- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Feb 2001, p. 253-261
- Binns, The Hon. Patrick George, Speaker
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- Perceptions from a recent trip to China along with the Prime Minister and other Premiers, and a business delegation. Atlantic Canada, still in need of both understanding and investment capital. Prosperity at the time of Confederation. The situation prior to and post-Confederation. Free trade, along with advancement in transportation, new energy sources, and modern communications. bringing a level playing field. Some examples of how PEI is not an underling province. Financial support for the work. The need for a National Shipbuilding Policy. Using tax policy to create jobs. Examples of some accomplishments, and a few of the challenges. Cultural attractions of the province. Some comparative figures with Ontario and Quebec. The strength of Canada in its diversity. The problem on PEI today of the fungus found on potatoes. A call for help to push Ottawa and the Americans on the issue of free trade with regard to the potato. Canada, and what it means to be Canadian
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- 22 Feb 2001
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The Hon. Patrick George Binns
Premier, Prince Edward Island
MAKING CANADA A BETTER PLACE
Chairman: John C. Koopman
Third Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Edward P. Badovinac, Chairman, The Good Neighbour's Club of Toronto (a day centre for the older, homeless and unemployed man), Director, The Empire Club of Canada and Director and Chairman, The Empire Club of Canada Yearbook; Reverend Dr. George Sumner, Principal, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto; Mehul Shah, OAC Student and Executive, TDSB Supercouncil; Patrick Sinnott, Senior Vice-President, Canadian Tire Corporation Ltd.; The Hon. Michael H. Wilson, Chairman and CEO, RT Capital Management Inc. and Former Minister of Finance for the Government of Canada; Jocelyn Cote-O'Hara, Principal, C20 & Company and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Charles McMillan, President, Scotia Glenayr Inc.; and Gaetano Crupi, President, Eli Lilly Canada Inc.
Introduction by John Koopman
In the course of human affairs sometimes small places or small groups of people have an impact on collective consciousness that is all out of proportion to their number and size. There are about 140,000- islanders - more or less the same as my home-town of Oakville. Yet PEI holds a strong place in Canadian consciousness that somehow we in Oakville don't have. The island way of life, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and even ""Bud the spud from the bright red mud"" all evoke vibrant images of the island. Back in Oakville, my suburban neighbors and I, are still waiting for Stompin Tom to sing a song about us.
The Maritimes were once the richest wealthiest part of British North America. At the dawn of confederation the Maritimes were the industrial heartland of the nascent land. Its industry the most advanced and diverse in the nation. It boasted a robust world class trading economy, a strong textile industry, a vibrant ship-building industry and a dynamic and growing financial sector. Both the Royal Bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia and several large insurers were founded there.
The Atlantic Insitute argues that the Maritime economy has been an unfortunate casualty of confederation. It points out that the advent of confederation raised trade walls that denied Maritimers the right to trade with New England, their natural trading partner, and mortally wounded its turn of the century economy. Most recently the Institute argues that current Ottawa policy toward the Maritimes, which though it might be driven by good and decent motives may have only succeeded in keeping dying industries on life support and actually suppressed viable new economic activity.
Whatever the causes the Martimes are feeling the strain. Our federation is however no stranger to strain. The west show signs of increasing estrangement from the east as they discuss building fire-walls around them and in recent weeks in Alberta for the first time open separatist talk. We are all familiar with the situation is Quebec.
Mr. Binns happily has a positive message. He contends that the genius of the Canadian undertaking is its ability to accommodate differences and respond to special needs. A Canadian who was born in Saskatchewan, raised in Alberta, and now lives in Prince Edward Island, Mr. Binns is particularly well equipped to understanding these differences.
Mr. Binns received a Master of Arts from the University of Alberta and and then worked as a development officer for the Alberta government, before joining the PEI rural development council and subsequently the PEI civil service.
