Quebec as It Is
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Oct 1977, p. 55-69
Garneau, M. Raymond, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
An address following almost a year of the new government in Quebec. The reality of power on that government. The issue of national unity and Quebec's role in Confederation. A detailed examination of Quebec in 1977. Some major topics covered include the following. The results of population growth in Quebec. New government departments. The attitude of government and unions with regard to business. The uncertainty of the investment commitment process. Costs and benefits of the present Canadian federal system. The linguistic-cultural duality of Canada as a source of tension. Sovereignty association. Quebec independence. A repatriation and a remodelling of the Canadian constitution.
Date of Original
20 Oct 1977
Language of Item
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Full Text
OCTOBER 20, 1977
Quebec as It Is
CHAIRMAN The President, Peter Hermant


Ladies and gentlemen: Every young person in school knows that history can be compressed into a series of dates, and certainly that is true of Canada.

1535: Jacques Cartier discovers Stadacona--later Quebec City. 1615: Samuel de Champlain discovers Georgian Bay. September 13, 1759: General Wolfe defeats Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham. January 31, 1839: Lord Durham tables his report on the affairs of British North America. July 1, 1867: Confederation. March 31, 1949: Newfoundland becomes a province, thus making Canada truly one nation from sea to sea.

November 15, 1976, the Parti Quebecois win a surprising election victory in the Province of Quebec.

Of all the dates that I have mentioned, there is little doubt that the last, November 15, 1976, has become the most significant landmark in our history since Confederation--because it may well augur the end of Confederation as we know it.

At the very least, there will be some constitutional change because of the Parti Quebecois years in Quebec. The magnitude of the adjustments is the real question. At the most serious level is the possibility that Canada may not survive as we know it today.

Marshall McLuhan has written: "You can be a French Canadian or an English Canadian but not just a Canadian. We know how to live without an identity and this is one of our marvelous resources."

Ladies and gentlemen, identity or no identity, there is no doubt that as a nation Canada has had a real problem learning to live with its two major founding groups. We have had in this country an abundance of immigration and we are blessed with numerous and different peoples, all of whom have added materially to the strength of the nation. And yet Pierre Joseph Oliver Chauveau could write, "English and French--we climb by a double flight of stairs toward the destinies reserved for us on this continent without knowing each other and without even seeing each other except on the landing of politics."

Our guest today, M. Raymond Garneau, was until that November day the Finance Minister of the Province of Quebec under the premiership of Robert Bourassa. Finance is a difficult portfolio in any government--but particularly trying in a climate combining a slumping North American economy and a legacy of Olympic cost over-runs. And yet our guest of honour was re-elected in his riding of Jean Talon and sits today on the opposition benches of the Assemblee Nationale in Quebec City.

Until recently a Canadian has been generally described as being a dull chap (dull as in boring)--a sort of political, cultural and economic mugwump--which, as we all know, is a creature seated firmly on the fence with his mug on one side of it and his wump on the other, whose reaction to almost any suggestion, positive or negative, has usually been "not bad".

There is a new way to recognize Canadians today--they are any group of more than one who when they speak to each other do so concerning national unity, how to achieve it and how to find out what it is. As a matter of interest, there's another definition of a Canadian which appeared in the Letters to the Editor columns of The Toronto Star and which goes somewhat as follows: "A Canadian is someone who drinks Brazilian coffee from an English tea cup and munches a French pastry while sitting on his Danish furniture, having just come from an Italian movie in his German car. He picks up his Japanese pen, while sitting in front of his American television set, and writes his Member of Parliament about the problems of mounting unemployment."

The next years in our history will be perhaps the most momentous that we have experienced. Already sides are being drawn. In the forefront in the fight for federalism and unity will be the new leader of the Liberal Party in Quebec when he is chosen.

Although he is not an official candidate for that high office--yet--many in Quebec are looking at Raymond Garneau with great interest.

He is particularly well-trained for leadership. He has a Master's degree in commerce from Laval. He has worked in the life insurance industry and at the Lauzon Institute of Technology. He is a member of the Quebec Board of Trade and the Canadian Public Administration Institute. He has been elected in his riding on three separate occasions, including the most recent, and has governmental experience as executive assistant to the former Premier of Quebec, Jean Lesage, the Civil Service Ministry, the Treasury Board and the Ministry of Education--all, of course, in addition to Finance.

