Abroad Throughts from at Home
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Oct 1974, p. 58-70
Cornell, Ward, Speaker
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Item Type
Ontario House in London: who they are, where they come from, what they attempt, what they achieve and where they're going. A brief history of the office of Agent General. Operational and representational activities. A description of projects and programmes. New developments and missions. The importance of tourism. The concept of "selective placement." The co-operative relationship that exists between Canada House and Ontario House. The story of the CANDU nuclear reactor. What's happening in Great Britain and where that country is headed.
Date of Original
24 Oct 1974
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.

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Full Text
Abroad Thoughts from at Home
CHAIRMAN The President, Sir Arthur Chetwynd


My Lord Bishop, Your Excellency, Mr. Ministers, distinguished head table guests, ladies and gentlemen: Our guest speaker today is a long standing acquaintance and friend. I have known Ward Cornell personally for twenty-five years. Our paths have crossed many times. When he was in the educational field, so was 1. Later on in his second career, the broadcasting industry, I too had entered a related field in the lively arts.

It is therefore most pleasing for me to introduce our guest speaker to you in his new capacity as Agent General for the Province of Ontario in the United Kingdom. This is his maiden speech to The Empire Club of Canada and, I believe, the first time for him to appear in public in Ontario to update us on the state of business between Ontario and the United Kingdom and to bring us an overview of the function of Ontario House in London, England in 1974.

Ontario House is a significant link between the United Kingdom and central Canada, particularly the province of opportunity, a fact which happily coincides with the best traditions of The Empire Club of Canada. The Agent General of Ontario represents a healthy third of the population of Canada, and an even larger percentage of Canadian productive effort, in the United Kingdom, our oldest trading partner, with whom we have always had such close family ties.

Perusal of a 1974 pamphlet Ontario in Statistics, published by the Ministry of Industry and Tourism of the Government of Ontario, the Ministry to which our guest speaker reports, makes interesting reading. Rather naturally, our trade with the United States leads the list by a substantial margin. However, in second place is our old friend in business, culture and commerce, the United Kingdom.

Ward Cornell has had a most successful and interesting life to date. After completing his secondary school education at Pickering College, he served for three years in the Canadian Army, reaching the rank of Lieutenant. He then attended the University of Western Ontario, graduating in 1949.

During this time he began to use his natural talents as a communicator to supplement his veteran's allowances by taking on freelance broadcasting assignments.

His next career began immediately after his graduation from Western when he returned to Pickering College, this time in the role of a teacher of English and History. There he remained until 1954. During this period his freelance broadcasting assignments were expanding rapidly, which led him to a third career, as a broadcaster.

He became a full time news editor at CFPL Radio, in London, Ontario, where he stayed until 1967. At the same time he served as manager of the radio division of the London Free Press Printing Company.

1967-Canada's centennial year was also a big year for Ward Cornell. He launched his own company-Creative Projects in Communications. During this time many Canadians will remember Ward as one of the regular stars of Hockey Night in Canada.

In the spring of 1972 he accepted his present appointment, to expand his talents as an educator, broadcaster and businessman to a most sensitive and important post.

Even his personal life attests to his all-round abilities as a productive and able Canadian. Georgina and Ward Cornell have five children, two daughters and three sons, and also one grandson as further indication that our guest speaker is an early starter as well as a strong performer in his approach to life!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I welcome Mr. Ward Cornell on your behalf, and at this time ask him in his capacity as the new Agent General for the Province of Ontario in the United Kingdom to speak to us. His subject, an intriguing title which requires careful enunciation-"Abroad Thoughts from at Home".

Mr. Cornell.


Mr. Chairman, Mr. Minister, ladies and gentlemen, and all the ships at sea! I never hear an opening salutation at a luncheon club without thinking of my very early childhood, and bedtime prayers, when I would try to prolong the official "end of the day" by listing off "Godblesses" for everybody on McKenzie Avenue. "Mr. Chairman, Mr. Minister", etc., is the speaker's way of prolonging the "beginning" of a speech. Beginnings are always difficult.

Well, after reading several volumes of Empire Club speeches over several decades, I should begin with what seems to be the traditional approach. Are you ready?

