FEBRUARY 28, 1974
Quebec is Alive and Well in Canada
AN ADDRESS BY The Honourable Guy Saint-Pierre,
MINISTER OF INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE, PROVINCE OF QUEBEC
CHAIRMAN The President, >
Robert L. Armstrong
Distinguished head table guests, ladies and gentlemen: "Where in the world is Quebec?" is the eye-catching headline across the centrefold of "Perspective on Quebec", a comprehensive supplement to the November 19, 1973 issue of The Financial Tunes of Canada. This centrefold is very attractive (as, I am told, most centrefolds are) and it carries a message from Quebec's Department of Industry and Commerce that Quebec is in Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Dallas, Dusseldorf, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Montreal, New York, Paris, Quebec City and Tokyo and we are privileged to have as our guest of honour today the Minister in charge of that department, the Honourable Guy Saint-Pierre.
As evidence of his enthusiasm for the industrial potential of his province, he leads a large delegation of Quebecers to Japan this evening. Rumour has it that he has been diligently studying the Japanese language.
It has been my practice in introduction of our guests from La Belle Province, whose mother tongue is French, to attempt to communicate in our other official language, with varying degrees of success, as comments would indicate. When introducing Doctor Gustave Gingras, who had just returned from leading a medical delegation to China, he complimented me on my French by saying that I spoke it just as well as he did Chinese. A further subtle comment on that occasion from one of our members was that my French was as good as that of the Right Honourable Mr. Diefenbaker. I believe I get the message and shall restrain my enthusiasm on this occasion.
Mr. Saint-Pierre is the son of an American mother and a Canadian father. His maternal grandmother was a Scot. He was educated at Victoriaville College and in 1957 he received his degree of Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering from Laval University. He was awarded an Athlone fellowship which enabled him to attend the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London for post-graduate studies and in 1959 he received his Masters Degree in Engineering from the University of London.
Mr. Saint-Pierre held a commission in the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers from 1953 to 1964. In 1964 he became Registrar of the Corporation of Engineers of Quebec and in 1967 joined Acres Quebec Limited. There he participated in the gigantic Churchill Falls Hydro-Electric project in the Labrador.
Mr. Saint-Pierre advanced rapidly to become Vice-President of Acres Quebec and could see that his progress to the Presidency was somewhat impeded by the presence of an incumbent who had no immediate plans to vacate the office.
Our guest of honour resigned from Acres in the most amicable of circumstances in 1970 and became an instant politician. He confided to me that had he been two minutes later in arriving at the airport prior to his nomination he would have missed his plane and his nomination as a Provincial Liberal Candidate in the constituency of Vercheres. He was elected Member of the National Assembly in April 1970 and in May of that year appointed Minister of Education. In 1972 he was appointed to his present portfolio.
He has found the political scene challenging and exciting and even with all his vitality and energy confesses that political life in Quebec is not entirely a bed of fleur-de-lis.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present and I ask you to welcome, the Honourable Guy Saint-Pierre, Minister of Industry and Commerce for the Province of Quebec who will address us on the subject: "'Quebec is Alive and Well in Canada".
Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: In accepting the kind invitation of The Empire Club to address this distinguished audience today, I am happily reminded of my visit to Toronto, in April of last year. At that time, I was able to report on the economic achievements and objectives of Quebec emerging from the emphasis that was -and of course, still is-being given to industrial development by our Government.
Nearly a year later, I return through the generosity of your interest to update my report to you-not only because it reflects a substantial progress in Quebec, and therefore for Canada-but because I firmly believe that open dialogue and an exchange of information between the provinces contributes to better understanding and co-operation which are essential to our mutual growth and benefit.
Incidentally, I very much hope that the excursions by Quebec spokesmen into other parts of Canada might be duplicated by their opposite numbers' more frequent appearances in my province, thus bringing to Quebecers, in a personal way, similar insights into the priorities and accomplishments of their sister provinces.
Approaching my task today, I found there was no better path to follow than to speak with sincerity about my personal experience, my personal involvement in the recent past, the present and, hopefully, the events of the near future in my province, and in our country.
I speak as a Quebecer and a French-Canadian with a diversified background of personal experience.
I was born in rural Quebec. As my name suggests, my father was a French-Canadian. However my mother was American-born and one of my grandmothers was a Scot. I studied engineering both at Laval University and at the University of London in England. As well as in Quebec, I have resided in the Maritimes and the West and, before entering politics in 1970, I was associated with a leading Canadian consulting firm which has grown over the years essentially in the Niagara Peninsula, but with corporate headquarters in Toronto.
