A Programme to Rekindle the Canadian Dream
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 May 1993, p. 11-21
Edwards, James S., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Candidacy campaign platform focusing on reform of justice system, debt reduction. Concern with the alienation of the Canadian people who lack hope for opportunity. Suggestions for health care reform and commercial opportunities in art and culture.
Date of Original
19 May 1993
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Full Text
James S. Edwards, Progressive Conservative Leadership Candidate
Chairman: Dr. Frederic L. R. Jackman President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Anne Libby, Co-owner, Libby's of Toronto Art Gallery and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; The Rev. Charles Plaskett, Minister Emeritus, Timothy Eaton Memorial Church; Angelo Persichilli, Vice-President, News and Public Affairs, CFMT-TV Channel 47; Bob Runciman, MPP, Leeds Grenville, Chief of P.C. Party of Ontario; Ivan de Souza, President, Investican Group; David Edmison, Investment Counsellor, Martin, Lucas & Seagram Ltd. and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Naresh Ragubeer, grade 13 student, Martingrove Collegiate Institute, Etobicoke; Mary Caroline Tillman, Vice-President, J. P. Morgan & Co., London, England; Bill Farlinger, Chairman & CEO, Ernst & Young.

Introduction by Dr. Jackman

Ladies and gentlemen, The Empire Club is privileged to present the Progressive Conservative leadership speakers' forum. This forum was established to provide each candidate a more lengthy platform than those provided in the televised national debates. Today, we have the pleasure to hear, to see, to be in the presence of a distinguished leadership candidate: Jim Edwards.

I am proud to introduce James Stewart Edwards, MP for Edmonton Southwest. Mr. Edwards comes to us directly from his Atlantic debate appearance last night, (either fresh from or exhausted from), where he distinguished himself as an outspoken proponent of law and order issues and on economic recovery and the reduction of government in our business and personal lives--topics he will elaborate upon shortly.

I am particularly pleased that some members of Mr. Edwards' family are with us. In addition to his daughter, Mary Caroline, his wife Sheila and son John are in the audience. Perhaps the greatest stress a political family feels is the constant coming and going and the prolonged absences from each other. So, I am pleased that you have chosen The Empire Club as a place to hold a small reunion during Jim's cross-country trek.

Mr. Edwards was elected to the House of Commons in 1984 and again in 1988. His 20-year broadcasting career and political talents were quickly appreciated and he was named to the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Communications.

His political star continued to rise as he served as Parliamentary Secretary to four other ministers. The bilingual Mr. Edwards chaired several House committees, most notably the Official Languages Committee. Three years ago, he was appointed Co-chairman of the Joint Special Committee on the Constitutional Amending Formula. Mr. Edwards was recently appointed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to be the Chief Government Whip in the House of Commons.

Fellow parliamentarians have described Jim Edwards as a "Prince of a Person" for he is a leader, a conciliator and a team player. A man of dignity and stature, he is also described as honest, decent, hardworking, devoutly religious and a man of his word.

At the conclusion of Mr. Edwards' remarks, he has agreed to respond to questions. These questions should be printed on the cards on each table and they will be picked up towards the end of his address.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased today to introduce Jim Edwards--a fiscal conservative whom Maclean's Magazine positions as "The Man on the Right."

Now, Mr. Edwards, unlike Stanley Hart, that cheery moderator of the cross-country TV series "Who will you vote for tonight?"--who would want you to summarize your position in 1 1/2 minutes--well, unlike him, we would like you to develop your platform fully and please take as long as you like.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Jim Edwards.

Jim Edwards

I am delighted and honoured to speak to The Empire Club today in Toronto. I very much appreciate your invitation, for it provides me with an opportunity to speak to you about my views on some of the major issues facing Canada. I fully realize that an organization so closely associated with Empire will forgive me when I say that, at least this Spring, I am not big on coronations, certainly in the political sense.

I also realize that today is budget day in Ontario--I'm not only the reservoir of truly conservative values in this leadership race; I'm also here to provide a Tory blue tint to what I suspect will be a distinct landscape of red ink later this afternoon!

A leadership race for a national party is a unique occasion in our political life, especially when the winner succeeds to the position of prime minister of our country. A leadership race provides a candidate with an unparalleled opportunity to take the pulse of Canada--to hear what Canadians are really saying, what they think, and what they aspire to. I have spoken out on many of the issues facing the delegates to our Ottawa Convention, and Canadians at large.

I have called for dramatic improvements in our justice system. I have said that the fiscal crisis facing Canada and the steady build-up of provincial and federal debt must be addressed decisively and immediately. I have outlined how we can achieve $10 billion in spending cuts at the federal level--and I must say, since the Rae budget will be upon Ontarians within hours, I didn't do this in anticipation that the province of Ontario or any other province would pick up the slack! An Edwards government would not increase income taxes. Canadians cannot absorb the burden of any new taxes. Deficit elimination cannot be achieved through punitive taxes on the petroleum industry, for instance, that obstruct entrepreneurial initiative, and punish small farms and small businesses in this great province.