It is with a great mixture of pride, trepidation and fear that I welcome the opportunity of addressing you. Pride because this is a prestigious audience and, quite sincerely, I am honoured to be before you, talking on a subject of which I am most proud, Ontario. As for trepidation and fear (terror is perhaps a better word), I can assure you that it is not comfortable to be at a head table with one's bosses sitting alongside, listening and weighing each word to see if one is "saying the right thing and avoiding the wrong thing", and to have former teachers, knowing the address will later be published, listening for "incomplete sentences" and "mistaken cases of agreement", to have the Consul General outwardly calm and serene but internally "apprehensive" in case some personal evaluation may necessitate a prompt telegram to the Home Office, and finally, to have an audience who more than anything wants to learn if I've become, in two years, more British than the British!

I've been most careful, since returning home, to take the elevator not the lift, to walk on the sidewalk not the pavement, sneak a candy not a sweet, to wear a sweater not a woolly, to buy gas not petrol, to go to the drugstore not the chemist, and perhaps most important of all, to avoid wearing my suit that has a vest. As a matter of fact, I have only been caught out once and that was when a taxi driver, thinking he recognized me but not being quite sure, asked who I thought would win the cup and I replied "Ipswich"!

And it is good to be home, especially at this time of year. Autumn in Ontario, without doubt, is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. And it is exciting being back in Toronto-I have been overwhelmed by the changes. Last January, for example, the communication tower was really only a weird looking concrete pole. At Yonge and Bloor there was a big hole in the ground and now there is a most handsome complex. And this list of changes could go on. Two years ago, for example, your chairman was just plain old Art!

Not long after I arrived in Britain, I attended a reception at the Commonwealth Institute in the Borough of Kensington. My host brought a charming lady to where I was standing and said to her, "I'd like you to meet the Agent General for Ontario." There was an appropriate cocktail party squeal of delight, then a short but very pregnant pause, followed by a quizzical "And just what is an Agent General?"

The lady who posed the question was a Canadian and as I was setting about preparing my remarks for today, that conversation came back to mind. Perhaps the symbolic link of the Commonwealth Institute and the Empire Club brought it back but, more importantly, I realized that most Ontarions find themselves in the same position as that enquiring lady. I felt, then, that I could be of most service to you today, to my Ministry and to my Government, if I told you about Ontario House in London--who we are, where we come from, what we attempt, what we achieve and where we're going.

A few years ago, when I was visiting the State of Indiana, I kept asking everyone I met the derivation of their nickname "Hoosier". Where did the word come from? Much to my surprise, the majority of people didn't know and wouldn't hazard a guess. The answers from the remainder were so varied that no single definition emerged. The same is true of Agent General.

The British Government between 1799 and 1833 had Crown Agents in many of their colonies. As a matter of fact, the first one was in Nova Scotia. His nominal function was to transact the affairs and carry out the necessary correspondence of the colony but his real function was to receive and account for monies issued from the Treasury. Between 1833 and 1858, with the Empire expanding and, naturally the civil service along with it, there seemed to be two chief officers. These were called Joint Agents General. One of the originals was given seven of the thirteen colonies along with New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Hong Kong, Falkland Islands and the Gold Coast. The other was given the remaining American colonies plus South Australia, New Zealand, St. Helena and Helegoland. The practice of "two bosses" didn't work any better than it does now and so when one of the "chaps" retired, he was not replaced and the title "Joint Agents General" evolved to Agent General in 1860. But that term got lost during the next decade and the old term Crown Agent returned. Meanwhile, as representational government grew in the crown colonies, many wanted a representative back at the heart of the Empire, London, and the name was soon to return.

Ontario sent its first representative to Britain in 1869, just two years after Confederation and, incidentally, about three years before the Federal Government established a High Commission. Ontario has been there ever since. Our first representative was a Commissioner who was charged, and I quote, to take "steps as might seem desirable to promote the emigration to the province of persons able and accustomed to earn their own livelihood and likely to advance the material property of the province".

As other provinces in Canada and the states in Australia sent representatives to London, the term Agent General, for what reasons nobody really knows for sure except possibly it tied in nicely with the jargon of the day, became the accepted term and the major areas of activity centred around immigration, agriculture and trade.

