FEBRUARY 22, 1973
The Politics of Western Canada--Revolt or Reform
AN ADDRESS BY David G. Steuart, M.L.A.,
LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY AND LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION,
PROVINCE OF SASKATCHEWAN
CHAIRMAN The President,
Joseph H. Potts
Permit me at this time to raise a point of privilege. The Toronto Sun, in its edition of February 20, published some scurrilous remarks which to say the least brought into disrepute the character and reputation of your President which can only reflect on the Club and I quote:
"Wardair boss, Max Ward of Edmonton, took only thirteen minutes to deliver his electrifying speech, attacking the political handling of Canada's air problems at Thursday's Empire Club luncheon . . . four minutes less than president Joe Potts of the Club took to introduce him!"
I categorically deny the accuracy of the report, although I plead guilty to the fact that I spoke longer than I normally do. According to my watch I commenced to introduce the head table at one minute past one and completed that along with the introduction of Mr. Ward at ten minutes past one, a total of nine minutes. Let us have the record straight.
It is difficult to understand what motivated the columnist to make such an unfounded allegation. Perhaps it was by reason of the fact that in the course of my introduction I quoted excerpts from Alexander Graham Bell's speech to the Club in 1917 which included the following:
"You see, America is a country of inventors; and the greatest of the inventors are the newspaper men."
The columnist obviously took umbrage at this quotation but in so doing merely confirmed its accuracy.
As previously mentioned last Thursday we welcomed our first voice from the west during that season, in the person of Max Ward, who was indeed a harbinger of spring and of great things to come.
I am particularly delighted today to welcome another guest from the west, David Steuart, Leader of the Liberal Party and of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the Province of Saskatchewan.
Indeed, I think I should confess that I am very biased in favour of our guest. Not, may I hasten to assure you, by reason of his political affiliation, since, in the finest traditions of The Empire Club, it would be highly improper of me to disclose, directly, or indirectly, any political preference.
No, my bias originates from geographical considerations, for I had the honour, the distinction, the privilege-yes, and the pleasure of being born, as was our guest, in the exciting Province of Saskatchewan.
To know Saskatchewan is to love Saskatchewan, but to know it you really have to be born or at least to have lived there for a considerable period of time. I really feel sorry for people who fly over Saskatchewan or merely pass through it on one of the transcontinental trains. I'm sure that 99% of them conclude that anyone who lives on that bold prairie must be stark raving mad. Let me assure you that such is not the case although some expatriates may tend to confirm the impression.
Let me give you a glimpse of Saskatchewan like it really is: Two summers ago I went back on a camping trip with our family. We paid a visit to beautiful Lake Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park. During our first night we had visitors which my 14 year old daughter reported in the log of the trip in the following terms:
"Last nite in the wee dark hours, when monsters and goblins (and bears!) . . . yes and bears! are crawling around, Robbie (who with other children was sleeping in the bus) woke up "I think I heard a bear" (reason being that there was a noise in the kitchen, it was too late for Potts' to be up, a burglar wouldn't make so much noise, and there was nothing to steal) but surprise, surprise! There wasn't one. But a few minutes later, another noise-and here are the 'bear' facts if you can 'bear' it. Steathily she gets up aha! two bears. This is too much, she has to share her discovery, Robert won't wake up but Gordie does and wakes up Rich. After watching the bear eat away at our cooler, Richard notices some movements in the tent. Oh, no". Someone must have to powder their nose or something! And when they come out, chomp! Goodbye, guy! With great presence of mind (actually Rich and Gord told her to) she called out "whoever is moving in the tent don't come out, there's a bear!" This is repeated and mom replies from the tent "I know!" With all these weird noises the bears get scared and go down the road. Bravely our father got out of the tent and looked at the damage. Missing-porkchops, some butter, and some gouda cheese. But the eggs and everything else were fine. "
And later the next day
"Finally they could go fishing and Gordie caught 3 pike, the only fish. Mom figures, with the time and money spent for fishing, that the fish cost about $50 a pound. During their trips to fishing places they saw a loon, a moose, a fox, a beaver, some deer and an eagle who dived to the surface of the water and then flew back up carrying a large pike. It was raining all morning and all the kids fishing got soaked. Dad took down the tent, packed in the rain and this made him abnormally cheerful because he finally had some excitement, and hardship so he could show off the skills he learned in scouts and in the army."
