- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 30 Nov 1972, p. 146-156
- Hatfield, The Honourable Richard B., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A discussion of recent events in New Brunswick and the reporting of same in the media. The provincial government's role in dealing with those issues. The philosophy of the provincial government and its approach to problems. The power of political office. Problems in New Brunswick, especially ones of alienation and poverty. How politicians can restore confidence in the people. Reasons for conducting government in public. Challenges in New Brunswick and how the current government plans to deal with them. Optimism for the future.
- Date of Original
- 30 Nov 1972
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- Full Text
- NOVEMBER 30, 1972
Optimism for the Future
AN ADDRESS BY The Honourable Richard B. Hatfield, M.L.A., LL.B., PREMIER OF NEW BRUNSWICK
CHAIRMAN The President, Joseph H. Potts
Restigouche and Campbellton, Madawaska and Edmundston, Miramichi and Chatham, Kennebecasis and Saint John, Passamaquoddy and St. Andrews, Mactaquac and Fredericton.
What a magical combination of names but they all have one thing in common-they are part of the fabric of New Brunswick-the Picture Province of Canada.
Sir, on behalf of every member of The Empire Club I am delighted to welcome you here and more particularly to thank you for taking time out from your extremely hectic life to share with us some of your thoughts.
The purpose and object of The Empire Club is to promote the interests of Canada and the British Commonwealth by the consideration and discussion of subjects and events relating thereto. Your presence here today is yet another milestone in the Club's history-which goes back almost 70 years.
Speaking of history, permit me to quote from some very recent history.
It is taken from a journal, or a log, written by my children during our camping expedition in the Maritimes last summer.
The quotations are from Chapters 16 and 17, yet unpublished I might say, written in Mactaquac Provincial Park, which is located some 15 miles from Fredericton on the 65-mile long Mactaquac Power Development on the Saint John River.
My 16 year old daughter, Roberta, reported as follows: And I quote:
"We zipped over from the overflow camp to our new site. It is considered by many to be the best campsite in the park and the best park we've been at. To show how great it is, we are planning to stay, yet another day. The beach is just around the corner, the water beside us, the johns a few spaces away, and there are all sorts of games, golf, croquet, baseball, etc., a store, trails, etc., showers. Today Art and Rich skindived and caddied. Other people swam and played games. Louise treated Diana and I to ice cream."
My 12 year old daughter, Diana, on the following day, recorded these words:
"We got up late compared to the mornings before. We had our early morning swim before breakfast and then we all went to the Art Gallery in Fredericton which Dad said all we had to do was see it. We almost had to see a museum but the vote was against him and he said he didn't want to go back on his word. So we didn't have to go. Then came along a fish hatchery and the boys wanted to see but the girls didn't. We ended up by seeing it which Robbie and I didn't think was fair 'cause dad was going back on his word. We went home and had lunch."
Let me assure you, Mr. Premier, that there is certainly one family from Toronto who considers your province to be the greatest.
Our guest was born in Hartland, New Brunswick.
I should tell you that Hartland is renowned not merely by reason of the fact that it was the birthplace of our guest speaker but also by reason of the fact that it has the longest covered bridge in the world, the overall length of which is 1,282 feet.
Mr. Hatfield attended Acadia University and the Dalhousie Law School.
He was first elected to the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly in 1961 at the age of 30, became Leader of the Opposition in 1968, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1969 and Premier in 1970. Certainly a most impressive and rapid rise up the arduous political ladder. He is a Director of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews; member of the provincial executive of the Red Cross Society and of the Provincial Council of the Boy Scouts of Canada.
He is also Chief Rolling Thunder and Canada's most eligible bachelor. And I was advised just today that he was appointed during his recent visit to France as Knight Commander of a wine tasting society.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to present to you The Honourable Richard Hatfield, Premier of New Brunswick.
THE HONOURABLE RICHARD B. HATFIELD:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I think that we will have to refer your daughters' log to our Tourist Department-Publications. They are some of the best words about New Brunswick I've heard.
I want to say what a privilege it is for me to be here this afternoon. Before I begin I would like to mention that a very close friend of mine has come to Toronto to be here at this luncheon. A man who gave me a great deal of strength and support during my political career. A man who set an example to me and that man last night died in Toronto-Macdonald D. Patterson. A man whom I'm sure that many of you, particularly in the business community of Toronto, knew and respected and regarded as highly as I did.
I am also very happy, Mr. President, to share this head table with a number of people who have given much to the Province of New Brunswick and in return, New Brunswick has given much to them-and I think that can apply to this whole audience in that New Brunswick has a contribution to make to you and you have a contribution to make to our Province of Canada.
I welcome the opportunity to address this distinguished audience, representative of this valued institution. It is also important, I know, that the Premier of New Brunswick be well and favourably known to such an audience. If not that, at least that there be some perception of him and his province. In a city as large and affluent as Toronto, this is not an easy thing to do.
It often occurs to me that most of what is read and heard about New Brunswick in the sense of news is likely to be bad news. That is the way of big town journalism and I have no complaint about that. Nevertheless, I have to say that if all you knew about New Brunswick was taken from the media, you would have to assume that there was a lot going wrong in that province and not much going right.