Ladies and gentlemen, last Sunday night the Queen addressed all Canadians on radio and television. She ended her remarks with a prayer that our singular and oft-times difficult confederation should survive this crisis and go onwards. Included in the body of the text was the following quotation: "Confederation itself was not a French idea or a British idea. It was an idea born in this land. The need for it arose from a shared experience and common problems. Its fulfilment sprang from shared attitudes and beliefs."

I believe all of us in this room share in that thought and we need the best possible people in public office and in

positions of leadership that we can provide. It is, therefore, a pleasure to introduce to you le depute de Jean Talon, Assemblee Nationale de Quebec, M. Raymond Garneau, who will address us under the title, "Quebec as It is". M. Garneau.


The story is told about Mr. Churchill that after his defeat at the polls in 1945, his wife said to him that it was "a blessing in disguise." Mr. Churchill replied: "It was well disguised indeed." Almost a year after the defeat of the government of which I was a member, we are still looking for the blessings. We have not yet found them, and neither has the Province of Quebec.

Had it not been for that unfortunate turn of events, I might well have been here today as Minister of Finance of Quebec, and my remarks would have borne on our fiscal policy, our economic situation, our plans and our hopes for the future.

I would have asserted that in the present economic circumstances, governments must be pro-business in policy; that governments have tampered more than enough with the delicate mechanism of private enterprise, and that it is high time to reassert our belief that a healthy private sector is vital to a healthy economy and even to a healthy society.

Such would have been the tenor of my remarks if the last election had turned out differently. But on November 15, 1976, a group of self-assured men and women took power in Quebec on the promise of being simply a good and responsible government. To its partisans, that government, made up of such dedicated, talented and uncompromising people was the political equivalent of the Second Coming.

Well, the reality of power has had a great sobering effect on those expectations. These same people who had all the answers when in the Opposition or in the classroom, more and more are "studying" problems and setting up work groups, committees and commissions to do so for them.

Even if the Parti Quebecois had in fact restricted itself to being a good and efficient provincial government, which it did not, its arrival in power would have forced upon all Canadians the issue of national unity and of Quebec's role in Confederation. That is, therefore, the inevitable topic I must discuss with you today.

Daniel Bell has written that "men in their imagination will always seek to make society a work of art." By that standard, social accomplishments are always insufficient and imperfect. Nevertheless, a fruitful discussion of Confederation should begin with a careful, objective accounting of what the present system has done for Canada and for Quebec. There are grave misconceptions on this subject. In our province, the separatists would like us to perceive the Quebec society as a dominated, subjugated one which must be decolonized. Outside of Quebec, there is still that lingering perception of a quaint, rural, backward, priest-ridden province of poorly educated people speaking an abominable patois that is a poor relative to the beautiful language of France.

Let us examine the reality of Quebec in 1977. It is today a very complex society, and the profound changes which have taken place in recent history are fascinating. In describing it, yesterday's confident assertion is today's obsolete cliché. For instance, Quebec's tradition of large families is no more. In 1976, Quebec had the lowest birth rate in Canada; and Quebec's conservatism and religiousness are today more easily remembered than observed. It is no longer a church-dominated society. The priesthood has lost its predominance as a valued occupation; professional occupations related to religion dropped more than 50 per cent during the period from 1961 to 1971.

Quebec's rural outlook is a thing of the past. With 81 % of its population living in cities, Quebec is as urban as is Ontario. It is also the second most industrialized province in Canada.

Our school population has increased significantly. In 1961, only 4 per cent of Quebec's population had completed a university degree, compared to 8 per cent in other provinces. In the fifteen intervening years we have caught up with the rest of Canada.

Situations of the past often place a burden on the future. In Quebec, we are still contending with the high fertility rates of the past. Our francophone population growth was almost entirely natural increase. Francophone immigration has for many years been virtually nil and indeed, for a certain period, there has been a considerable French-Canadian emigration to the United States. It is interesting

to note that at the end of the 1880s the number of Canadians having emigrated to the U.S. was estimated at 200,000, of which 125,000 originated from Quebec.