But it's not all fishing and frolicking with bears in Saskatchewan. That province faces problems and frustrations which many of us in the east fail to appreciate. The disenchantment is rooted in national economic policies that were framed decades ago.
The Prime Minister of Canada is beginning to indicate an awareness of this disenchantment--he certainly has more than just a personal and passing interest in so doing. In a speech last week he said:
"The government must develop a new national policy which will result in the people of the west feeling that they have western power in the nation's capital."
Our guest today is well qualified to interpret the mood of the west and to assist in the development of such new national policies.
He is a distinguished son of Saskatchewan, having been born in Regina and having served overseas in the last war as a navigator with the RCAF. He was elected as an Alderman in Prince Albert in 1951 and five years later was elected Mayor, a position he held for four years.
He was President of the Saskatchewan Liberal Association and was first elected to the Saskatchewan Legislature in 1962, and re-elected in '64, ' 67, and ' 71. During the seven year period commencing in 1964 he held several cabinet posts, including those of Provincial Treasurer and Deputy Premier.
He succeeded the late Ross Thatcher as Leader of the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan and as Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
Ladies and gentlemen--it's a great honor to present to you David Steuart who will address us on the subject "The Politics of Western Canada: Revolt or Reform."
MR. DAVID G. STEUART:
It always baffles me why these ex-Saskatchewan people tell you they love us so much I always wonder why the hell they left us.
I was very thrilled when I signed your guest book and found that I was only five names down from that other great Liberal, David Lewis. And twenty-five names down from that other great politician, John Diefenbaker, who shares my Prince Albert seat with me. He gets a much bigger share than I do I can tell you but I have a story I have told many times in Saskatchewan, and it's a true story, about John Diefenbaker. When I was the Mayor he became the Prime Minister of the country, an event the country and Prince Albert both survived, just barely I can tell you, especially Prince Albert with me being Mayor. John and I actually lived on the same street and there was a large house, a red brick house, between where John lives and where I lived and it became vacant and some people rented it and they ran what was called a Northern Nursing Home. We have a great many Indian Reservations north of Prince Albert and the function of this Northern Nursing Home was to bring the Indian ladies south when they were expecting a blessed event and lodge them in the house until the time came and stay there for a few days afterwards and then go back up north. And after the house had been operating for a while someone started a rumour that there were no two men in Canada had more Indian women pregnant between them than John Diefenbaker and Dave Steuart. Worthwhile for John-he's been getting the Indian vote ever since-but somehow it backfired on me.
Very pleased to have Barry Pepper here. It's true-Barry Pepper was my pilot during the war and we flew out of Ireland and believe me if you've got to fight a war, at that time Ireland was the place to fight it out of. It's a little different now. Barry and I really never found out how tough the Germans were but I'll tell you those Irish girls put up a terrible fight.
Ladies and gentlemen--Canadians may be the first people in history to lose their country as well as their political and economic system by default.
It took us one hundred years to create our own distinctive flag but if we don't have the intestinal fortitude to wave it once in a while that flag may outlast the country.
With the exception of short periods during world wars, and for ten minutes after Canada beat Russia in the hockey series, most Canadians seem half ashamed to show any patriotism.
In a similar way we have a guilty conscience about our political and economic success.
In truth we are one of the most politically successful people in the world, we change governments regularly, we hardly ever shoot a politician, and we show great concern for the disadvantaged and the minorities in our society.
Our economic system has provided us with one of the highest standards of living in the world.
A quick count of our blessings shows us to be one of the most fortunate people on the face of the earth.
In spite of this, few people seem inclined to sing the praises of our nation and fewer still raise their voice in defense of our economic system.
This indifference to the state of our nation and the lack of concern about the well being of our economic system could bring on the break-down of both.
Most of this indifference is centered right here in Ontario and the greatest sinners of all, I think, are the citizens of Toronto.
If our country breaks up and our economic system breaks down, Central Canada must shoulder most of the blame.
Mr. Chairman, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to thank you for inviting me here to tell you what terrible people you are and exactly how to mend your ways.