He was first elected to the PEI legislative assembly in 1978. For the following six years he served in the legislative assembly and held a variety of cabinet posts including Industry, Municipal Affairs, Fisheries, the Environment, Labour, Housing, and Economic Development. From 84-88 he was part of the Michael Wilson sweep and he served in the House of Commons in Ottawa as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans before returning to PEI to run his edible bean farm. Are there inedible beans?
Most recently he was re-elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1996 and sworn in as Premier of PEI in November of 1996.
Ladies and gentlemen please join me in welcoming the Honorable Patrick Binns to the podium of the Empire Club.
Last Sunday I returned from China, along with the Prime Minister, other Premiers, and a business delegation of approximately 600 people from across Canada. One of the most vivid memories I now carry is the contrast between poverty and affluence in that country of 1.3 billion people. The poverty was evident by the poor housing, the grime, the two-wheeled wooden carts pulled by men, the lack of schools, and the obvious shortage of investment capital. On the other hand, the affluence in Hong Kong and Shanghai is incredible. In Shanghai, a city that historically took a laissez-faire approach to travel documents for entry, Westerners seeking a second chance teamed up with Chinese entrepreneurs creating a powerful mixture of wealth and freedom.
This is now aided by a skilled work force, rapidly developing transportation and communications facilities, and scientific advancements, resulting in a skyline of beautiful skyscrapers and a city council that is determined to continue the trend. Growth has been exceeding 40 per cent per year, and Shanghai has had as high as 30 per cent of the world's construction cranes.
Now, I did not come here to talk about China, but one last piece of trivia is that China has not had major civil strife for 25 years--an indication that its people have hope and see opportunity.
Canadian tax dollars have shaped their hope with many CIDA projects, particularly for education. These investments are made because they are the right thing to do. At the same time, a developing country that has money can buy our goods and services, thus creating jobs here in Canada. This is something we are committed to do as a country. We do it externally; and through regional development programmes and equalisation, we do it internally. That is one theme of my speech today.
Atlantic Canada still needs both understanding and investment capital. I say still, because we have not regained the levels of prosperity enjoyed by the rest of the country. Prosperity that we had at the time of Confederation. Our incomes have recently risen from about 50 per cent to 74 per cent of national levels.
Prior to Confederation, we were as prosperous and confident as anyone else. We enjoyed the benefits of considerable immigration, aggressive international trade and a strong shipbuilding sector.
Post Confederation, the national policy of John A. MacDonald of 1878 (the founder of my party), in building a country, slowed our trade with duties, with shifted immigration patterns to Central and Western Canada, and with subsidised steel-hulled steamship service from other Canadian centres while our Atlantic wooden shipbuilding industry died. Well, that was the bad news.
Now, however, the playing field is once again being levelled with opportunities coming from free trade, with advancements in transportation, with new energy sources being developed, and with modern communications enabling the emergence of the new economy.
These changes are in fact enabling substantial growth in Prince Edward Island. We are not a Shanghai or a Hong Kong or a Toronto yet, but we are not the underling province that some thought we were a short time ago. Let me give you some examples:
• Since the construction of the Confederation Bridge in 1997, a project that helped contribute to the loss of my seat in Ottawa because of my support, our tourism business has nearly doubled (proof that infrastructure is necessary and assists development).
• Since the conversion of the former CFB Summerside in the early 90s from a military operation to an Aerospace Park, our third most important export product is now aerospace parts, following potatoes and lobster. We are the largest rebuilder of Pratt & Whitney engines in North America, and build everything from aircraft cabins to landing gear and helicopter airframes.
• Trade with New England and the United States is growing strongly. I led two Atlantic Trade Missions to the New England States in the last two years which have resulted in tremendous expansion for SMEs along the eastern seaboard, which would have been very difficult without Free Trade. (Another policy that did cost me my Federal seat, but was the right thing, and I say thank you to Mike Wilson.D
• Energy self-reliance and jobs are being created from Hibernia and Sable Island. Without federal partnering, neither of the above projects would have achieved lift-off, but now contribute to our growing confidence and to national revenue. On P.E.I. we have the largest land-based rig in Eastern Canada drilling at Bear River. We believe that the field being drilled by Meteor Creek Resources, an Ontario firm, holds about 1 trillion cubic feet of gas-which is about one-quarter of the reserves of Sable Island.
