National Unity
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Oct 1991, p. 178-190
Mulroney, The Rt. Hon. Brian, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
Constitutional choices to be made. Constitutional proposals put forward recently by the Government of Canada with a focus on priorities necessary to maintain economic prosperity. The federal government's approach to sustaining that prosperity. Choices for Canadians from an historical perspective. Proposals that attempt to reflect social realities of Canada today. The flexibility of the proposals. A review by the speaker of Canada and Quebec within Canada, and Canada's place globally. How Canada can continue to grow and develop. What Canadians need to do to sustain current standards. The speaker's proposals for a renewed Canada. The role of leadership. Current debate in Canada and the implication of choices to be made. The speaker's vision of Canada's future.
Date of Original
25 Oct 1991
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The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister of Canada
Introduction: John F. Bankes
President, The Empire Club of Canada

Welcome to this joint meeting of the Empire and Canadian Clubs. We've all heard the recent news from New York involving our guest speaker. People can be forgiven for wondering if we are to hear a speech today on the state-of-the-nation or the state-of-the-world.

My name is John Bankes. I am President of The Empire Club of Canada. Along with my co-host, Roland Lutes of the Canadian Club of Toronto, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to the Prime Minister and Mrs. Mulroney. Sir, we are looking forward to your remarks on the subject of National Unity.

Last night, I watched--like many of you--the fifth game of the World Series. The TV broadcast brought to mind one of my favourite baseball stories. It involves a remark by Yogi Berra that was made at an outdoor reception at Gracie Mansion, the New York Mayor's residence. It was a hot summer evening and the occasion was a party to honour some of the legends of baseball. Yogi Berra arrived wearing a straw hat and a lime green summer suit. Mrs. Lindsay, the Mayor's wife, approached him and commented: "Mr. Berra, you look very cool in that outfit." To which, Yogi replied: "You don't look so hot either!"

To date, Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Clark have been handling the constitutional crisis with considerable coolness. But Canadians are beginning to wonder whether as a country we're really doing "so hot" in resolving the conflict.

The constitutional issues--in one form or another--have been commanding our attention throughout Canada's history.

A century ago, and only a quarter century after Confederation, with the first of many language crises brewing in Manitoba, Sir Wilfrid Laurier wondered and worried about the breakup of the country. "We have come to a period in the history of this young country," he warned, "when premature dissolution seems to be at hand."

It has been 100 years since Laurier uttered these words. And Canada is still together. And in another 100 years, Canada will still be together! But it will require commitment, courage, passion and compassion from all of us.

Like most of you, I saw the coverage of the Prime Minister's speech in Montreal the day before yesterday. When it comes to the issue of Canada staying together, we are witnessing in our leader this high level of conviction. We are seeing a fighting spirit!

Mr. Mulroney's assets are not confined to his political leadership. Recently, one commentator wrote: "His eyes are Paul Newman blue. His hair has the swoop of the Robert Redford style." Given these physical attributes, it's not surprising that the polls recently rated him a perfect 10!

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney.

Brian Mulroney:

I am pleased to have this opportunity to share with you the Government of Canada's perspective on the challenges we face together as we begin the last decade of the 20th century. History has proven us a resilient people, Canadians' sweat and genius have given us a dynamic economy and the vision of our founders has provided us a flexible system of government. But the world is changing rapidly, and Canada must change with it.

Canada has long been a nation blessed by the sure and comforting knowledge that our immense natural resources and relatively untouched geography would always cover our mistakes, without in any way limiting our quality of life.

Today, this is less true. a nation of only 27 million, facing in excess of 350 million Europeans, almost 300 million Americans and many hundreds of millions in Asia, clearly has tough economic and political choices to make.

Constitutional choices are not about legal texts; rather, they are about protecting our freedoms, maximising our standard of living and enhancing the opportunity for every Canadian to develop his or her full potential. Not choosing--hoping the world will go away--hoping those with whom we compete who are choosing will somehow leave our markets alone or our economic prospects unthreatened, is the ultimate irresponsibility, the most serious possible dereliction of duty. At the top of the list of the choices we must make, primary among the decisions we face if we are to survive, compete and succeed, is the choice about what kind of nation we are to be, how we are to provide economic freedom and opportunity for all our citizens.

