Between Friends—Maintaining Confidence Canada/U.S.A. Style
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Nov 1976, p. 99-109
Collister, Ron, Esq., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The personal views of Mr. Collister concerning various situations in Canada. The issue of Quebec separation and the role the United States might play. Lack of investment in Canada from the U.S. The need for new economic policies to help Quebec and all the provinces. The need for additional benefits that would come from an improved relationship with the U.S. Some general misconceptions about the U.S. in relation to Canada. A new relationship with the U.S. under the Carter presidency. The price of nationalism for Canada. A review of the past and a plan for the future. The need for a good relationship between Canada's Prime Minister and the U.S. President. A call to Canadians, including Quebeckers to work on a better understanding of, and a better relationship with, the United States.
Date of Original
18 Nov 1976
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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
NOVEMBER 18, 1976
Between Friends--Maintaining Confidence Canada/U.S.A. Style
CHAIRMAN The President, William M. Karn


Reverend Sir, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: On the night of November 2, 1920, Radio Station KDKA in Pittsburgh told its few local listeners that Warren G. Harding had been elected President of the United States. That was the beginning of radio broadcasting in North America, as we know it today.

Fifty-six years later, on November 2nd, 1976, Mr. Ron Collister and his colleagues reported for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's National TV Network, the gradual unfolding of the outcome of the latest U.S. presidential election. That eight-hour presentation was the culmination of a two-year CBC assignment in Washington for our guest of honour to cover what became known in its final phase as the Ford-Carter election.

Since our economic well-being is so dependent upon the fortunes or misfortunes of our southern neighbour, 68% of our foreign trade being with that country alone, many Canadians, as well as the 200,000 U.S. citizens resident in Canada, were keenly interested in this political contest from its inception. Interest rose as first the Democratic nomination propelled Jimmy Carter into the limelight, followed by the Reagan-Ford Republican contest in Kansas City.

In fact I thought that Messrs. Ron Collister and Lloyd Robertson gave such a masterly presentation of that Republican convention for the CBC in August of this year that I had the audacity to approach Ronald Reagan to address our club. That was when I learned that an exgovernor of California most assuredly does not work for peanuts.

Mr. J. D. MacFarlane of the Telegram, now editorial director of the Sun, gave our speaker his start in Canada twenty-two years ago. At the Telegram he gained wide experience as a reporter (even covering Empire Club luncheons), an editorial writer, its Bureau Chief in Washington during the Kennedy regime, and in Ottawa until 1967 when he switched to the CBC.

In 1974 he climbed right into the federal political ring in YorkScarborough, and after the gong sounded went to Washington instead of Ottawa. His subsequent telecasting from the United States has given Canadians a day by day ringside view of contemporary political life in that country.

Now he has returned to the Press Gallery in Ottawa and back to the world of print at one of the most significant moments in the history of Canada, serving as Political Editor for the Toronto Sun. Never since Confederation has the moulding of public opinion and the future of Canada been more dependent upon capable coolheaded objective analysis and reporting by the news media. This is where our guest of honour excels.

Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome Ron Collister back to Canada, and it is now my great pleasure to invite him to speak to us on the subject "Between Friends--Maintaining Confidence Canada/U.S.A. Style".


Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: We have all had a nasty shock this week.

While I was listening to the Quebec election results, I wondered if I should change the subject of today's talk. I decided not to. If anything, the Quebec vote increases the urgency for a new national debate on the future of Canada-U.S. relations, with alternative scenarios, Quebec in--and Quebec out.

I believe that Quebec will stay in Confederation. Many people do not. They believe that Rene Levesque, who has charmed the voters into supporting a separatist party, can charm them into taking the final step.

The enormous doubt could hang over Canada for a decade, through one or two referenda: and, if one is successful, through the actual process of attempted separation. While this doubt remains, it would be foolish and irresponsible for our governments to plan only for a happy ending. It would be wise for all of us to consider our changed place on this continent, should the country break up.

This kind of sober review should cool the ardour of the two extremes, separatists who say, "To heck with the price", and English-speaking Canadians who say, "Let them go".