Protectionist policies at the end of the 19th century have had the effect of favouring industrialization and halting the sizable outflow of population. This was a major influence in shaping the structure of the Quebec economy with industries using a high content of labour such as textiles, clothing, leather and food, and in finding in Quebec the convenient factors of location.

Ontario was spared this natural high rate of population growth. It also benefited from the development of the U.S. steel industry in the Great Lakes region during the same period. As Quebec was developing an industrial structure akin to the one existing in the New England area, Ontario was following the trend prevailing in the north-central region of the United States. The geographic factor was largely determinant.

As a result, Quebec has been and is still facing a problem of conversion of its industrial structure while thousands and thousands of French-speaking students were graduating from colleges and universities and looking for jobs.

It is therefore not surprising that the sectors offering the least resistance to new job creation were the first to yield in the face of necessity. First the provincial government took the overflow of new labour, then the federal government, and now the private sector is under the same pressure.

In different times the order might have been different, but this period coincided with a general increase in government activities all across North America. In Quebec the rhythm was a little more rapid. From 1960 to 1970 not less than eleven new governmental departments were created, compared to nine during all of the preceding ninety-three years. Some were of front-bench importance: Education, Natural Resources, Financial Institutions and Consumer Affairs, Civil Service, Revenue, etc. The education and health care systems were also greatly expanded, especially in terms of personnel, in response to newly identified needs. A constellation of crown corporations and agencies was created, providing jobs for a great many people.

The federal government also did its share in attempting to increase the presence of French-Canadians in the federal civil service to a level equivalent to the proportion they represent in Canada. This appeared equitable and was long overdue. We are now told that a certain objective has been reached, and that the programs developed to promote this policy are to be phased out over the next five years.

There was room for expansion in the public sector in the 60s, but both levels of government were reaching the limit in the 70s. From now on, the public and para-public sectors will no longer be able to absorb the growing work force.

Faced with this situation, governments and unions in Quebec and Canada have no other choice but to be pro-business. Governments and unions must create an environment conducive to private investment which can compete on international markets. This means, first and foremost, reducing uncertainty--and so we come back to the constitutional problem, and to the urgency for all of us to achieve a more stable situation. Business investment and uncertainty never make good bedfellows.

In my opinion, it is not sufficiently recognized in Canada today that the uncertainty which plagues the investment commitment process is far more pervasive than it was a decade ago. This uncertainty is embodied in investment calculations, in the form of higher risk premiums, and prevents a normal package of capital projects from meeting acceptable financial criteria. Mr. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, has recently shown that such was the disturbing case in the United States. We in Canada have additional cause for concern, since risk premiums not only remember the last bout of inflation but, contrary to the situation in the United States, take into account that the worst might be still to come: the instability which may follow the removal of controls on prices and wages, the fall of the value of the dollar, the restriction of foreign investments, and above all the very existence of Canada.

In recent months several attempts have been made to compute either the costs and benefits of the present Canadian federal system. Published numbers did not disclose the true economic advantages of federalism. As the C. D. Howe Research Institute recently stated, the true benefits of federalism are derived from the free flow of people, goods and services within a large market, and also from having the same monetary unit supported by a broad-based economy. In fact, this was succinctly demonstrated during the oil crisis. One does not need to be versed in monetary matters to foresee what would have happened to a Quebec currency in similar circumstances. These variables form the basis of the federal bargain, encouraging different regions and people to unite. We Canadians live under a political and economic system which countries of the Common Market are gradually and painfully trying to approximate.

Mr. Leo Tindemans, Prime Minister of Belgium, in his report on Europe published earlier this year, recommended that Europe should present a unified front to the outside world. In order to achieve such unity, common economic and monetary policies, common policies on industry, agriculture and energy, and common social policies to reduce regional inequalities were recommended. This is what Canada has today. It would be a shame to destroy it all.