When I meet other leaders, both at home and abroad, I am struck by the growing tension between the territorial integrity of existing states and the principle of self-determination of peoples. But I also see a trend to reconcile these two principles through greater accommodation of cultural and regional identities, on the one hand, and greater economic and political integration on the other. This is what we have tried to do in our recent constitutional proposals.

In an era of intense global competition, if we fail to think nationally and act locally, if we fragment into a series of bickering, small-minded barely efficient and under-populated units with neither the internal cohesiveness nor the economies of scale necessary to sustain our existing marketshare in the world, then the world surely will take notice--but only to the extent of occupying our markets, taking away our business and gladly picking from the entrails of what was and still is the seventh largest and one of the most dynamic economies in the entire world.

Canadians who think the world owes us a living, who think we can say or do anything to each other or the whole country without consequences, who believe that our unity can withstand malice and intolerance without damage, these Canadians need only look to the international section of any daily newspaper if they need proof that no state is necessarily eternal, and no people beyond serious conflict.

The Constitutional proposals put forward by the Government of Canada some weeks ago focused primarily on those priorities that are necessary to maintain economic prosperity and genuine economic and personal opportunity for all our people. Our approach to sustaining that prosperity is, first of all, an inherent flexibility in our Canadian federation that allows us to live together, to celebrate our differences and to understand, in a living way, that to be different does not mean that we are not equal, and to be equal does not mean that we must all be the same. Equality in Canada simply means that no one has the right to discriminate against us because of our differences.

Canadians today face the choice we have faced repeatedly throughout our history: in 1774, 1791, in 1840, in 1867 and 1980. That choice is simple: Quebec will either be a distinct society within Canada, or it will develop as a distinct society outside Canada. The French language and culture, in such a minority position in North America, must continue to find in Canada the freedom and oxygen that will enable them to flourish and endure. The proposal we have put forward with respect to the distinct society which allows Quebec greater protection for its French language and culture, within Canada, combine with proposals on an elected Senate, and self-government for aboriginal peoples.

The proposals are an attempt to reflect the social realities of Canada and shape a stronger economic union. The goal is a more united and more prosperous Canada for this decade and for a new century. These proposals are not the tablets, they are not carved in stone, they are not the last word. The process is open, not closed; the proposals are flexible, not final.

The 30-member special committee of the Commons and Senate is now examining the proposals, and they will recommend changes and improvements. The job of the all-parry committee is to listen to the views of Canadians, to work with other legislative committees across the land, in every comer of our country, and to make recommendations by the end of next February, and, if at all possible, in the form of an all-party consensus. The job of interested Canadians, your job, is to work with the committee and give them your unvarnished, constructive views about how we can build a better Canada.

It is not my intention here to pre-empt the work of the committee in any way. I am here to discuss the principles and underlying objectives of our proposals. That they should not be widely known is not surprising: it is a big package and people have other things to do than debate the fine points of constitutional law, not to mention the more arcane aspects of monetary or fiscal policy. That they should be misinterpreted in some places is also normal; that is politics, and there are also those in this country whose agenda is the dismemberment of Canada, not its renewal. But for the majority who want to deal in good faith, there is much to talk about, much to consider, and much to reflect upon.

I have asked only that Canadians examine these proposals in a spirit of fairness. The BNA Act of 1867 was a great compromise, and when Quebec's unique legal system--the Civil Code--was entrenched, those provisions bound no other province, and no one lost by virtue of Quebec winning. No one lost by virtue of British Columbia winning a railway as a condition of joining Canada in 1871. No one lost by virtue of Newfoundland winning constitutional protection for its denominational schools when it joined Canada in 1949. And no one will lose now, by virtue of our proposals to recognize Quebec's distinctiveness, or self-government for our aboriginal peoples, or by an elected, effective and much more equitable Senate, which will give Westerners and residents of the Atlantic Provinces a stronger voice in our national institutions. No one has to lose for another Canadian to benefit.