In 1970, I entered politics with Mr. Bourassa, because I was deeply concerned with the future of my province and also because I felt that more businessmen, engineers and scientists should be involved in government affairs.
I accepted the education portfolio twelve days after the April, 1970 election, not only because an easy task has never been my preferred "piece of cake", but because I felt education was at the crossroads of so many stresses in Quebec society, such as those between urban metropolis and rural regions, between French and English populations, between a Catholic system and a Protestant system, and between the aspirations of young people and the assessment of the experience of life by an older generation.
Today, as Minister of Industry and Commerce and Chairman of the Economic Group within the Cabinet, I have been given the task by the Prime Minister of assuring the industrial progress and growth of Quebec.
Not having reached the age of 40 yet, I am thankful that circumstances have provided me such diversified experiences. This must be an asset for it forces oneself to abandon parochial attitudes, to re-assess constantly the value of established landmarks in our intellectual life and to benefit from the results of experiences derived in different cultural and economic surroundings.
I recognize that, in politics, diverse experience such as this can be a liability. We tend to be pulled uncomfortably by the opposing forces of global involvement and understanding on the one side and the demand for personal definition and identity on the other.
However, the net effect is unquestionably positive. Blinkered, simplistic, narrow interpretation of issues into black and white, good or bad classifications is rare, if not eliminated. In political terms, we evolve in (preferably elegant) shades of grey better adapted to the real needs of the population.
This means, in the words of Ottawa Correspondent W.A. Wilson, that we must avoid the notion that "Politics" with a capital "P" imply "conflict, competition and ultimate triumph . . . by the most powerful". It is rather appalling, therefore, that the Secretary of State of Canada, Mr. Faulkner, should declare that "The national interest must prevail over purely regional or local interests".
Surely, the Canadian opportunity and solution lies-and I quote Mr. Wilson again-" . . . in a meeting of the minds and a melding of interests so that, in the end, it will not be a case of one interest prevailing, but of different interests meshing".
This is my own conviction as well and I speak to you today as a moderate Quebecer and positive Canadian who seeks continually to reinforce his faith in Federalism in order to do a better job of convincing others.
I would like to comment on several aspects of the current Quebec economic picture under four headings:
1. The achievements in Quebec in 1973 and their significance;
2. The areas related to Quebec's industrial economy that require further improvement and our priorities in dealing with them;
3. An assessment of Canada's unique economic potential and the factors that could enhance or diminish it;
4. A summary of the contribution Quebec can and is making to assure economic progress for all Canadians.
The economic year of 1973 was the best Quebec has had in a quarter of a century. There are many specific facts and figures to substantiate this claim.
Quebec's gross national product in 1973 reached $28.5 billions, an increase of 13.5% over 1972. This, in real terms, means an annual growth of the GNP of 7.5%c. This percentage can be compared advantageously to a real GNP growth of 7% for Canada as a whole, 6% for the USA, 5.5% for West Germany and 4.7%c for Great Britain. As I have said before, this is an enviable record for any province.
130,000 new jobs were created representing an increase of 5.8%e of the employed labour force during 1973. For Canada, the corresponding increase was somewhat smaller at 5.1%. About 50,000 new jobs were created in the manufacturing sector and this is particularly reassuring since the Quebec economy during the five-year period of 1966 to 1971 showed no net employment gain in manufacturing at all.
Investment in the manufacturing sector continued a strong trend which began in 1970 with a progressive annual growth rate of 28.3% in 1973. This was the third year in a row in which investment in the manufacturing sector increased substantially more in Quebec than in the rest of the country.
During the period 1966 to 1970 the Quebec average annual growth rate in manufacturing investment was only 2.3% and this was substantially less than the national level, whereas since 1970, the Quebec average annual growth rate has been 10.4% and this latter figure is well above the national rate.
As a result of this high level of economic activity, for the first time in seven years, we experienced a reduction in our unemployment rate. In 1973, it stood at 7.3% which was one full percentage point below the 1972 level.
In their year-end reviews, all financial commentators have shared our enthusiasm for the economic future of Quebec, deriving from the achievements of 1973.
The Quebec unemployment rate of 7.3% is still above national rate. And this is not good enough. Since 1961, the average unemployment rate in Quebec has been 34% above the Canadian figure. But there are deeper problems still.
Quebec's industrial profile shows too great a concentration in the traditional sectors such as textiles, footwear, forestry products and clothing. These sectors traditionally have a low-growth pattern, and below-average wages and productivity level. Quebec needs more technological industries with high export potential and high productivity level. As an illustration, only 16% of the total added value of Quebec manufacturing content comes from industries with both a growth rate and a productivity level above the national average. In the case of the Province of Ontario, this figure is 30%.