I'm sure most of you are becoming convinced that the great national pastime in the Maritimes, Quebec and Western Canada is blaming all their troubles on Ontario in general, and Toronto in particular.
We in Saskatchewan don't feel that way, we only blame you for 60% of our problems, Ottawa looks after the other 40%.
For the next few minutes I'm going to describe Canada through the eyes of a western prairie resident and you be the judge.
I will also try and show that most western discontent is unnecessary, it is poor politics on your part and is actually costing you money.
Let's begin by finding out what we are unhappy about.
What is the cause of western alienation and discontent?
What does the west really want?
I will tell you one thing, we are not, I repeat, not, angry because we have a French-Canadian Prime Minister.
Some eastern writers decided that Pierre Trudeau's defeat in the west was an anti-French backlash.
This is nonsense!! The federal liberals have only won one election in Western Canada in the last forty years and that was by Louis St. Laurent, and he wasn't even half Irish.
The only other modern politician to win the west was John Diefenbaker who blamed all our troubles on Bay Street, the C.P.R., and other unnamed but nefarious characters.
We knew he was right on so we gave him every seat west of Ontario.
The fact is that most of our successful federal politicians are either hell-raising Tories who hate the east, or radical N.D. P.'s who hate everybody.
Now what is the answer?
Are we just trouble-making stubble jumping hayseeds that don't know any better, or have we some real problems?
I say our complaints are real, they are serious and long standing.
We live by selling wheat and oats and barley and pigs and cows and potash and oil and uranium and copper and a few other odds and ends.
Now most of these commodities are sold on the open markets of the world and we have to take the going price.
But when we come to buy our cars, and our stoves, and televisions and refrigerators, and our clothes, and most other essentials, we are forced to buy in Canada at higher prices protected by tariffs.
The eastern attitude to Alberta's decision to raise the price of natural gas and oil is rather interesting, for the first time the shoe is on the other foot. And I can tell you you are not getting much sympathy in Western Canada.
If we could erase the 49th parallel, our standard of living would go up overnight by 10 or 20%.
For example, let's look at freight rates.
I mention these to you today at the risk of being accused of dragging out another cliched complaint out of the closet.
But the problem of freight rates is a very clear injustice in the minds of Western Canadians.
I will use two examples.
You can actually ship canned food from Toronto to Vancouver on the C.N.R. or C.P.R. for $2.06 per 100 pounds.
And yet it costs $2.14 to ship the same amount of goods to the City of Regina.
In other words it is 8 cents cheaper to send canned foodstuffs 875 miles further on the same railroad tracks by the same railroad company.
Now that may seem logical to the railroads, but it certainly baffles the minds of westerners.
Another piece of railroad logic concerns our pulp industry in Saskatchewan.
When they ship to the Eastern United States they are classed as western mills and pay a higher rate than Ontario pulp mills, but when they ship to the west coast of the United States they are classed as eastern mills and pay a higher rate than those pulp mills in British Columbia.
Incredible as it may seem, we get the worst of both worlds.
Financial institutions continue to be a sore spot in the west; they are all headquartered in central Canada and appear too often to be unaware and unsympathetic to our problem.
Let's take another illustration.
An examination of the boards of directors of Canada's ten largest corporations shows that they have a total of 151 directors.
Of these only eight are from the four western provinces.
Eight out of 151--less than 6% of the directors for 27% of the population.
Most of these companies haven't even bothered to put a token westerner on their board.
Imperial Oil, for example, 18 board members, none from Western Canada, yet that's where they get a great deal of their product.
Massey-Ferguson has 17 board members but not one from the west where they sell most of their product. Other implement companies are as bad.
If their tractors are as poor as their public relations, God help the western farmers.
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler of Canada have a total of 30 directors but they couldn't find anyone west of Ontario smart enough to sit on any one of their boards of directors.
Incidentally, the Maritimes have only 2 out of the same 151.
But before you jump to the conclusion that the other 141 directors are Canadians from Ontario or Quebec, you would be wrong.
Thirty-seven of these men, and they are all men incidentally, are not even Canadians, so the foreigners on our largest corporate boards outnumber Western Canadians by five to one, and the Maritimers by nineteen to one.