Canada, united, is more powerful, more economically viable, more significant than the sum of its parts. If Quebec goes, the pressure for absorption by the United States of all or parts of English-speaking Canada would intensify. It would not succeed. But we would have lost some of our best arguments for withstanding that pressure. In our dealings with Washington, we have argued that we are different, culturally and linguistically, and we must stay different to stay intact and provide Washington with the comforting reassurance of a stable neighbour to the north. After separation, how different would we really be?

Another argument, used more effectively in the days of the Old Relationship, was that Americans must always be aware of the impact of thoughtless action on the delicate Canadian Confederation, particularly on Quebec. After separation, how effective would that argument be?

I repeat that, in my view, Quebec will stay in Confederation. But the jury is out and the dangers are great.

The cool, unruffled reaction of the U.S. State Department and business leaders should not be interpreted as a lack of concern. It is the natural reaction of people avoiding panic and protecting their interests. It is also safe to assume that the basic decision that Canada is no longer a safe place to invest was taken by many American companies a long time ago.

The possibility of Quebec separation was always one factor. But there were many others. I remember attending congressional hearings into Canada's foreign investment legislation which, incidentally, is considered, at best, a paper tiger in the United States. The real concerns expressed in and around those hearings was that the basic investment climate was bad, particularly in Saskatchewan, with its move to take over the potash industry: and that labour unrest, to quote one businessman, was as bad as it is--or has been in the United Kingdom.

Why bother with all the hassle? It was just as easy and just as profitable to invest at home.

The indecision in Quebec, therefore, could not have come at a worse time, adding more questions to the mountains of doubt about Canada as an area for investment. That doubt is sure to show in investment decisions.

Did you notice, the other night, the youthfulness of those jumping for joy over Rene Levesque's victory?

You may not know that last month there were 90,000 Canadian men, between 20 and 24, looking for jobs in Canada. 41% were Quebeckers. I suggest that these young people, in their reaction to Levesque's victory, were staging a dance of hope, not a wake for Confederation.

So, for a start, we need some new economic policies out of Ottawa that will help Quebec and all the provinces. And we need the additional benefits that are sure to come from an improved relationship with the United States.

It is time to stop telling the Americans we don't need them. We do. It's time to stop jumping up and down on their toes and asking why they howl. It's time to stop blaming the United States for the level of its foreign ownership which, in its day, was essential to Canadian growth and to pursue positive Canadian policies. And it is time to start rebuilding a relationship with the United States on goodwill and commonsense, if only from the point of view of self-interest, to exploit the opportunities that are certainly ahead in a revitalised America.

I was in Ottawa when we started the painful pursuit of the third option, to make us less dependent on trade with the United States.

We did fairly well. We turned to Europe. It was booming. Now it is floundering. We turned to Japan, which still doesn't want our manufactured goods, the kind that make jobs for Canadians. And the Chinese? We are still waiting.

And while this has been happening, the percentage of overall trade still conducted between Canada and the United States is about the same, the largest trade between any two countries in the world.

I hope I won't be considered un-Canadian and offensive to our nationalist friends and their comfortable belief that Americans have horns and conspire endlessly against us. But I do agree with the U.S. ambassador to Ottawa when he says the election of Jimmy Carter should produce an upbeat period in our relations. And also an upbeat period in the United States. It's already started. But maybe you haven't heard it yet. That leads to another point I will deal with later, the curbs on information flow in our nationalistic society.

Democratic times, generally, are good times for Canada. But so, occasionally, are Republican. I remember when I last lived in Washington, around 1960, we were delighted that President Eisenhower was allowing more and more Canadian oil to enter the country. That was the Canadian policy, to sell as much oil as possible to the United States. The new, turnoff policy, I am sure, is wholly correct, but take some time to understand the American shock.

It's time to start talking like friends again. Rene Uvesque says if you don't share the same bed, there should be a divorce--in the context of separatism. Well, Canadians and Americans share the same continent and we should not divorce.

In the arrival of Jimmy Carter, there is an opportunity for a fresh start in our relations.