My fiscal plan lays out clearly and specifically how we can finally begin to earnestly and doggedly turn our debt problems around and free ourselves and our children from this burden that we have lived with for too long. Our debt problem, resulting from rampant overspending and runaway expansion of the public sector, has contributed significantly to the sense of alienation and despair of Canadians who no longer share the dreams of opportunity and hope.

Today I want to address this alienation, and share with you what I believe is a programme to rekindle the Canadian dream. It can only be done through a practical and realistic programme of economic rejuvenation and self-reliance for Canadians. True fiscal conservatism by governments is an essential factor.

I believe that as a government and as a people, we must also examine what we share in common, not just in our economic life, but in our broader vision of what makes us Canadian--our medicare system, our arts and culture, the chances for educational excellence which we owe to our children.

A hundred and twenty-six years ago, the men and women who put down the roots to our Canadian family trees came together to create a nation. They had a dream. I believe it was a simple dream, motivated by thoughts of their families, their desire for peace, their hopes for prosperity, and their aspiration to live free of the constraints of the governments they had just left, or in some cases, escaped from.

These brave pioneers knew that in this land of Canada, there was something unique. It was a land blessed by the Creator, a garden of opportunity, a basket of abundance, and a political space in which to reach out, visualize and accomplish great things. This was an era of distinctive conservative values.

When these people came to discuss the ideas as to the form, purpose, style, and size of government, they began with a very simple premise: government was a vehicle, it was a servant, it was to allow them to do collectively what they could not do by themselves. Government had a limited role. But it had a positive role, a creative and nation-building role.

How dramatically we have departed from their dream! Where have we gone wrong?

This is the time to reflect and to change. This is the time for us to choose. You and I are the new parents of Confederation. We must redefine the role of government. We must rekindle the human spirit--the desire for individual growth and achievement, the desire to succeed.

Albert Einstein once said: "The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." How right he was. For years we have been told we needed more government; the route to our happiness was a new and bigger government programme. Fortunately, we started a new route in 1984 under our Conservative programme for economic renewal. But we also see the paradoxes and contradictions of government spending.

Over a century ago, our ancestors had a naive credo that government spending was to serve them, but today unfortunately things have become reversed. Today, we serve government. Sixty per cent of all the work we do goes in one form or another to taxes. Sixty per cent of our time and energy is dedicated to feeding the machine that dominates our lives, and even while we work to satisfy its voracious appetite, we are hamstrung by its regulations, rules and dominance of our lives.

That does not mean that all government is bad. We have a proud record of collective achievements, of government serving Canadians in areas where it can do collectively what we cannot do individually.

Today I would like to address three areas where I believe government has a role--a role to provide services efficiently and effectively, but also with a need for a spirit of individual responsibility and self-reliance. The three areas are health care, arts and culture, and education.

Almost no public policy initiative in Canada rivals the popularity and political support of medicare--the national health system first established through federal funding in the Medicare Act, which came into effect on July 1, 1967.

As everyone in this room knows, health care in Canada is big business--some $60 billion per year, or 9.2 per cent of GNP While that sounds like a lot, and it clearly is, our health-care expenditures are substantially below that spent, based on comparable measures, in the United States. Indeed, it is the perceived weaknesses of the U.S. system--particularly the huge numbers of people without access to health insurance--that makes Canadians so proud of our own system. It has become a symbol of compassion and fairness. This does not mean that our health-care costs must not be seriously examined. In fact, it is imperative that we do just that, and shortly I will outline several initiatives that would make our health-care system more efficient.

But first, let's look at the strengths of Canadian health care:

One; a rich diversity, province by province, hospital by hospital, of our health-care delivery system. Canada stands second to none in the industrialized world on this score.

Two; a freedom of access that lowers the psychological and emotional barriers to real health-care access, making our Canadian system a true model of democratic access and openness--a value that all Conservatives should cherish.

Three; a quality and richness of medical schools and research hospitals which collectively provide Canada with a leading edge in many of our cities, which few countries, let alone cities, can match. Toronto is a wonderful example, but there are many others from coast to coast, including my home city of Edmonton.

The fourth strength is the research environment. Canada has turned on a dime the framework for R and D in the pharmaceutical industry, and we can be world leaders in our chosen fields of specialization.

Now, recognizing these strengths, we must find ways to curb rising medicare costs. Superficially, user fees might be this solution. User fees have been proposed by many people, including some of my fellow contenders in this leadership race. I do not believe that user fees are the solution. Why? Because the fundamental problem with medicare is that it is an open-ended budget system--the more it is used, the more it costs. Patients cannot check costs because they lack information about costs and billing--and because of their need for care and medication. However, we can introduce a better system of information feedback to patients about the real costs of their medicare services. And there are incentives that can start in the hospitals, with the doctors, and with the drugs prescribed. User fees charged to patients at the point of entry hit the most vulnerable--the poor, the uneducated, the chronically ill. Moreover, user fees put more money into our very expensive system, rather than spending smarter and with fairness.

Various reforms are necessary and possible, with the following objectives:

• Universality should be preserved to ensure fairness;
• Renewed emphasis should be devoted to preventive medicine;
• Greater administrative flexibility should be allowed within provinces, where local conditions vary; and
• Better incentives within the delivery system should be introduced to avoid over-treatment.