Nation building is not a zero-sum game. Nation building in any nation worth building, must be a win-win situation for all its people. I ask those of you here today to put yourselves in the shoes of Canadians in the West and the Atlantic region who feel alienated from their parliamentary institutions and have requested Senate reform as a remedy. And I ask you to put yourselves in the shoes of Aboriginal Canadians, whose economic and social situation is unacceptable and who ask only for respect and the tools necessary to do for themselves what paternalistic attitudes have so miserably failed to correct in the past. Whether one lives in the North or the West, in Atlantic Canada, in Quebec or in Ontario, the proposals we have put forward speak of government that is by Constitutional definition more open, more responsive, more national, less bureaucratically centralized, and less wasteful.

On Wednesday in Montreal, I told Quebecers that the real choice they must make is between being citizens of Canada or citizens of another country. I made it clear that separation means more economic barriers, fewer jobs and less prosperity. I invited Quebecers to join with other Canadians to improve Confederation and strengthen the economic union that serves us all. I invite you to do likewise because it is not through cynicism or mean-spiritedness that this great country will be preserved. No single political party, no given interest group, no easy slogan, will preserve Canada. There is no magical solution, no recipe that can easily resolve our problems. Negativism and carping lead only to a dead-end. And so, the only answer is to look within ourselves: each and every one of us will have to do his or her share, with fair minds, generous spirits and open hearts if we are to succeed in renewing Canada. I believe we can succeed.

Consider what we have built together just in the past 30 years, within the lifetimes of most of the people in this room. Since 1961, we have achieved the second highest rate of growth among the G7 countries. We have the second highest rate of investment growth in the G7 in the last 30 years. And we have achieved the highest rate of job creation in the OECD over the 30-year period, average growth of 2.5 per cent, twice the OECD average. We've achieved secure access to the world's richest market, the United States, with whom we conduct $200 billion a year of two-way trade, the biggest relationship between any two countries in world history.

So there is an impressive story of growth over the last generation, as we have all benefited from our economic union, and from liberalized trading arrangements with our partners. That is why the UN has said after an exhaustive survey that on a series of social and economic criteria, Canada is among the two best countries in the entire world in which to live. All Canadians and all provinces benefit from the growth and productivity we have achieved together.

But to continue the benefits, we must not be complacent in the face of new and compelling competitors. Consider the following: the European Commission has estimated that the creation of the internal market planned for Europe in 1992 will raise average European incomes by at least 6.5 per cent; the European monetary union is expected to raise incomes by a further five to 10 per cent. Applied to Canada, these estimates suggest that economic and monetary union generate an increase of living standard between 11.5 per cent and 16.5 per cent for the average Canadian, or between $11,000 and $16,000 for a family of four.

This is Canada as we now know it, a country in which five provinces rely more on inter-provincial than on international trade, even though Canada relies more on exports than any G7 nation except Germany, even though we export nearly twice as much per capita as Japan, and about 2.5 times as much as the United States. Quebec's single largest customer by far is Ontario, which buys 29 per cent of all Quebec exports. And as you know, Quebec is Ontario's most important Canadian customer. This two-way relationship generates nearly $30 billion in trade, and about 550,000 jobs in the two provinces now depend on that relationship continuing.

But just as Canadians share the benefits of growth in good times, we also share the benefits of fairness in hard times.

The resources of the economic union provide benefits as it has this year to farmers and fishermen--farmers hit by the international grain wars, fishermen by seasonal ice conditions. The Government of Canada doesn't do these things for Western farmers or Atlantic fishermen; it does them on behalf of all Canadians, for their fellow citizens who are in difficulty. The governing principle of an economic union is having a firm basis for economic development to ensure the availability of resources, when necessary, for sectoral assistance, fairness and sharing, within the means of all Canadians. It is the basis of being able to afford our social safety net, and the unspoken but real commitment all Canadians share to social justice. That is the governing principle of equalization payments to the poorer provinces, which ensures their provincial governments have reasonable revenues to provide comparable levels of services at comparable levels of taxation.