The current level of research and development activities in Quebec is not satisfactory. I can count on my fingers the number of R & D laboratories in private industries in Quebec.
At the federal level, the problems are even more severe. In 1972, less than 5% of all federal scientists and research personnel were located in the Province of Quebec.
Despite comments from Federal Cabinet Ministers to the effect that a more balanced distribution of personnel would be achieved, recent statistical information contradicts this. There has been in fact a further deterioration.
I am also concerned by the prevailing attitude among some English-speaking businessmen vis-a-vis Quebec. Two years ago, an in-depth study of businessmen's attitudes towards Quebec showed that the province was seen in a more favourable light by American investors than by some leaders of the Ontario industrial community. I reject the explanation that foreigners were not in a position to correctly assess the real situation in Quebec, since 78% of management staff located in Quebec were prepared to consider our province for future expansion plans. Confidence in my province by the private sector has improved in recent years. Nevertheless, I must assure you that it is an unsettling feeling to find that other countries value us more highly than do some of our Canadian neighbours.
The slow rise of French Canadians to senior management responsibility in corporations operating in Quebec continues to be a matter of deep concern. Current company profiles of the representation of French Canadians among boards of directors, management groups or even top production personnel are in most cases clearly abnormal, given that 80% of the population of Quebec is French-speaking. This obvious disparity is both a very valid reason for frustration and clear indication of the urgency to implement corrective action. I realize that it is a matter of dual culpability.
We have made some progress but we are still falling miserably short of even our minimum objectives. We do not believe that Government legislation would produce any long-term worthwhile result. If we are to see more French Canadians assuming managerial responsibilities within large corporations, the responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the top business decision makers.
Would many of you not agree with me that more can be done by private corporations to integrate with the institutions of French Canada? It means more than simply appointing a VicePresident in charge of Public Relations or Personnel. I cannot accept the argument that competent young French Canadian managerial material cannot be found. They are there. It might mean extra effort on your part to seek them out and convince them that they will have equal opportunities. In the long run, these extra efforts will yield interesting dividends, particularly so today, when very few Canadian companies can afford the luxury of isolating themselves in an exclusive Anglo-Saxon milieu. More and more, if Canadian executives wish to penetrate European and Asian markets, they will have to display a much greater measure of flexibility in order to operate successfully in multi-cultural business environments.
I am also preoccupied that, in many instances, we are caught up in the vicious circle of vertical integration. We do not have an integrated steel-industry because we do not have enough production in steel fabricating sectors, yet we are having a hard time attracting steel-fabricating industries because the province must rely on outside sources for steel. We cannot extend our limited natural gas distribution network beyond the Montreal area because we do not have sufficient industrial demand. Yet we have difficulty, at times, in attracting industries outside of the Montreal area because these regions do not have natural gas. The Quebec Government is applying itself to breaking these self-perpetuating circles that frustrate our industrial growth.
By means of important new initiatives in the field of education, we should be in a better position to stimulate potential entrepreneurs. Many efforts have been applied to augment the quantity and quality of the graduates of our business, engineering and science faculties.
Yet one wonders if our educational system does not tend to produce post-industrial under-graduates, while Quebec is still, in great part, in the initial stages of industrial development. We are confronted by too many experts who are only preoccupied with the distribution of wealth when the true need is still to a large extent for the creation of wealth.
Therefore, in the industrial and commercial fields, the Government of Quebec will seek to attain the following four objectives in coming years:
1. A growth rate, displayed by key economic indicators such as gross national product, total investment and net job creation, that will at least, match the performance of the Canadian economy as a whole;
2. A greater presence and interest on the part of French Canadians in the economic life of Quebec, particularly by providing special programs for small and medium-sized companies;
3. An open attitude towards foreign investments so long as they achieve a high degree of integration with Quebec organizations, academic institutions and individuals;
4. Finally, a greater portion of industrial production in sectors which are experiencing above-average growth rates and productivity levels.
There has been a great deal of talk about the language question. Our Prime Minister, Mr. Bourassa, recently indicated that legislation will be forthcoming in this complex field. Its purpose will certainly not be to eliminate the English language from all of the boardrooms of Quebec-based corporations. The problem is not there. It will however endeavour to ensure the survival of the French culture in North America and the viability of the French reality as it occurs today in Canada. It will also endeavour to establish the creation of a proper social environment to ensure the optimum development of French-Canadian individuals in all walks of life. And this is only a reasonable thing. The timing for this legislation is appropriate. The record of the Bourassa government has long since closed any credibility gap that might have existed. The solid support given to the government in the last general election provided another reason to ensure the continuation of the fair-play posture that has characterized these last four years.