As an example, we have had some recent labour difficulties in the province and I do not minimize that fact, but I would want to put it in the context of another significant fact, which is that we are fortunate in New Brunswick to have one of the most stable labour forces in Canada, and we have enjoyed a minimum of work stoppages through strikes.
For another example, there has been much more comment in the past about the serious pollution problems along the Saint John River, but there is less realization of the fact that we have made enormous strides in cleaning up that river and restoring it to its natural and healthy state.
I should also say that the Government of New Brunswick has confronted the same complex of, problems as have many other sister provinces, and we have tried similar measures to overcome them, sometimes with more success and sometimes with less. But what we have tried not to do is to attack social and economic problems with propaganda, or to attempt to confuse motion with action, or slogans with solutions.
This leads me to a general thesis which I thought I might express today, which might be interpreted with appropriate modesty as a philosophy of government which we have adopted and which is very much a part of the way in which the government operates in my province.
Nevertheless, one is bound from time to time to reflect upon the business of politics, and one's part in it. I think there are two basic considerations, at least for me, that are the lights by which one steers his course in politics.
The first of these has to do with the power of office, which is what the struggle is, all about. But it is not just a struggle for power, because pwer without worthy purpose is simply tyranny. And most of us, I think, get into politics and pursue power for a worthy purpose.
My purpose, and I will be very frank with you, was to have the power to help restore public confidence, in my province, in our politics and our political institutions. Certainly, when one has power, one wants to make things better for more and more people, improve the standard of public services, and improve the daily lot of one's fellow citizens. That goes without saying.
But New Brunswick, because of its special history and character, has been-and still is-passing through a critical time. There has been, in that province, a deep and abiding sense of grievance: There has been a chronic disillusion and a chronic failure of expectations. Out of this, I believe, there grew a very real cynicism about politics and politicians, a cynicism which was especially felt by many of the young who, because politics was contemptible to them, refused to take part in it.
We had-as we still have-many in this province who are poor. We are all familiar with poverty in our part of Canada. I think it is true to say that the poor have been the pawns in our political process for a long time in New Brunswick-for too long a time. So that we see now that they organize themselves, refusing the conventional approaches of politics, and prefer direct confrontation to the traditional method of dealing through their political representatives.
They do so not only because their politicians have so many times used them and abused their confidence, but because they no longer believe that social justice can be achieved within our system. The poor and disadvantaged stand in the old clothes of the old promises, and you cannot really blame them for believing, because politicians have failed them in the past, that the politicians in the future will also fail them.
Think about it-imagine you were a citizen in this society and you could not believe there was justice, or you believed all politicians were liars, or you believed all politicians were simply lining their own pockets, or you believed politics was only for the affluent, and the quick-think about how you would feel. Imagine walking past your Provincial Legislature and saying to yourself: whatever goes on in there has nothing to do with me.
But it is not only the poor who sense this feeling of alienation, nor is it just the young who are non-involved, nor only the old who feel abandoned.
And I do not mean to suggest that this has happened only in New Brunswick, but I can only speak of the province I know and not about the provinces I do not know. I do know that in New Brunswick there were many people-too many people-who had not only lost confidence in the government of the day, they had really begun to lose confidence in our political process.
And this seemed to me to be the most serious problem to be faced by those in politics, and especially by those who held political power. The problem was how to restore the confidence of people in the political institutions of their own society.
Well, I know what the problem is but I do not necessarily know how to solve it. I do know that while I believe I can do something about solving it, I need a lot of help. I need help from my colleagues, from my supporters, from my party, from the press, and from the community at large, including this one. I can also tell you some of the things I thought I could do, given my responsibility, to restore the confidence of our people in their political institutions.
One of the things I decided to do was to move about the province as much as I could, as Premier, and meet people on their own terms and on their own ground. New Brunswick is a big province and, for many of its people, Fredericton is as far from them as Moose Jaw. You discover that one of the things that has happened to our society is that many people have lost the sense of governing ourselves, which is something we used to have when we really had localized power and people felt they were in close touch with those who governed them in important matters such as schools and property taxes and roads.
As I say, we have lost that immediate sense of self-government, and that is part of the problem of non-participation and non-concern. You know, people got used to the fact that the only time they would see a politician was during an election, when he wanted something from them, and the hardest person to find was a politician between elections, when they wanted something from him. I don't want to be that kind of politician.
So, one of the things I have tried to do is get around the province as often as I can and see what's going on, and be seen doing it. Now the opposition does not like this, because I use an aircraft or a helicopter and they would, I guess, much prefer it if I walked. But it is a large province as I keep trying to tell them.
Another thing I decided to do-which is not so easy as flying in an aircraft to places like Caraquet or St. Stephen-is that I would make more of the processes of government public. When I was in opposition I used to wonder what it was the government knew that I didn't know that was tucked away in all their confidential reports and surveys. When I became Premier and read the stuff I was amazed to discover how little, if anything, there was in it that was not already known.