They don't consult us, they just charge whatever the market will bear and they ignore us.
I tell you, and I warn them, that time is running out and so is our patience.
But private firms are by no means the only ones who take more out of the west than they put in.
The federal government is also guilty.
The Honourable James Richardson, formerly Federal Minister of Supply and Services, recently pointed out the inequities of the manner in which Ottawa does its purchasing.
That department is one of the largest organizations in Canada, buying more than one billion dollars worth of goods annually.
Its operations affect the lives of many Canadian companies, large and small.
If we examine the figures for federal government purchasing which has actually taken place over the last six years, we find that only 10% of these purchases were made in the west where rye have 27% of the population.
The national government does not buy in equal measure nor anything approaching equal measure from all citizens or taxpayers in this country.
'It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of Saskatchewan citizens as they watch federal offices in Regina for example, being furnished with products made in Ontario or Quebec, instead of similar items priced competitively and made in the west.
The west generally-and in particular the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba-has another grievance with the rest of Canada.
It concerns representation in the House of Commons.
Earlier this month the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission announced that Saskatchewan's representation in the House of Commons will go down from 13 to 12.
A similar reduction will take place in Manitoba.
Now on the surface this may not appear to be a very terrible or unfair thing, but statistics tell an interesting story.
We have 915,000 people.
Each of our 12 members of parliament will represent about 76,000 people. In the province of Prince Edward Island their M.P.'s each represent only 28,000 people, or one third the number ours do.
In addition to this the Saskatchewan constituencies are, on the average, about 21 thousand square miles, while the Prince Edward Island ridings are, on the average, a little over a square mile.
Now this is not to suggest that the people of P.E.I. should have fewer representatives in Ottawa.
We recognize the wisdom in the British North America Act which ensures them the number of seats they have.
But on the other hand the feeling of injustice in the minds of Saskatchewan and Manitoba people is understandable when our representation in the House of Commons is decreasing.
Why are there no provisions for us in the B.N.A. Act?
The fact is, electoral distribution in Canada works against the west and our voice in Ottawa grows weaker at a time when the feeling that we have little say in national affairs is growing stronger.
Now I could go on citing Western grievances both real and imaginary but I hope I have made the point that in fact we do have some legitimate complaints about our position in confederation.
In fairness, I would like to point out that some significant advances have been made in rectifying the wrongs that have troubled the west.
We have had recognition for a few of our problems.
The new two-price system for wheat is a good example.
Under this plan, we get an extra dollar a bushel for wheat consumed in Canada which puts us on a more equitable basis with eastern manufacturers.
The federal government recently purchased 2000 hopper cars at a cost of $42 million to be used exclusively to move our grain to market.
In an effort to decentralize the departments of the national government, it was announced some time ago that the mint would be moved from Ottawa to Winnipeg.
The central government has also made very large contributions and continues to make them, to those provinces who are economically below the national average.
Saskatchewan is a major recipient of these equalization payments.
This was illustrated very clearly when the Saskatchewan government brought down its 1972-73 budget two weeks ago.
Actually over 40% of all Saskatchewan revenue in that budget will be coming directly from the government in Ottawa.
The reference in the federal throne speech to the problems of Western Canada and the decision to hold a western economic conference is another example of the new-found interest and concern for the west.
So it can be said with a great deal of truth that while western Canadians have a large number of legitimate complaints, the rest of the country seems to be moving in a direction to rectify at least some of them.
However, I don't think that the current attitude of western citizens is one of gratitude towards central Canada for finally beginning to listen to their complaints.
They regard such things as the two-price system as something that should have happened a long time ago.
They want to be able to control their own destiny, but all too frequently they feel that their lives are being run and decisions are being made for them in Ottawa, in Toronto and in Montreal.
I said most western discontent is unnecessary.
Over the years Western Canada has fought for free trade; the east has successfully opposed it.
Your secondary industries cannot continue to live on Canadian markets alone, they must have access to vast new markets.
We must throw off the branch-plant outlook in our economy.
Free trade will hurt some of your industries but those that survive, I think, will make up for the loss.
The whole country will emerge stronger and more prosperous.
The government of this country must force the railroads to give Western Canada an equitable deal.