Last year, 1973, the present Minister of Industry and Tourism, the Hon. Claude Bennett, re-defined in the Legislature the role of the Agent General in this modern era to reflect, more accurately, the responsibilities assumed. The Agent General has dual responsibilities--operational and representational.

Operational responsibilities refer to the programmes and. activities of the Ministry of Industry and Tourism. Without going into great detail, let me tell you briefly some of the things we are working on. In the area of business development, which is the trade and industry side of our operation, Ontario House entertains about thirteen missions per year, a little bit better than one per month. These missions vary in their style but in a broad canopy can be called sales missions. Some of them are direct sales missions. Small Ontario business firms send a representative on a ministry-organized mission. Upon arrival in the United Kingdom, Ontario House has organized the itinerary of each so that he has the opportunity to sell his product to wholesalers or retailers or, more likely, secure for himself an agent or distributor. This is the most common kind of mission.

The second most common project is what we call an "exhibition" mission. In this particular activity, we encourage Ontario business firms to participate with other Ontario colleagues to show their wares at some large trade exhibition being held in London or, for that matter, elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Scotland is fertile ground these days.

In this past year, we have enjoyed tremendous success at two exhibitions at which, I am happy to say, the cash sales done right on the exhibition floor totalled over $2,000,000. The forecast for future sales was just as encouraging and satisfying.

One of the new developments, introduced last year, is a licensing mission. It is our feeling that there are some Ontario products that can best be promoted in the United Kingdom and, therefore, throughout the rest of the Common Market, through a licensing or joint venture arrangement with a British company. From this experimental licensing mission of twelve Ontario companies, ten made successful unions and are now enjoying the benefits of expanded markets.

Two other missions, product prospecting missions and business opportunity missions, are designed to add to our gross provincial product and to create new employment possibilities for our citizens. In one case, we are looking for new products that can be manufactured here at home and, in the other, exploring the possibilities of securing branch plants.

Aside from these planned missions, whatever form they might take, Ontario House offers a day-by-day on-going business development programme. We are constantly supplying information upon request from Ontario businessmen who contact us through the mails and/or drop into our offices. We offer a similar service to the British community who wonder what opportunities exist for them in the Ontario marketplace. In short, Ontario House offers a "storefront" service as well as a marketing service.

Tourism is another important part of our United Kingdom operation. Our thrust over the past two years has been to focus our attention and energy on what we call the travel trade. The travel trade are the carriers, the travel agents and, if you will pardon the expression in these uneasy days, the package tour operators. It was our belief, and our plan, to concentrate our efforts on these sources rather than engaging in a large mass-communications programme in order to increase European travel to Ontario. There are, of course, a tremendous number of variables when you talk about tourism. The rate of exchange, the charter rates, the mood of the people, the state of the economy, etc., all of the forces that go to make a tourism campaign successful come from so many different directions that no single entity can really claim credit for success. Having said that, however, at the end of the 1971 fiscal year, statistics showed that 370,000 people came from Europe to Canada with approximately 200,000 (55% ) of those people going to Ontario. At the end of the 1973 fiscal year, two years later, 790,000 Europeans visited Canada, 477,000 of them coming to Ontario. In short, tourist travel from Europe to Canada doubled in two years and about 60% of them came to Ontario.

Breaking out the United Kingdom figures in 1971, an estimated 75,000 U.K. tourists came to Ontario, and in 1973, 232,000--about three times as many. This year, despite the fuel crisis, we will enjoy a 7% increase, and so, by the end of the year, over a quarter of a million travellers from Britain will have visited Ontario.

Selective placement, at the present time, is perhaps the most interesting of our working sections at Ontario House. It is interesting that this highly important service was the basic reason for Ontario first establishing an office in the United Kingdom over a hundred years ago. Immigration and manpower, as you all know, are federal responsibilities. Selective placement is the term that Ontario now uses as the service offered to Ontario business and which assists, supports, and complements the federal service. Let me tell you how it works. An Ontario businessman needs certain skills. He goes through Canada Manpower and, when these skills are unavailable in the Canadian market, he secures permission to seek outside the country for specialized personnel. The Ontario businessman then comes to our Ministry and through the selective placement section initiates a recruitment programme.