First of all, we should be comfortable with his foreign policy. Its base is strong leadership and a well-muscled defence. A dedication to a new morality in foreign policy and in government around the world: and an end to the secretive, Lone Ranger diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, now looking for a job.

Decision-making will be out in the open--a trend in Washington, but not in Ottawa, where the buddy system is still the key to unlocking information. In the United States, information is now regarded as a constitutional right, so we should know far more about what's going on in Carter's Washington. Whether or not we will understand it, that's another matter.

Carter is committed to easing tensions with Canada. I wonder if he knows how big a job that's become. While in Washington, I felt there was a new Department of Bad Timing and Useless Provocation in Ottawa. Minor issues made tidal waves. Nationalism, it seemed, was the sacred cause, whatever the price.

Carter's choice of Vice-President, Fritz Mondale, could not have been more fortunate for Canada. As a Minnesotan, Mondale has laboured in the U.S. Senate for causes that usually parallel those of Canada. He has fought for overland pipeline routes through Canada, the routes generally favoured by Canada: and he has ridiculed Canada's critics who say we can no longer be trusted as a route for energy from the Arctic to American markets.

So the arrival of Carter and Mondale should be an occasion for optimism in Canada.

What concerns me more at this moment is not the initiatives Carter may take, and their impact on Canada, but whether or not Canada is able to react to the opportunities in the new situation.

I have been away from Canada for two years. The changes have shocked me-not only in the area of separatism and economic rot and linguistic bitterness. But also in the Canadian view of the United States. In some ways, I feel I am not returning home: I am landing on an unknown planet. I am appalled by the anti-Americanism, the paranoia, the senseless nationalism, the distorted view of the United States.

If this is the price of nationalism, I, for one, am not willing to pay it. I believe the hope for a prosperous, independent Canada able to cope with its internal stresses and identity problems is a healthy economy built on the closest possible relations with the United States.

If you want to call that a "special relationship", that's fine with me. We didn't do top badly under the old one, and I couldn't understand the haste to bury it. It needed revival, not burial.

In our situation, realistically, we must have a special relationship. We share a continent divided by an artificial border and our troubles arise when we try to make it more than that--by interfering with television signals and telling people what they should read.

The arrival of Jimmy Carter is a good point in time to reconsider the past and plan for the future.

Despite all the desperate efforts to divert trade to other places efforts that began with John Diefenbaker's 15% diversion plan--our trade with the U.S. is booming. Two-way trade this year will likely be around fifty billion dollars. Even at that figure, we have neglected the United States in terms of trade promotion--and that now shows. We are in deficit--and that's a serious business. In our pursuit of exotic new markets, we have preferred the experimental to the sure thing. And now there's a panic in Ottawa to launch a major trade drive in the United States next year. Not before time.

We must give some clear indication to the United States that we are moving away from our hothouse of nationalism, indifferent to and insulated from the real world.

The architects of nationalism, generally, are politicians, academics, the media--striving for popular acceptance for the notion that all troubles come from the outside and the solution, simply, is to shut them out. This kind of nationalism, like separatism, is a distraction manufactured by leaders who do not have answers to the problems they were elected to solve. It is not a toy. The damage can be immense. My answer to those who preach it from comfortable pews is that I would not expect anyone to pay a price for nationalism--such as a place on the jobless lines--that I was not willing to pay myself. That attitude might restore some perspective to the limitations on nationalism.

Another causality in the nationalists' crusade is information, from solid, reliable, varied and global sources, the mixture needed for adult decisions by Canadians. At present, a kind of information curtain is falling around Canada, another expression of the nationalist movement. Simply, it force-grows Canadian events to a size beyond their relevance, and shuts out information that might disturb the nationalists' scale of importance. In this situation, there is a serious danger that Canadians will believe whatever they hear, because it is all they hear. Canadians are saturated by one point of view. It breeds itself. It's all-pervasive. And it's highly critical of the United States.

I suggest that if there was ever a time when we should be willing to take a new look at the United States, to find out what's really going on, it's now.

If we did, we might learn a great deal.

Why is the United States solving its problems better than we are, despite our controls program?

Why has there been such a re-birth of confidence in the United States?