The large majority of Quebeckers agree with this point of view. The mere fact that PQ leaders are attempting to camouflage separation behind an economic association with the rest of Canada is testimony to this fact. Clearly on these matters some degree of consensus exists, and some of the roots of discontent in Canada stem from other considerations.

One of the most persistent sources of tension within Canada has been the linguistic-cultural duality of our country. Rather than facing away, one must foresee that the

issue will acquire a new dimension. Four fifths of Quebec's population are francophone. The constraints placed on government employment growth are redirecting young jobseekers to the private sector. Because in our normal walks of life in Quebec the natural language of communication is French, the francophone who must compete with anglophones in situations where performance is based on oral and written skills of communication in English is at a definite disadvantage.

Differences in language must be viewed as an objective barrier to transactions. Such barriers imply that a cost must be borne to overcome them, costs of which francophones feel they have always carried more than their share.

To compete in the world of business, we, francophones, have to be bilingual. If you and I want to achieve our common Canadian goals, improvements must be made in that respect.

I recall the words of C. P. Snow:

More often than I like, I am saddened by a historical myth. I cannot help thinking of the Venetian Republic in their last half century. Like us they had once been fabulously lucky. They had become rich, as we did. They had acquired immense political skill, just as we have. A good many of them were tough-minded, realistic, patriotic men. They knew just as clearly as we know that the current of history had begun to flow against them. Many of them gave their minds to working out ways to keep going.

They did not succeed. The new spice road had changed their gold into sand, and Spain and Portugal inherited from their lost wealth. But we Canadians are not in the same situation, and we can meet the challenge of the necessary changes if we will make essential compromises. I shall not pretend, however, that it will be easy and simple.

Thinking about the future of my country, seen from the Parliament of Quebec where I sit as member for Jean-Talon, I wonder if there are not reasons to be fearful.

Why do I fear? Why do I feel that this situation is one of crisis? The reason is simple. It is because I have no trust in the good faith of the political party which presently governs Quebec. Even if he speaks well and gives the impression of having an open mind, the Premier of Quebec and his political party have one idea in mind: to create an independent Quebec, and in so doing to break our country apart.

When the Premier and his colleagues talk about sovereignty-association, they often, and perhaps intentionally, give the impression that in fact they are talking about a renewed and improved federal system. Do not be taken in! It would not be.

Let me remind you that the present Minister of Finance of Quebec declared to the Economic Council of Ontario, right here in Toronto: "The PQ policy on a monetary union with Canada has changed over the years and now looks to a separate Quebec currency after separation."

The Premier, in an interview with American reporters of the U.S. News and World Report (issue of September 26) stated that an independent Quebec would probably apply to sign the NATO and NORAD agreements.

The Minister of Immigration said that he does not only want to have the power to limit the immigration, but also the power to control the outflow of Quebeckers. He also said recently that he would like to see Quebec become a paradise for political refugees from all over the world.

All those policy statements are attributes of an independent and separate state; it has nothing to do with a new type of federalism. In the PQ model of a sovereign Quebec, our relation to Canada would be exactly the same as that of Canada to the United States; we would be a foreign country.

We must not be led down a garden path by the present Quebec government, with the illusion that as long as Rene Levesque is the leader there are no problems. On the contrary, my personal feeling is that the problem in fact resides with him. He has the ability of getting his colleagues to do what the party really wants to do, and in the meantime he, the Premier, travels across the province and the country giving an image of reassurance.

As I tour the province, I urge my fellow French-Canadians to stand up and be counted for they are the first in line to correct the problem we are facing. I can tell you that I am getting a positive response.

I can tell you that the independence movement was not created only in the east end of the island of Montreal. If we are realistic, we must admit that Westmount, N.D.G. and Outremont have also had their share. Furthermore, one cannot deny the fact that an awful lot of English-speaking Canadians have failed to understand the French-Canadian reality.

But recriminations will lead us nowhere.

What we need in this country is the spirit of Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, two great Canadians who succeeded in applying reason and common sense to their discussions, rather than emotion. Twenty-five years before the fact, they were the real fathers of Canadian Confederation.

As a French-Canadian living in Quebec, I say that this country will survive and prosper. To survive and prosper it needs a strong federal government; and that strong federal government will exist only if our national institutions reflect the duality of language and culture derived from our two founding peoples.