But that is not the principal reason for conducting the public's business in public. The real reason is that the more you keep from the public, the greater the distance grows between your perception of your job, as a Premier, and the public's perception. They have a right to believe, since you have all those secret reports, that you are far better informed than they are, and therefore you ought to do something about their problems. I have come to be convinced, the more they know, the less likely they are to believe that you have magic solutions to problems. Instead, you must share your knowledge, share the problems and share the task of working things out.
I think it is possible too, for a man in public life to come to believe that he should never admit to making a mistake. But I don't believe people really want perfection in their politicians, if only because they know there cannot be such a thing. In the same way people prefer humility to arrogance, they prefer to have honest politicians who, just like anyone else, will make mistakes, and like anyone else, will admit to them.
As we all know, politics is an imperfect science. There is a tendency in politics to confuse authority with omnipotence, which is to think that might makes right. But if you want people to be involved in government, and in politics, you have to let them in on your mistakes as well as your achievements. After all, no one is really interested in a sure thing and I suspect it's true that the average citizen would trust a government that made mistakes and admitted to them a lot more than he would trust a government which kept assuring him that it had not made any mistakes.
Finally, and more seriously, I believe the vast majority of people have a very good sense of what is right and what is wrong. Politicians have been known to agonize about the political implications of a certain decision and they have also been known to make the wrong decision. What they have to ask themselves is whether their sense of right and wrong is any different, any better or worse, than that of the people they represent.
However much the view of many people has changed about politics, they nevertheless retain, I believe, a deep wisdom about what they know is right and what is not. And it seems to me to be of vital importance, and a very profound trust, that those of us who have responsibility discharge our responsibility with that in mind.
It is true that some may misunderstand you, or not understand you at all, and, in the short run, you may enjoy some measure of unpopularity. But the name of the game is not popularity, it is responsibility, and the ongoing value of the permanent institution of government which, for a brief period of a long history, the public has entrusted to you.
I believe, you see, there really is a vast, soundless but thoughtful majority of people who are not of any particular political stripe or party but who have a commonsense judgement about large public questions. They do not care too keenly as to whether political matters are always resolved to their liking or in their favour, so long as they appear to be resolved fairly, and for some sensible reasons, and so long as their leaders prove to them that they share with them this sense of the rightness of things. I believe people will put up with a lot from a government, including unpopular decisions and mistakes, providing they feel they can trust its leadership.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I said at the beginning, we face something of a challenge in New Brunswick, and perhaps elsewhere. The challenge is to our political institutions and system and how we can restore public confidence in it and the recognition that, while imperfect and sometimes faltering, it still is the best mechanism we have-indeed, the only one-to provide a sense of community, a chance to develop equality and opportunity, to unite people, and to resolve public problems.
When I say "political institutions", I mean the cabinet system, the legislative process, and the political parties which make them function. This is the machinery we have and we have none other for keeping us together, and for maintaining a free society. If we cannot resolve our problems sensibly and peacefully through our political institutions, it will only be because too many people have abandoned their confidence in our political system.
We are one of the ten Canadian provinces, certainly not the largest and obviously not among the wealthiest. We take from our part in confederation-in material terms-in dollars and cents-more than we put into it. What we can do, to compensate for that, is to contribute to the strengthening of our common political institutions and improve upon public confidence in them, and the value people put upon them.
I have no doubt as to New Brunswick's future, in an economic sense. I am confident we can overcome some of our persistent, historic social problems. But we have a larger role which, at this particular time, is a prior concern. So, ladies and gentlemen, even if the news reported from my province continues to suggest an atmosphere of crisis, or even if the trumpets of propaganda and publicity are muted, I want to reassure you that there is something new and progressive and significant happening in New Brunswick, which is the deliberate, sincere and earnest effort to create a new atmosphere of confidence and faith not merely in ourselves, or in our economic future, but in the worth of our institutions and in our capacity to govern ourselves.
Mr. Hatfield was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club by Mr. Robert L. Armstrong, First Vice President of the Club.
Mr. Chairman, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen: before expressing the appreciation of this audience to our speaker, I would like to commend our Chairman on the excellent manner in which he pronounced most of those New Brunswick names, with the possible exception of Kennebecasis.
At the conclusion of last Thursday's Empire Club luncheon meeting, our Chairman announced that our speaker next week would be The Hon. Richard B. Hatfield, President. And I wondered, having emigrated from New Brunswick a few years ago, whether my province had become a Republic and, if so, I was sure that the citizens had chosen well in a President.
There is a section of the Province of New Brunswick in the upper reaches of the Saint John River valley, a county which borders on the Province of Quebec and on the State of Maine which is familiarly known to New Brunswickers as "The Republic of Madawaska". I am not sure, Mr. Premier, whether the Premier of the Province of New Brunswick is also the President de la Republique de Madawaska.
However, aside from this bit of preamble, may I say it's been a great pleasure to have you here, sir, today. We've appreciated your message. It has been an excellent one; so sincere, so informative, so enthusiastic and so optimistic and I would like to say that many of us who are residents of Upper Canada, as we call it, whether we be natives, whether we be expatriate New Brunswickers, whether we come from other lesser known parts of the world, we are always happy to have a breath of fresh Atlantic air such as you bring us today and we thank you very much.