Unfair freight rates have done more to kill industrialization in Western Canada than any other factor.
These unrealistic rates make the balance sheet of the railroads look good but don't be under any illusion that you, the people of Ontario, are not paying the price.
Viable industry in the west would mean increased population, more good customers for eastern factories.
Recently the federal government has spent millions of dollars to help establish industries in the west and the Maritimes. A great many of these plans are like trying to make water run uphill, it's possible, but I don't think it is worth the effort.
Give us fair freight rates and keep out subsidies; most of these hot house industries will fail as soon as the pump priming is finished.
Since Ontario produces the largest percentage of our tax dollar you, in effect, are paying the biggest share of the cost of these programs.
Almost all of Canada's major corporations have their head offices in Toronto or Montreal. Put some pressure on them to bring the west into the board rooms in a meaningful way.
You would be surprised how smart some of those farmers are.
They have even managed to make a living in spite of the east, the railroads and the politicians.
It's damned nonsense and it's poor business for companies doing business in Western Canada to act as if we had nothing to offer in the way of guidance or advice.
Tell your members of parliament to show a little statesmanship and move some of the government action to the Maritimes and out west.
We don't want to break the country up-we would just like a few of those high-priced civil servants living and spending their money in the west.
Why do all of the important offices of the federal government have to be in Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal?
I'll tell you why. Mainly because the bureaucrats say they do; no self-respecting federal minister or deputy minister could ever imagine himself working in Regina or Fredericton.
Well, I suggested to Prime Minister Trudeau, when he was out west, that he should clean house in the top two or three layers of the bureaucrats if he wanted to strike a real blow for democracy.
Maybe threatening to move them to the wild west would have the same effect.
No matter how it is accomplished the west is not satisfied to continue having all the political and governmental decisions and powers located in central Canada.
A particular piece of eastern arrogance in this regard was recently displayed by Charles Lynch.
Writing an article about western discontent as shown in the October election he said he had a feeling that we wanted more of the west for westerners.
In this Mr. Lynch was right but then he went on to say this, and I quote:
"In other words, a downgrading of Canadianism in favour of regionalism, reflecting rejection of the idea of a strong central government and indifference toward what we used to call 'The Quebec Problem'."
Surely, Mr. Chairman, moving some government departments or agencies such as the Mint, to Western Canada is not downgrading Canadianism.
All we want is a reasonable share.
We believe that these changes would make the country stronger and the central government more secure.
In a similar vein, we must take a new look at our political institutions.
The smaller provinces must be given more political power, they are not asking for equality with Ontario or with Quebec but they will not continue to accept the status of colonial outposts much longer.
These changes may be difficult but they are not impossible; and an honest start on them would go a long way toward alleviating western unrest.
I said this unhappy situation is costing you money and it is.
How many of you know what the following federal programs really mean, DREE, FRED, PEP, BEAM, CAP and DIP. They are all federal programs.
These alphabetical nightmares were dreamed up by bureaucrats in Ottawa.
I'll tell you, they are band-aid approaches to the real problem of regional disparity but they cost you millions of dollars. As I pointed out before, a growing, prosperous west will put money in your pockets, not drain away your tax dollars as is now the case.
Let me talk for a minute about the politics of the west and how I think they will affect you.
The N.D.P. now governs three out of the four western provinces.
The N.D.P. is a socialist party and it intends to change our economic system at the first opportunity.
How did it become so powerful in the west?
Are all our farmers really socialists at heart?
Not on your life! The western farmer is a fierce individualist and down deep in his heart he is an out and out capitalist.
He votes N.D. P. not because of its socialist philosophy but in spite of it.
A great many of the N.D.P. supporters see in that party the only real champion of the west.
When the N.D.P. attacks the C.P.R. or the banks or the machine companies, it is music to the ears of the western Canadians especially rural western Canadians.
They don't really sort out the fine points to discover that the N.D.P. wants to do away with these corporations and replace them with government monopolies.
They have become so frustrated over the years that any enemy of their enemy is their friend.
In case you think that little virus the N.D.P. can't spread to Ontario and Quebec and then to Ottawa, let me remind you that we once thought we had it contained in Saskatchewan.
But thanks in great measure to western discontent and frustration with eastern domination, the N.D.P. has become a credible national political movement.