The best assurance of creditworthiness for provinces, private corporations, public and community institutions, of individual Canadians in global markets, is the brand name we all share, the brand name Canada. But we need to strengthen' the Canadian common market and the Canadian economic union, and we need to achieve efficiencies in government, and in the process bring government closer to the people. That is why we are proposing that the Common Market clause of the Constitution, which was written for the needs of a pre-industrial society in 1867, be updated to include the free movement of persons, services, and capital, as well as of goods within the Canada of the 21st century. And that is why we are proposing new mechanisms to allow the Federal Government to work in co-operation with the provinces in managing the Canadian economy.

I ask those who oppose a stronger economic union: how can we generate wealth, reduce costs and enhance competitiveness without it? If the Government of Canada and its partners in the G7 can co-ordinate monetary and fiscal policy, should not the Government of Canada and its partners in Confederation be able to do the same? If the OECD can monitor the policies of 24 nations, cannot Canadians in 10 provinces and two territories do precisely the same thing? We want to make it easier for Canadians to live and prosper in their own country. We want to co-ordinate the actions of federal and provincial governments. And we want to get bureaucratic overlap and waste out of the system. And I say to you, yes we can, provided we work together, provided we stay together.

When I came to this historic forum last winter, I put before you six principles for a renewed Canada. One, any proposals must promote greater prosperity for Canadians. Two, the proposals must promote a more efficient federation and a more competitive Canada. Third, any proposals that promote the diversity of Canadians must respect their equality. Fourth, any proposals must be achievable. Fifth, any proposals must maintain national objectives and goals. And sixth, we were prepared to consider any proposals that moved government closer to the people, bearing in mind that federalism is a two-way street. I believe an objective examination of the government's proposals will establish that we are holding firm to those principles. We want a constitution, in D'Arcy McGee's words, "cherished in the hearts of its people." Our proposals are on the table. Our principles are clear. Our objectives are widely shared. The unity and prosperity of Canadians are inextricably linked. It is now those who suggest otherwise that have some explaining to do.

Offering the working men and women of Quebec or Western Canada--a leap into the dark by focusing only on what is wrong with Canada--is no longer good enough. What would be the precise gains for the average Quebecer or Ontarian from dismembering what the UN describes as one of the two best countries in the world? Those who offer the siren call of independence have a case to make, and they have an obligation to make it in clear daylight and persuasive detail. And those in other parts of the country who would confuse resentment with reform; whose New Canada leads inevitably to two Canadas; who advocate the election of MPs so intimidated by the threat of recall by special interests that they will never have the courage to act in the national interest; who dream of a parliament so fragmented that the national well-being will be subordinated to the whims of regional groupings; those people also have some explaining to do.

Leadership is the capacity to take tough decisions and the strength to see them through. Canada cannot be governed by an avalanche of referenda, recalls and public opinion polls. Canada's problems are too intractable and complex to be resolved by those who value personal popularity above fundamental duty. In the end, someone has to take the heat. Reducing Canada's domestic market by almost seven million people, reducing Canada's continent wide reach and slowly closing our hearts to the world, to the refugees and to those who would bring resources, ability, personal will and determination to help us build this land from abroad, this is not the path to maximizing who we are as a nation and what we should try to achieve together. To put it bluntly, one does not build a nation through closing off channels of communication with important segments of the population.

Whatever some people may try to tell you, indifference to the needs of one's compatriots is malignant, never benign. Becoming unalterably unilingual and intolerably unicultural in a world of ever proliferating cultural and linguistic realities would be equally damaging to the economic prospects of every Canadian in an ever more global trading community. And so reasonableness and fair-mindedness must be our guides.

As Cartier said of Confederation in 1867: "We sealed our pact without bloodshed, and without exploitation of the weak by the strong. All it took was fairness, justice and some compromises on both sides." And he continued, "I hope that if it must be amended, it will not be to narrow the principles of fairness on which it was founded, but rather to enlarge them even more...

Let us focus on what this critical debate is truly about. It is about you, your children, your family, your future, and your country. Those who differ with the government I lead, or who may have no time for our policies, will not, I hope, confuse that opposition, to which they have every right, with their collective duty, as it is ours, to set partisanship aside when the survival of the nation itself is at stake. There will be ample time in elections to come for those bent on settling partisan scores to do so with the full will and might that our electoral system clearly and amply provides.

