neither do we intend to retreat from positions which we consider basic to our integrity. And we have made this clear as well. We do not expect a Liberal or Conservative government to implement fully our social ideas but we do not intend to support some policies, particularly fiscal policies and give-away programs which add to the profits and power of giant corporations at the expense of small business and the ordinary taxpayer.
I am sure that with the deafening applause of this audience, I Isay to the corporate welfare bums, "enough is enough". Welfare is for the needy, not the powerful. The giant, mostly foreign-controlled corporations, have no right to dip into the taxpayers' pockets. Ladies and gentlemen, whether most of you agree with me or not I ask you to think about what I believe that our society has a distorted orientation in its priorities. They are simply not oriented toward people. We cry out with pain many of us-and no cry is louder than that of the corporate sector-when we talk of making more income available to the farmer or the unemployed or the poor or the pensioner, where is the money coming from everyone asks. But we take it for granted that thousands of millions of dollars over the years in tax concessions and hundreds of millions of dollars each year in grants to corporations are right and good.
And we have developed an economic theory to justify the corporate handouts because we are not willing to admit, as I believe, that the real reason is the corporate power over government in our present society, the visible and invisible ties between the established political instruments and the economic power in the land which finances and supports them. So Ministers of Finance argue that these handouts from the public purse are necessary to encourage research and development, to seek and exploit our natural resources, to create jobs. But they give these concessions and handouts to corporations with little control as to how they may be used and without any overall plan or economic goals for society as a whole. __
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I reject these theories. The corporations spend a great deal of money and effort to promote the myth of so-called private enterprise. But they insist on having the public purse as a silent contributor, so long as the direction, objectives and profits remain in their private hands. Take the oil industry as an example. It has been the recipient of the largest part of the tax concessions and loopholes over the years. Every oil company has gone through years where they paid no income tax-despite huge profits and even larger net earnings. Every oil company in the country has a huge reserve of what they call "deferred taxes". Concessions to them by the people of Canada have been immense but the moment they find that the shortage of fuel in the United States ups the price in that country, they increase the price for Canadian consumers as well without regard to the responsibility which they have to the Canadian society and to the Canadian taxpayers who gave thousands of millions of dollars to them to develop and exploit our oil resources and to fatten their profits over the years. And I remind you that these oil companies are not only not Canadian, they are not even really American, British or Dutch. They are corporations that control almost all the oil reserves anywhere in the world. They have no responsibility to the people of Canada who have given them the concessions and the resources to exploit. And this I say to you is precisely what happens almost all the time.
Therefore, I reject these theories, and I reject them not only because I believe them to be socially undesirable but also because they have not worked in practice. The concessions and handouts continue and unacceptable unemployment continues. Indeed, I believe strongly that they help promote unemployment. They make the use of machines much more attractive than the use of labour. They distort our investment program and investment pattern toward the capital intensive resource industries. They encourage and assist the expansion of foreign control over our economy.
Let me remind you that the Gray Report contains an interesting-a most interesting bit of information. It shows that 44%, note this very carefully, that 44% of the funds used for the expansion of foreigncontrolled firms in Canada from 1960 to 1967 were obtained through accelerated capital cost allowances 44% of the funds they would use. And I simply ask, how much longer are we going to offer foreign-controlled firms the means to buy us out with our own money? How much longer can we remain a really independent nation under these circumstances? Of what long-run value is it for our working people and for future generations of Canadians?
I am fully aware-of course, I am fully aware of the fact that there are Canadians who do not accept our reasoning. Who knows, there may even be some in this room. But I am certain that more and more Canadians are beginning to question the dogmas by which they have been intimidated for so many years.
Indeed, I was interested to note recent statements by important spokesmen for business interests in this country. Mr. Daniel Sprague, the President of the Canadian Manufacturers Association, said in Victoria in November that it was debatable whether such government assistance programs as DREE are the solution to regional disparities. I am not sure that Mr. Sprague would accept our alternatives, but his statement is nonetheless significant.
And even more specific in his comment last September was M. Jean des Rosiers, President of La Chambre de Commerce du District de Montreal and he said, and I quote: " . . . by laziness, conservatism and letting things go, they (top management) will wind up qualifying for grants to maintain competitiveness artificially; other grants under the category of new job creation to take back personnel they laid off six months earlier; still more grants every time they threaten to close down." That's the end of the quote.
No doubt this sharp criticism does not derive from the same premises as mine nor is it likely to be directed toward the same ends, but what M. des Rosiers said is perfectly true. The handouts, the maze of programs to hand out money to corporations for one reason or another is just almost unimaginable until you study it in detail and these remarks are therefore relevant to the present situation. When I said this during the election campaign there were people across the country who shouted the New Democratic Party, David Lewis, are opposed to every attempt to assist industry. That is not so and I tried to make that clear. I want to tell you that the New Democratic Party unequivocally accepts that there are areas in business where public assistance is necessary, indeed essential. In an economy dominated by giants, the smaller business cannot survive without consideration in the tax system and without help in acquiring investment capital. The same is true for the young Canadian wishing to acquire a farm large enough and with the modern equipment necessary to give his family security.
And we recognize the fact that economic development in the disadvantaged areas of Canada requires large-scale assistance from the public treasury. The simple fact is that private enterprise cannot be relied upon to develop these areas. It has failed to do so in the past; it will undoubtedly fail to do so in the future. The ordinary criteria applied by corporations inevitably, and I don't blame them for it, their ordinary criteria of profitability are by definition absent in these regions. New criteria have to be applied, social criteria the goals of building viable communities and of developing economic activities suitable to the locality and its people.
Thus, instead of opposing assistance to business in the right way, to small Canadian owned business and assistance to areas that require economic development, we urge an increasing role for government in the economy and a large and co-ordinated program of assistance to small, Canadian owned business.