That's why I say ignoring our legitimate complaints is poor politics on your part.
You may wake up and find that you have lost your freedom of enterprise on the way to the next election.
The answer has to be involvement.
If freedom of enterprise is to survive, you've got to come out of your offices, you've got to come out of the board rooms and you have to get involved in the real problems of this country.
And this means looking beyond the boundaries of central Canada.
There is another and possibly even more serious result of the west's unhappiness over their position in confederation and this could result in the actual break-up of the country.
Let me state very clearly that there is little sentiment in western Canada to pull out of confederation.
Separatism is not a serious factor in our provinces.
However, it unfortunately is true that there is a growing feeling against making any further accommodations to keep Quebec or any other part of the country in confederation.
I said earlier that there was no great anti-French backlash in the west, but there is some, and when it is added to the anti-eastern feeling you have a measurable political force that is a potential danger to our nationhood.
There are a large number of western people who lump Quebec and Ontario together and would not really care if either or both went their own way.
That's what I meant when I said we could lose this country by default.
Why do we preach to you?
Why do we continually preach to Ontario?
Because I say you hold the key to changing our political and our economic systems and changing our economic institutions that have brought about this frustration and apathy about our country and about our way of life.
You also have the most to gain by holding this country together and virtually the most to lose if it breaks up.
If you don't believe me just look around. Look around the province, look around this country.
Ontario has the highest per capita income in this nation. You've got the finest schools, the finest hospitals and the finest universities.
You have better roads, more parks, and finer cultural centres.
In fact by almost any measurement, Ontario leads the rest of Canada.
I suppose the easy answer is that you are smarter and more energetic than the rest of us.
I believe you would get an argument on that score from the rest of the country.
But even if you believe that the great prosperity that you enjoy is not by good luck but by good management, I say you better be careful that you don't find yourselves alone.
You may find out too late that you needed us as much or more than we need you.
The truth is, we need each other.
Although common sense has never played much of a role in deciding the course of history, surely our intelligence tells us we would be nothing alone but we can be great together.
We do have a great country, nowhere else on earth are people blessed with so much freedom, and such a high standard of living, and such a tremendous future as we have in Canada.
Equally, we have developed a good, sound economic system. Maybe it needs reform from time to time, but it suits us and it serves us well.
Friends, we have to work at being Canadians and I say it's worth the effort.
And we have to work equally hard to improve and maintain our present economic system and I say that's also worth the effort.
They are both worth fighting for but I say this to you today that unless we re-dedicate ourselves to both those tasks we could lose both our country and our way of life and we could lose them by default.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Steuart was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club by Mr. Graham M. Gore, a Past President of the Club.
It is a tradition in this Club that we provide a platform for someone who has a message to give, someone who can give it with facility and someone who will come to Toronto. Not everybody wants to come to Toronto but our speaker did. I used to think that-I would say a person, a man--now I'm not too sure whether it's going to be a man or not all the time from now on; some of the ladies may have some ideas about this year.
The hope is that the impression that our speaker gets today from our people will change a little bit of the picture which he has and that he'll go back to that great province of grain, pigs, potash and great blue skies and say that we are not as bad really down here, sir, as we are pictured.
The address has satisfied the characteristics that I have mentioned. Our speaker had a very definite message to give and there is no doubt about it, he did it with facility and he did it with force. This is a message that we have been getting for some time and it is well that it is repeated to easterners once in a while.
I can remember at university I lived with a number of people from Saskatchewan and some of them I am sure our speaker will know if I would mention their names today. But they had this same problem in those faraway days. Probably they were not explained as well to us easterners as they have been today.
I have been in the field of education as the President has said earlier on and I would say that the speaker today has been a good teacher. He had a lesson to teach. He taught it well and we will all remember it. We will remember that we of the easterners are only 60% responsible and we will let Ottawa, which is known as the capital commission, take the other 40% of the blame.
But, sir, and I don't want to take all the time that Joe took last week, I just want to tell you that we are very thankful to you for coming. We think you have done a wonderful job for your people and for this nation by pointing these things out. I hope it gets good press coverage. And, will ye no come back again? A fellow with the name Steuart knows what I mean.