As soon as the programme comes to us at Ontario House, we begin a search for the kind of people needed and make arrangements for the Ontario companies to select personnel from the applications that we receive. The fundamental philosophy behind our programme is this (and it is a very important one): for every person that we selectively place from the United Kingdom to Ontario it is done with the thought in mind that x number of new jobs will be created. At the present time, this ratio is running, in conservative figures, 4-1. That is, to rephrase it, for every one person that we selectively place from the United Kingdom to Ontario, four new jobs are created in the province.

You all, I am sure, can imagine how busy our office has been in the past few months, and Canada House has been even busier. To give you some idea of the work-load, in the first ten months of this year, Ontario House has handled the recruitment programmes for 175 Ontario companies and has recruited 1,400 specialized people, compared to 96 companies served last year and six hundred successful applicants.

I do not want to devote any more time to the specifics of the operational side of our activities although I am extremely proud of them. Very quickly--we do have an active and effective agricultural programme that works out of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. There is a continuing on-going communications programme with the general public and liaison with other Commonwealth countries. My staff does its best to help our citizens who, when vacationing in England, drop in to say "hello" and seek suggestions about places to eat, the best shows to see, the best tours to take and so on. We try to be of service.

Moving now to the representational aspect of the Agent General's responsibilities, it can best be described as assuming all of those duties that pertain to the government as a whole, or duties on behalf of one of the other ministries of government apart from Industry and Tourism. In the past twelve months, Ontario House has worked on projects with almost every other ministry of our government and these projects range from fact-finding research on "new towns" and "regional government" to working with officials at the High Commission in the long pursuit to sell CANDU to the British. Representation involves supporting visiting Ontario cultural groups ranging from the Toronto Symphony and the Mime Theatre to an under-fourteen boys' all star soccer team from Kitchener. It involves making contact with both the elected British Government representatives and the British civil servants. It means making contact with representatives of foreign countries to arrange meetings between Ontario ministers and their counterparts in foreign lands. It means many hours explaining Ontario's Land Transfer Tax and Ontario's Land Speculation Tax.

If a management consultant doing a job description analysis were to ask me how my time was spent (they always ask that question, don't they?) I would say 50/50 between operations and representation.

Many of these representational responsibilities involve dealings with the Canadian High Commission and the other provincial houses. I cannot let the opportunity pass without a comment on the new Canadian spirit that exists in Great Britain and the role that my fellow Agents General and the Canadian High Commissioner play in creating this spirit.

During the past two years, each of the provinces with houses in the United Kingdom, and there are seven of us, has placed a new emphasis on their activities. The days of what I call "pin-striped-cookie-pushing-duty" are over and have been replaced by action programmes that range over a broad spectrum from commercial endeavours to cultural affairs. And it isn't just the provinces who have changed. The Canadian High Commission, over the past two years, has headed out in new directions and has adopted new approaches. Our High Commissioner, His Excellency J. H. Warren, but better known to everybody in the U.K. community as "Jake", is cast in this new action mould. During his tour of duty as High Commissioner, Jake has "run the shop" and he has run it splendidly. I wish him well in whatever new responsibilities he assumes. And, of course, I look forward to the arrival in London of our new High Commissioner, Senator Paul Martin, with his vast experience in international affairs, who will add a new dimension to Canada's activities in the United Kingdom.

The co-operation, the rapport that exists between Canada House and Ontario House, and all the provincial houses, helps to make the Canadian presence in the British community a vital one. I must allude to one particular, exciting exercise of co-operation during this past year.

As you all know, the CANDU nuclear reactor is a product of the Federal Government through AECL. Ontario, through Hydro, is its best and happiest customer. Last autumn, when it looked as though the British were going to opt for the American light water reactor, the Canadian "producer" and the Canadian "satisfied customer" got together, determined to convince the British that a viable alternative existed. It was exciting for me to watch the Federal Minister of Energy, the Provincial Minister of Energy, representatives from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and Ontario Hydro, the High Commission and Ontario House all working together to achieve a Canadian success on this scientific front. The effort did not succeed nor did it fail, because the British finally elected to go the heavy water steam generating route, a system compatible with ours, and, further, agreed to work with Canada on a partnership basis to explore future foreign markets. This total effort was cooperative federalism at its best.