Those on the far left and those on the far right who would be just as pleased to combine this debate about the future of Confederation itself with their own ideological agendas had best wake up to the fact that the end of Canada means the end of all agendas because there will be no resources available to make the debate about different agendas worthwhile. Getting our act together, reaching an honourable and fair-minded accommodation, stepping back from the politics of crisis to the constructive activities of re-Confederation, this would send powerful signals to the world and above all to each and everyone of our own citizens.

We would send a powerful message to every young person in this country that, as this nation's potential is beyond limit, so too is theirs. We would say to every community volunteer, every reserve sailor, airman and soldier, to every parent, every student, and to every veteran who had fought for this country in the past, that which unites us, that which makes us uniquely Canadian, that which pervades our collective values as citizens, remains important, remains enduring and will in fact prevail.

Never, in the broad sweep of Canadian history, have so many held the key to doing so much for this country's future. For the aboriginals who lived and pioneered her first, for the immigrants who came and sacrificed together. For those who fought and died abroad so that we might live in freedom, we must not fall. Let us all reach out to each other. Let us honour the values of the Canadian ideal. To share. To believe. To trust. To aspire. To respect oneself and each other. As Sir John A. Macdonald said: "Let us be English or let us be French but above all let us be Canadians." Being Canadian is infinitely more important than being Liberal or Conservative, right or left, labour or business, from the East or the West.

If we maintain our solidarity and our determination in the coming months, Canadians in the year 2000 will live in a country of at least 30 million that respects diversity and is proud of its identity. They will live in a country--Canada--that produces approximately $1 trillion in goods and services annually, and ensures its citizens one of the highest standards of living in the world. A country where the annual income of a family of four will be nearly $20,000 or 25 per cent, greater than it is today. Canada--a country where more than 2.5 million new jobs will have been created. Canada--a country where illiteracy rates will have been reduced by at least half and where all children will have equal opportunities for good health, safety and success. A country whose freedom and democracy are the hallmark of our citizenship. Our children are the Canadians of the year 2000. They are the ones of whom we must think today.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Roland Lutes, President, The Canadian Club of Toronto.

Mr. Prime Minister, I can assure you that your words have fallen on attentive ears today. Your remarks and the proposals for constitutional reform are the catalyst for the national dialogue Canada earnestly needs at this time.

Many of us, myself included, have taken the opportunity to read the constitutional proposals outlined by the Federal Government a few weeks ago. I recommend them highly for those of you who haven't yet had this opportunity. The Canadian and Empire Clubs have arranged to have copies of these booklets available for you today.

One is called Shaping Canada's Future Together and the other is called Canadian Federalism and Economic Union.

They are on tables just outside the door of this room.

Everyone who reads the proposals will have a slightly different interpretation, I'm sure, and a different set of questions. Fortunately, we have just had a chance to hear from the chief architect of these proposals and may have had some of our questions answered in the process. I certainly did.

But these proposals, as carefully crafted as they may be, can only renew our resolve and point a direction toward constitutional reform. If we're going to make this work, we need to breathe life into the proposals with human qualities like understanding, goodwill and good faith. Success will also require the acceptance of our individual responsibility for a role in the future of this country.

Mr. Prime Minister, I understand your vital interest in this issue and I wish to extend thanks to you for being with us today. Mrs. Mulroney, thank you for being with us today. On behalf of the Empire and Canadian Clubs, we appreciate both your message and your efforts toward constitutional reform. Thank you again.

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National Unity

A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
Constitutional choices to be made. Constitutional proposals put forward recently by the Government of Canada with a focus on priorities necessary to maintain economic prosperity. The federal government's approach to sustaining that prosperity. Choices for Canadians from an historical perspective. Proposals that attempt to reflect social realities of Canada today. The flexibility of the proposals. A review by the speaker of Canada and Quebec within Canada, and Canada's place globally. How Canada can continue to grow and develop. What Canadians need to do to sustain current standards. The speaker's proposals for a renewed Canada. The role of leadership. Current debate in Canada and the implication of choices to be made. The speaker's vision of Canada's future.