Why has the United States such basic strength that, after a couple of years, it can shrug off the debilitating effects of Watergate and Vietnam, two events that would have crushed most other civilizations.

Why is there now such tremendous optimism in the United States?

Why is the rate of increase in crime slowing?

Why are people trickling back to the city cores, scorched battlefields only a few years ago?

And why are blacks happy to return to the south, the new land of opportunity?

The United States has not solved its problems, but it has turned a corner.

This is being called the start of the second revolution, to honour the broken promises of the first. At stake, says John D. Rockefeller the Third, is a higher level of human existence--or anarchy and despair.

Under Jimmy Carter, the emphasis is going to be on the quality of human life. In the important areas, we have much to teach the Americans. Health care for all, peace on the streets, rebuilding of cities. These are priority items in the agenda of the Carter administration.

To pay for all this, Carter will need to find new money or stimulate the economy to provide new government revenues. The danger in stimulation is a return of inflation. But the business community, after some uneasiness, seems to be showing confidence in his ability to handle the situation.

Business would have preferred Gerald Ford, the Abominable No-Man of government spending. They were suspicious of Carter--and Ford's charges that Carter's promises carried a $200 billion price tag. That was campaign rhetoric. Carter will be best known for the spiritual qualities of his leadership. His actions may be fairly routine from a moderate Southern conservative with a large social conscience and a preacher's instinct for healing wounds. Any major tax reform is a year off. He will probably approve a tax cut of fifteen to twenty billion dollars--and he has already eased businessmen's fears in agreeing not to replace Arthur Burns, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, who controls the money supply and is much respected by business. The changes are more likely to be in presidential style, for the first year or two, completing what Gerald Ford began--the restoration of the Presidency, after Watergate. Carter has no mandate to stand the country on its ears. Given the reality of fifty billion dollar deficits, the threat of renewed inflation, the need to keep business enthusiastic about the economic revival, now faltering he's going to be called "Cautious Carter" before too long. His line of merchandise is hope.

My concern, at the start of the Carter era, is that Carter and Trudeau--and whoever succeeds him--should hit it off. That should cast a warm glow over governmental contacts in both countries.

However, the record of personal relations between American presidents and Canadian prime ministers is not good. John Diefenbaker and John Kennedy, as we now read in the Diefenbaker memoirs, really loathed each other. Lyndon Johnson couldn't remember Mike Pearson's name. He called him Harold Wilson. Richard Nixon used bad language about Pierre Trudeau on a Watergate tape. And Gerald Ford, as far as I can gather, respected Trudeau but could never understand him--an attitude that seems to be spreading among Canadians.

In conclusion, in a serious vein, I should show my colours. I am a realistic nationalist. But I am concerned that the excesses of nationalism will do terrible damage to Canadians and their standard of living--and, most of all, to people who take no sides on the issue. Lire

In nationalism and separatism, we are on a suicide course, when the target is a global society.

New York Times columnist James Reston says we are entering a critical period in the politics of the world. We have come to a fork in the road, where there will either be a decline into separatism, nationalism and protectionism, or a determination to break with the past and create a new world order. Henry Kissinger stresses the same theme, that with all the dislocations around us, there exists an extraordinary opportunity to form the first global society, carried by the principle of interdependence. If we miss that opportunity, he says, there's going to be chaos.

It's time, I say, for Canadians--and Quebeckers--to see the signs and make the only choice. Thank you.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Sir Arthur R. T. Chetwynd, Bt., a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Between Friends—Maintaining Confidence Canada/U.S.A. Style

The personal views of Mr. Collister concerning various situations in Canada. The issue of Quebec separation and the role the United States might play. Lack of investment in Canada from the U.S. The need for new economic policies to help Quebec and all the provinces. The need for additional benefits that would come from an improved relationship with the U.S. Some general misconceptions about the U.S. in relation to Canada. A new relationship with the U.S. under the Carter presidency. The price of nationalism for Canada. A review of the past and a plan for the future. The need for a good relationship between Canada's Prime Minister and the U.S. President. A call to Canadians, including Quebeckers to work on a better understanding of, and a better relationship with, the United States.