Two weeks ago today, Election Day in the United Kingdom, I said to myself, "Wouldn't it be splendid if I could prepare, for the Empire Club of Canada, a short, concise evaluation of exactly what is happening in Great Britain and where that great country is headed?" Splendid indeed! As a matter of fact, if I were able to produce such a statement I would qualify for some kind of Nobel Prize for amazing insight or EESP (economic extra-sensory perception).

What's happening in Great Britain and, for that matter perhaps, throughout the world, defies a simple explanation. Everywhere you turn, there seems to be a strange dichotomy. For every Keynesian economist, there's a matching monetarist. For every prophet of gloom and despair, pointing to the collapsing stock market as evidence of ruin, there is the optimist from the Midlands who says, "My order book is full. My production is up. I'd like to expand." For everyone who says price and wage controls are essential, there's a matching chorus chanting, "The social contract will work." For everyone who says, "It will be the worst winter in British history," there is a countering voice saying, "It will be tough but not as bad as everyone imagines."

This list of 50/50s could go on. I think it reflects anxiety but not despair, uncertainty but not lack of resolve. The results of the election itself reflected this 50/50 feeling but with the proviso, albeit slight, "Let's get on with it."

Will Britain get out of the Common Market? Who knows? Perhaps the best guide in this matter are Ladbrokes, the turf/ and all else accountants, who say the odds are 3-1 that Britain will stay in and about the same odds against a referendum being held.

What about devolution? Well, the nationalist vote, particularly in Scotland, reflected some deep grass root feelings, feelings that will likely intensify as output in the North Sea gas fields increases. But, as I said to some English friends a week ago, "Don't get 'up tight'--a federal-provincial system isn't so bad. As a matter of fact, in a world caught up in decentralization, it's a pretty darn good system." In the months to come, I'm convinced I'll be called upon more and more to explain the workings of the Canadian federal-provincial system.

Finally, an answer to the question that many visiting Canadians ask me and, indeed, Newsweek magazine bluntly asked a few weeks ago--"Is Britain going down the drain?"

My answer is an emphatic "no". I can't give you "emphatic" reasons for this judgment except to say that it has to do with an attitude, a way of behaving, a manner of responding and reacting that North Americans, and the rest of the world for that matter, can't quite understand. It's a "backs to the wall", "bite the bullet", "Dunkirk" spirit that is difficult to describe, let alone understand. Mike Pearson, I think, captured the feeling best in an anecdote in the first volume of his memoirs. It was World War II, things weren't going well, and Mike, a Secretary at the High Commission, was having lunch with a British friend. He was exasperated by his friend who, Mike felt, was not displaying calmness in the face of crisis so much as smugness in the face of catastrophe. "One day," said Mike, "you people will lose a battle and only then realize it was the last one." The friend's reply, writes Mike, ended all further discussion. "But, my dear chap; if it was the last one, we wouldn't lose it."

That spirit still very much exists and is guaranteed to plug any and all drains.

In closing, ladies and gentlemen, let me add this very personal word. I have enjoyed the first two years of my tour of duty in the United Kingdom very much. I enjoy London, the whole of that "green and pleasant land" and the people who inhabit it. I enjoy my job and that is greatly due to the fact that new and progressive programmes and activities for our province are constantly being generated by my Ministry and because I have an excellent staff to help put these plans into operation. But, most of all, I enjoy, and am honoured by, the opportunity of representing the finest jurisdiction in the world-Ontario.

Mr. Cornell was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Major Charles C. Hoffman, a Director of the Club.

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Abroad Throughts from at Home

Ontario House in London: who they are, where they come from, what they attempt, what they achieve and where they're going. A brief history of the office of Agent General. Operational and representational activities. A description of projects and programmes. New developments and missions. The importance of tourism. The concept of "selective placement." The co-operative relationship that exists between Canada House and Ontario House. The story of the CANDU nuclear reactor. What's happening in Great Britain and where that country is headed.