I believe these objectives can be achieved through tripartite consultations involving the Federal Government, the provinces and the health-care community, leading to the following reforms:

• A shift towards preventive medicine at all levels of society, beginning in our children's schools where attitudes towards diet, exercise, and lifestyle are learned;
• A serious look at the supply of doctors with a view to reducing medical school enrolments, encouraging graduating doctors to volunteer for overseas assignments as part of our foreign-assistance programmes, or to practice in isolated areas of the country where more doctors are needed;
• An improved system of tertiary care outside the traditional hospital system, including better home care, assistance for the chronically ill, and senior citizens;
• Experiments within the tax system, for example by providing credits to citizens and families who are limited users of the medicare system except for absolutely necessary care;
• Alternate forms of medicare delivery such as group-practice clinics, health-maintenance organizations, and networks of hospitals working together to eliminate duplication.

Finally, we must take steps to avoid the unwarranted litigation that the Americans have seen in their system, which can encourage the practice of "defensive medicine" by doctors--ordering costly and sometimes unnecessary tests to guard against potential law suits.

These reforms deal with the real problems of medicare, while retaining it as a national symbol of our Canadian identity, and a genuine example of what our forefathers might have considered to be a worthy collective endeavour.

A second area where I believe that Canada as a society and Canadians as a people can develop a stronger capacity for self-reliance and individual growth is the area of arts and culture. For too long, our economists and bureaucrats have ignored the vital role that arts and culture play in our economy and in the well-being of our society. Some of you may know that most of my adult working life prior to entering politics was in a cultural industry-broadcasting. My own experience has been that cultural industries can be both fulfilling and profitable. My life has also been enriched by my years as Parliamentary Secretary to two Ministers of Communications and as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Communications and Culture. The arts are dear to my heart, and even dearer to my wife Sheila, who now serves on the Alberta Arts Council.

Canadians are not cultural philistines. They know and appreciate the role that art and culture play in a knowledge economy. But how many bureaucrats, let alone politicians, appreciate the role of art and culture as an economic resource? We often think of cultural industries in a narrow way--encompassing only publishing and broadcasting, rather than in the wider context of crafts and arts industries such as fabrics, textiles, clothing, fashion, furniture, games and toys, jewellery and leather goods, to name a few. Canada's amateur arts operate in our schools and universities; in hospitals and health centres as therapy; in our daily lives as celebration of the human spirit.

Canada's applied and decorative arts include a range of skills, crafts and talents--advertising, architecture, product design, fashion, and interior decorating. From office buildings to urban planning, from product design to advertising, from designer labels to corporate images, our applied arts are central to our economic competitiveness and well-being.

Estimates vary on the contribution of our arts industry to GNP, but there can be little doubt of its potential in job creation. It can be estimated that no less than 8.5 per cent of our GNP comes from arts industries, or $60 billion per year, employing 4.4 per cent of our work force or as many as 600,000 Canadians. Consider this great city of Toronto. How many people know that Toronto is the third-largest artistic and cultural centre in the entire English-speaking world, behind New York and London? How many people in Canada appreciate the fact that this city has four world-class private theatres, or an institution like the National Ballet School, started by individual initiative?

The commercial potential of cultural goods and services has significant implications for competition in a global knowledge-based economy. Cultural sovereignty is one area where national preference can still be extended without countervailing measures by trading partners. In other words, a nation can tailor broadcast and cultural policies as well as intellectual property rights to favour its own citizens.

This is happening in a number of countries. In Ireland, for example, the copyright income of individuals is exempt from taxation. In the United States, New York and California have special legislation favouring resident creators. The American federal government passed the Chip Protection Act making illegal the sale of American-designed microchips copied by foreign producers. Similarly, there has been discussion in Congress about a new Industrial Design Act to protect American products from being copied and sold by foreign producers in the United States.

Creativity in both art and science is a key competitive factor. Canada could set as an objective becoming a 'creativity sanctuary': a place where creative talents domestic and foreign want to live and work and to which intellectual property royalties become a significant source of national income. In developing such an initiative, however, the federal deficit and debt must be kept in mind. No additional federal spending would be required. Rather, changes in the 'rules of the game' and rationalization of existing systems would provide the necessary resources.

The most important change in realizing this objective is one of attitude and approach. Art is not a frill but rather, like science, a critical component of competitiveness. And like scientific knowledge, artistic appreciation is an end, in and of itself. Such a change could, among other things, go a long way in repatriating the Canadian talent pool currently fuelling American cultural enterprises. Did you know, for example, that the entire management team of Disney studio's animation division, which produced the blockbusters Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, are graduates of Toronto's Sheridan College?

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by David Edmison, Investment Counsellor, Martin, Lucas & Seagram Ltd. and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.

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A Programme to Rekindle the Canadian Dream

Candidacy campaign platform focusing on reform of justice system, debt reduction. Concern with the alienation of the Canadian people who lack hope for opportunity. Suggestions for health care reform and commercial opportunities in art and culture.