• We have an opportunity and a bright future in shipbuilding. By working with the Irving Group, we are now building world-class tug boats on P.E.I. which are finding places with customers such as the Panama Canal Authority.
However, we have had to financially support this work in the initial stages. There is tremendous growth in international trade by water, but Canada will not enjoy a reasonable share without a National Shipbuilding Policy. Such a policy should keep us competitive with the U.S. which uses the Jones Act to keep us out of their market, and countries like Korea which use tax dollars to support their industries.
I might add that there is more technology on most ships today than on modern aircraft, and shipbuilding requires a highly skilled work force.
We have also been using tax policy to create jobs. We are the only jurisdiction in Canada, besides Alberta, with no PST on clothing and footwear. This has in part given us the strongest retail growth in the country for several years running. In addition, we have reduced personal income tax twice, provided a fair tax package for low-income Islanders, and tabled three successive balanced budgets.
These are examples of a few accomplishments and a few of the challenges. If your Sam Snyderman, who is a summer resident of P.E.I., was here, he would want me to tell you that we have a beautiful island and many cultural attractions like the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Anne of Green Gables and a vibrant music industry. Sam was at our East Coast music awards two weeks ago and reminded me that it is important to support our music industry.
He used the example that ABBA brought more money into Sweden than Volvo when they were producing hits. So, don't forget to look for our Atlantic musicians like Anne Murray, Lennie Gallant, Great Big Sea, Tara MacLean, Holly Cole and Richard Wood when buying new CDs.
You have Mike Weir. We have Lorie Kane who recently won the Takefuji Classic in Hawaii, and for the first time ever, a Canadian woman leads the LPGA tour in dollars earned for the season. We are also a great golf destination having hosted the Export A Skins Game at Crowbush, and last summer the first-ever Ladies Skins Game in Canada at Brudenell won by Si Ri Pak.
With so many good things happening and very positive growth, why do I ask for understanding and support? It is simple. National policy contributed to dependency in the past, and before we finish the turnaround, it could impact us again. There is a growing misconception that Atlantic Canadians will never pull their weight economically. This thinking has been enhanced by some politicians looking for short-term gain, and by some national commentators who have failed to educate themselves. One example often cited is that our cost of governing is out of line with other provinces.
The fact is that on P.E.I. we spend about $6,600 per capita annually while Ontario spends about $7,400. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is about 1:3. Quebec's is about 1:2. Our labour force participation rate is among the highest in the nation. Our unemployment rate was recorded at its lowest level since 1981. Prince Edward Island exports increased by 32 per cent last year. In the interest of time, I will not give further examples. However, as Canadians we need to support one another. We should be like a family that looks out for its members. That is why Islanders have always urged other Canadians to support Quebec's language, culture, and laws-the second theme of this address.
It is the diversity of Canada that gives us our unique identity. This gives us strength and not weakness. I was born in Saskatchewan and grew up in Alberta. Their geography and people are similar, but one has more money and resources. What kind of a Canadian would talk about putting firewalls around a piece of geography that is suddenly blessed with oil and gas royalties at the expense of other Canadians? Or just because there is a slump in lumber prices and the economy of B.C. goes flat, should we somehow be less accepting of B.C.? Of course not. When our gas revenues start pouring in, will they say we don't pull our own weight? I doubt it!
We have a big problem on the Island today. Last fall, a fungus called potato wart was found in the corner of a field of potatoes. It was immediately isolated by the best experts in the world. They say it is absolutely contained and is not a threat to other potatoes, or to any other plant, animal or human. Despite this, the United States immediately banned the import of P.E.I. potatoes. Despite the assurances given by Canadian scientists, the Americans have used unsound science arguments and refused to reopen the border. The problem is trade-related. Idaho and a few other states have a glut of potatoes and want our market share in New England.