Both the business community and the general public can be assured that the Quebec government is not moving in this complex field of language legislation without a thorough and lengthy study from all points of view. We are not dominated by ideological considerations or theoretical factors. We will be dealing in a pragmatic way with this real problem. We will not fight to preserve the status quo, but in our eagerness to implement changes, we will try to see the differences between those things that can be changed and those things that cannot be changed. Even in this year of 1974, there are many anomalies that hamper the progress of the use of the French language and these must gradually be removed. But there are other things that cannot be changed. One of these is that Quebec is not an island but exists in the very heart of the American continent.
Events of the last few months have increased my faith and my enthusiasm for Canada's future. Canada is more than ever a good place to live. Is there any country that offers more freedom and more challenge? If Diogenes came here with his lantern, would he be able to find ten Canadians that are really prepared to emigrate permanently to the United States, to England, to Italy, to Japan, to Latin America? I doubt it. As you say in Ontario "Is there any other place you would rather be?"
How many of us upon returning from a trip abroad, have not felt that this is a marvellous country viewed from the outside. We now should also appreciate it by looking at it from the inside.
The economies of industrialized nations in recent years have been profoundly affected by world events. The monetary crisis of 1971, the inflation of 1972, and the crisis of energy and even more inflation in 1973. Yet, despite all the shortcomings of the Canadian political system, I am convinced the average Canadian has been the least affected by these successive global-scale upsets.
The Canadian dollar behaved very well in recent years and the difficulties of the U.S. dollar did not disturb the growth rate of our export trade. Although inflation hit us all severely in 1973, it is nevertheless true that, taken over the last five years, Canada has achieved the lowest rate of inflationary increase among the OECD nations. As to the energy crisis, the Canadian consumer has been in a unique or preferred position when compared to American, European, Japanese or third-world consumers . . . alone among the non-Communist developed nations, Canada produces all of its net energy requirements.
Which international influences are most likely to affect the world economies in the coming decade? Some experts talk of an acute food shortage, others raise the spectre of macroscopic pollution problems. Still others single out grave deficiences in the supply of raw materials.
What else-perhaps a shortage of fresh water supply? In dealing with all these potential crises, Canada, as a whole, appears to have more trumps in her hand than any other country.
Canada is not a great place just because we have oil reserves in Alberta, or because of the great wheat belt of the Prairies, the immense mineral resources of the Canadian shield, the hydroelectric capacity of Quebec and B.C., the forest resources of the East and the West, the untapped potential of the Arctic and the ocean floor, the numerous accesses to world markets from the Atlantic and Pacific ports or its proximity to rich U.S. markets.
No, Canada is a great place because of all these and numerous other factors as well. But to preserve the benefits offered by such a unique combination of advantageous factors, all Canadians must be prepared to pay a certain price.
If not, the whole country might shatter and disintegrate in a Balkanisation process. For instance, in the current crisis, what price must we pay to Alberta? A most difficult question to answer. Upon comparing the unequal development of industrial growth between Ontario and the Prairies (27.3% of Ontario labour force employed in the manufacturing industry versus to only 9.8% of the Prairies), I tend to be sympathetic to the attempts of Premier Lougheed of Alberta to use the current oil problem to obtain for his province a greater degree of industrialization. But before accepting at face value his arguments of provincial jurisdiction over natural resources, it might be well to recall that the development of western oil in the last twenty years was largely due to a Federal intervention in the early 1960's. The Borden Line established in Ontario a captive home market which was forced to buy at a more expensive price than the existing international price. To a large extent also, exploration costs to discover new reserves in the West and the Arctic were supported by generous depletion allowances provided by Federal fiscal policies. Since Quebec and Ontario represent two-thirds of the Canadian population, could it not be implied that, central Canada taxpayers and consumers have paid at least two-thirds of all exploration costs to develop the oil resources in Alberta.
In the energy field, the Government of Quebec remains confident that a single-price system for petroleum will be in effect across Canada at the beginning of April as agreed at the last Federal-Provincial Energy Conference.
I am convinced that workable mechanisms are available to implement this critical concept of a one-price structure for oil across Canada. Current discussions or disagreements centre on other issues, particularly the mechanisms for calculating the price and for the sharing of the windfall revenues from Canadian oil deriving from conditions on the international market.
If, to keep the country together, we must all be prepared to pay a certain price, we should also ensure that no Canadian is asked to pay an exaggerated price to live in this country. What is too expensive or exaggerated?
It is difficult to assess because we are dealing here with a very subjective concept. We can raise many questions and let anyone attempt to come up with appropriate answers.