Let us bring back and remodel our constitution. By the same token, let us make sure that the Canada we want reflects the desire of the majority of Canadians in each province or region.

Before having a constitution that reflects first a division of powers between federal and provincial governments, let us make sure that the law of the land reflects the union of the people. We shall reach this goal if the Senate, the Supreme Court, the federal ministries and the large crown corporations, all of which have been created to serve all the Canadian people, constitute a fair deal for both French- and English-Canadians.

My profound belief is that in the process of repatriation we will have to include in the law of the land the fundamental rights of every citizen in Canada.

As a case in point, it is noteworthy that the Canadian Charter of Human Rights does not include any provision concerning discrimination on the basis of language. Admittedly the issue of language rights in Canada is highly emotional. Yet it is my deep conviction that it can be resolved; in fact, I believe it is the very virtue of a federal system that it has the potential, the flexibility, to provide a lasting solution to that kind of frictional problem.

The very essence of a federal system of government is to divide the sovereignty of the state between two levels of government, each having insofar as possible exclusive jurisdiction over the fields allocated to it. In a country of two linguistic communities, more or less concentrated in certain regions, it is possible to give regional governments jurisdiction over fields having a direct bearing on the cultural development of these communities. To a certain extent, this is already the case in Canada.

Secondly, the existence of a central government depends on agreement between communities This requires recognition of the rights of each individual throughout the country. Ideally such an agreement should form a Bill of Rights and be included within the constitution. A potentially divisive situation would evolve into a civilized society in which individual rights were part of the "supreme law of the land". This in turn would reduce tensions, since conflicts which are bound to arise from time to time would be settled by the courts rather than by heated debates in Parliament. Regrettably, this is not the case in Canada, and I believe this to be a major flaw in our present system.

That flaw was evidenced last summer when the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association (CATCA) and the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association (CALPA) defeated Canada's official language policy. Notwithstanding any other considerations, we should never have allowed, and we must make sure that we never allow again, a special interest group to dictate to the Canadian government the holding of a "free vote" in Parliament on matters of public policy. That to my mind is the very basis of democracy.

As I said before, in remodelling our constitution we shall have to clarify the divisions of powers between federal and provincial governments. There will always exist gray zones in a federal system; but when the new constitution has gone through the process of repatriation and the inclusion of an amending formula, we should elaborate a permanent form of consultation so as to avoid the unnecessary frustrations which often come from the "mandarins" of both levels of government and, of course, from politicians as well.

I believe that the repatriation and remodelling of the constitution could be accomplished in a fairly short period of time. We should then submit it to a referendum to prove the desire of all Canadians to live together. In majority by province or by region, the Canadian people would establish that framework, and place it in the hands of their provincial and federal governments for appropriate administration.

I am born Canadian. I am born French-Canadian from the Province of Quebec. As you have already all noticed, English is the second language in the City of Quebec. I hope and wish that some day French will be your second language.

As I told you earlier, for months I have been going back and forth across my province, carrying the message of Canadian unity. Most people I meet are realistic, calm and determined. They are confident, but they are taking nothing for granted. They are not taken in by the rhetoric of the separatists. They are ready to do battle democratically to keep this country together. They are convinced that Quebec's real freedom, and real opportunity, lie within Canada, and they are ready to go out and convince their fellow citizens.

They need your understanding and support. They need to be assured that the rest of Canada will accept changes in our national institutions. They need to know the will of the people to live together, in mutual respect, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed, in English and in French, by Mr. John MacNaughton, Second Vice-President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Quebec as It Is

An address following almost a year of the new government in Quebec. The reality of power on that government. The issue of national unity and Quebec's role in Confederation. A detailed examination of Quebec in 1977. Some major topics covered include the following. The results of population growth in Quebec. New government departments. The attitude of government and unions with regard to business. The uncertainty of the investment commitment process. Costs and benefits of the present Canadian federal system. The linguistic-cultural duality of Canada as a source of tension. Sovereignty association. Quebec independence. A repatriation and a remodelling of the Canadian constitution.