To P.E.I., this would compare to Ontario having to shut down all auto production because there are more than enough cars in the U.S.! Should we tolerate this? No. We could well lose our budget surplus this year, and the future is uncertain. Despite Free Trade, they are winning this battle. I need your help to push Ottawa and the Americans on this issue. When some bully beats up your brother, I know that the family will not just watch. A collective approach is what Canada is all about.
I remember the first time my family travelled across the prairies to Toronto. We rode with the CNR, stayed in a hotel we had only heard about, and then we went to Oshawa to pick up our new Pontiac off the assembly line. It was summer, but we went to Maple Leaf Gardens anyway just to see the place where my heroes played hockey.
We often replayed this scenario for our summer vacation. I now visit Toronto everyday when reading the Globe and watching the National. It is a great city full of people who have shaped Canada. We even love you when the TSE has a bad week, or month!
Sometimes we growl, but we know that your contribution has made this country great. After all, you buy our potatoes and our lobsters and we in turn buy your cars and send our kids here to run your computers. And if you don't, we won't send our snowplows the next time you have a big snowstorm! Actually we had to do it, or the potatoes would have spoiled in our warehouses.
Let me close on a more serious note. I am talking about Canada and what it means to be Canadian. We would all be foolhardy to ignore the continuing tensions in Quebec and the West. Neither will go away with simply electing Jean Charest in Quebec or firewalling Alberta. To right these situations, people need to feel that they have a voice and some power over our central institutions. We need positive dialogue focussing on healing and remedies. A recent poll shows that 70 per cent of Albertans feel shut out from federal influence.
I know that they even felt that way when Don Mazankowski and Joe Clark were among the most influential governing politicians in Canada. The failure to meet reasonable expectations of federalists in Quebec will not be maintained by maintaining the status quo. Just as business has to change, so too do the institutions.
Confederation was born in Prince Edward Island, and as Premier, I embrace my duty to be faithful to Canada. In the 1864 Union talks, George Brown of Toronto gave inspiration to Edward Whalen of Charlottetown.
He argued that government had to meet the needs and circumstances of the people. The Fathers bequeathed to us a country with unique and different institutions from Britain or the United States. Professor Samuel LaSelva says it well: ""In (George Etienne Cartier's) understanding Canada was to be a nation in which multiple identities and multiple loyalties could flourish within the framework of a common political nationality.""
In other words, Canada is about accommodating difference. After all, if Canada cannot accommodate Quebec, then it is unlikely to accommodate Prince Edward Island or the Atlantic region. I supported the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord, especially those elements which accommodated Quebec. In a broader way they were an accommodation of the West and of Aboriginal people. While those failed, I suggest it is time to accept that after 133 years, our Constitution has developed some serious deficiencies.
In 1997, the Premiers and Territorial Leaders adopted the seven principles of the Calgary Declaration as a framework for building Canada's future. It was a gesture that helped to still the restless waters of Quebec and the West. It is now time to expand that dialogue, and I now plan to ask my colleagues to discuss the merits of such an initiative. I ask the same of the Empire Club, an organisation founded with the objective of supporting economic, social and political ideals for our citizens. Your positive sanction in opening up dialogue and in promoting openness, acceptance and accommodation will help maintain the best country in the world.
After all, effective and responsible government is fundamental to economic and social stability. Let's give all Canadians the same kind of renewed hope and opportunity that I witnessed in China last week.
If you haven't travelled to Atlantic Canada recently, come and see the evolution; especially come to Prince Edward Island, a great place to live, play, work and to invest. The policies that have been designed to further economic growth have been working but many are threatened. Don't let misunderstanding contribute to decline.
A plaque at Province House in Charlottetown, where the Fathers deliberated back in 1864, carries this inscription: ""They Builded Better Than They Knew."" Will the history of the next millennium record that we held fast and true to what they did in Charlottetown in 1864? It will--only if we generate the individual and collective will to make it so.
Join me in making Canada a better place. Thank you.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Jocelyn CoteO'Hara, Principal, C20 & Company and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.