Are the Maritime fishermen, whose average income is about one-fifth that of the Hamilton steel workers, paying too high a price? When the people of New Brunswick or Saskatchewan, after many sacrifices to educate their youth, see most of them forced to move to central Canada to find employment, are they paying too high a price? When French Canadians appear to be so minimally present in senior posts in private industry and federal institutions, is it too high a price?
I would be inclined to answer, yes. Quebec has hitch-hiked towards Canada for many years. Now, we have our own car. But as do young people who hitch-hike often in wind and rain or under a burning sun, the day we get a car we naturally feel like taking along those who still stand on the side of the road.
In Canadian politics, they may be called Westerners or Easterners, but they pay a big price in elbow grease trying to reach a hypothetical state of well-being within Canada.
For some of them, Canada represents a Mecca that implies equality of rights and equal opportunity in terms of personal income and social services.
But if some components of their "ideal Canada" seem too remote for them to reach, one must not be surprised to discern a tendency to go and deposit their offerings and faith at the feet of a new divinity, whether it is at Ste. Anne de Beaupre or Washington.
It seems appropriate, then, in order to assure a balanced and equitable development between and within the diversified but collectively potent regions that compose Canada, that governments have a challenging, innovative role to perform. The whole should be better than the parts by themselves. Thus, governments in the provinces must lead the way to durable solutions that fulfill the legitimate aspirations of their own people and also reduce inequity relative to other parts of Canada.
As we become increasingly aware or conscious of the cost that we and our sister provinces are paying to be part of Canada, we as government must take suitable initiatives that can correct such deficiencies, not only in our self-interest, but in the interest of the whole.
If, for example, we can enhance the participation and experience opportunities for French Canadians in major business undertakings, we will not only reduce a major frustration for many Quebecers but we will develop a managerial group with distinctly Canadian characteristics which can reinforce our national identity in a business environment that is increasingly multinational.
"Consciousness", then-of our own problems and challenges as well as those of our sister provinces-is the name of the game. It provides purpose and direction to our efforts to overcome regional weaknesses and build national strength.
Ontario, perhaps, has achieved this quality sooner but today's Quebec has reached a point where it can aspire to the same kind of development because it has also developed a "consciousness" of the economic realities affecting us. We want to participate in the economic mainstream of Canada and the world as a full partner and we are actively developing the physical, financial and human resources to do so.
For Quebec in the mid-seventies, even if we prefer statistics that smile upon us as they did in 1973, a year of slower growth or recession cannot mean defeat or discouragement; nor do the present weaknesses of our economic structure mean perpetual stagnation. We are aggressively seeking solutions.
Quebec, in a sense, has in hand the keys to development by initiating opportunity over a wide spectrum. Next week, for example, I will lead a mission of two hundred and fifty business leaders to Japan to participate in a Quebec investment symposium. This is the largest undertaking of its kind ever to visit Japan.
Quebec is recognizing its potential and is mobilizing the essential factors to achieve its industrial transformation. This is not to suggest that we will explode with a "boom" like a magical, economic, jack-in-the-box. But a trend is well under way and we believe Quebec can fulfill an increasingly worthwhile partnership role with the other provinces.
Even now, Quebec markets have provided an outlet for as much as 25°l0 of Ontario's manufactured goods.
Conversely, Ontario is a key market for Quebec's products. We complement each other in this and other ways and this inter-relationship can only improve to our mutual advantage as Quebec progresses industrially and commercially. Thus, we have established an office in Toronto, under the direction of Mr. Tom Moorse, to assist in making Quebec better known in Ontario and to provide information conveniently to those seeking opportunity in my province; the response has already proven the value of this initiative and is making an important contribution to better understanding at the business level.
We hope too that Quebec can serve as a valuable link in the Canadian economic network with the eastern provinces where perhaps their needs and desires have not yet been adequately heard or understood.
Quebec will continue to try to develop "consciousness" throughout Canada as a factor that will help us progress together as a strong national entity, each doing its dynamic part to fulfill its potential and assist its partners to share the results at a price that is not too high to pay.
To ensure that this enterprise develops into a fruitful dialogue, I reiterate my invitation to any of you who would like to come to Quebec with information about Ontario and speak to us. We will, of course, try to offer a platform as fine as that with which you have provided me today, and for which I am grateful.
It is not only in our mutual interest between two longstanding neighbours, but in the interest of all of Canada, that Quebec has truly come alive again . . . and is well!
Taking a leaf from the popular book of the day on psychology, "We're OX .... you're O. K."
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Major Charles C. Hoffman.