But the wasteful concessions to the large foreign corporations in this country and the pattern of handout programs from which they benefit have proven to be futile. They don't need them and they are a burden on the ordinary Canadian that he should not have to carry. They represent, in my view, distribution of income in the reverse from the ordinary working Canadian to the powerful and wealthy corporations. That's what we've been indulging in in Canada for some years.
Now, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I do not pretend that the N.D. P. could immediately solve the problems of unemployment or that of regional disparity. Nor do I pretend that we are not as capable as anyone else of making mistakes and if I did you wouldn't believe me and you would be right. There is a habit in certain circles to point a finger at us in the New Democratic Party and accuse us of being self-righteous and arrogant because we reject the conventional wisdom. I often think to myself if Trudeau says he is competent to run Canada, despite four and a half years of failure, the Liberals applaud, almost without shame-not quite but almost. When Stanfield boasts that he more than anyone else can manage our society, despite the dismal record of the last Conservative government and his own rather uninspiring record as Premier of Nova Scotia, the Conservatives applaud and they call their chief humble. But if Lewis suggests that his party has better answers than either of the others, then he is labelled as arrogant. Well, all I can tell you is that I am not intimidated by this attitude.
Mind you I realize that the difference between the leaders I have mentioned and myself is that I can document their failures but they can't yet document mine.
Well I want to tell you, therefore, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, that it is in good and determined spirit that my colleagues and I sit in this Parliament of minorities. There isn't any turmoil in Parliament, Mr. Chairman. Everybody acts like a quiet lamb. It is a little uneasy from time to time, and for us it is sometimes a little uncomfortable. But it is a good Parliament. It is our conviction that minority government can work well, indeed a great deal better than insensitive majority government. I draw to your attention that including the last election we have had in the past fifteen years, five minority governments and only two majority governments. And I am convinced that any objective study of the work and accomplishments of the Diefenbaker majority and the Trudeau majority will prove that the previous minority governments were a great deal better. Why? Because no longer can decisions be made with the arrogance and insensitivity without regard for other opinions or the people's wishes. When you are in a minority you have to listen to everyone and you must consider everyone. You can't just do as you please. And that, I say to you, is good for democracy.
There has been a lot of stuff in the country that we are taking our position because we are afraid of an election. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I am not going to say to this audience, or to any other audience, that I'm not aware of the difficulties our party finds itself in an election where there is a tremendous cry for majority government. We know that and we are apprehensive about it. But I don't want you to make any mistake, that's not the reason for our action because we would be faced with exactly the same problem two months from now, six months from now, eight months from now, ten months from now. That problem doesn't disappear in a day or two. It will be with us whenever the next election comes.
And we are, because we don't use very much money and because we don't have (I shouldn't mention this should I, Mrs. Scrivener) we don't have a bagman going around to corporations, Fidinam and the like, and because all our constituents, almost all of them, constituencies almost invariably end off in debt at the end of the election. All our local organizations are always involved in various moneymaking engagements, not to pay for the next election but to pay for the last one. Sometimes for the last two elections. Because of all these things we are ready to go to the country whenever that becomes necessary. And we have reason, I think we have good reason, to be confident about our position in the country.
We have now across Canada some 17, 18, 19, 20 percent of the vote which is with us almost in any circumstances. We are therefore not afraid. But we say that in the meantime, before the next election comes, we have a duty, we have a responsibility and we are determined to make the Parliament which the people have elected serve their interests. This is why we want to give the present government an opportunity to deliver and why we would and, if events so transpire we will give a Conservative government the same opportunity. In short, I say to you, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, and I hope you will approve, that our policy, to use a commercial term, in this Parliament is C.O.D. Our votes can be collected only on delivery.
I was pleased at this opportunity to say these few words to this audience with some hope that I may persuade a few people to agree with me but really because of the attention I have always received when addressing this Club and the knowledge that there are many people in this room who may in fact have more power in this country than a Member of Parliament, the Leader of a Party and, perhaps, even the Leader of a Government. Thank you very much.
Mr. Lewis was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club by Major A. J. Langley, a Past President of the Club.
You know, Mr. President, earlier this week one of Toronto's journalists reported that our guest had given quite a remarkable performance in the House justify in his Party's position during his address in reply to the Speed from the Throne. You may know that the rules allow Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Stanfield unlimited time for their replies but, unfortunately, Mr. Lewis was allowed only thirty minutes. I gather from the report that in that brief time, alternating as far between one major party and the other major party, he is reported to have shown and I quote " . . . that he wasn't a nearly dead mouse being toyed with by the Liberals but actually a rather healthy tiger."
Well, whatever our political stripes are, Mr. Lewis, and although we have seen something of the tiger's claws today, we have also seen that wit, and that clarity and that sincerity for which this tiger is so famous.
Actually, Mr. Lewis, you have helped us set a record today. You are an old friend of The Empire Club and you probably know that we have been addressed in our history by almost every conceivable type of prime minister you could possibly imagine. Hosts of us aspiring prime ministers of every political stripe and I'm sure you would want to be included in that number. All types and sizes and stripes of serving prime ministers and certainly a great many distinguished former prime ministers. But if you believe another one of our journals of a day or two ago, this is the first time that we have in this delicately tuned and finely balanced state of affairs been addressed by a de facto prime minister.
Now, if you will permit me, sir, to appropriate that lovely phrase you used of "enough's enough", but in this sense, that certainly in our experience over the years with your friendship and your standard of eloquence and your kindness and generosity of giving of your time and talents to come and visit The Empire Club on many occasions, perhaps enables me to best express our thanks to you by saying that enough's not enough of David Lewis and we hope you will be back again soon.