A Modern Foreign Policy
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Mar 1990, p. 246-256
Chretien, The Hon. Jean, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Foreign Affairs: Canada's position. Why we need a modern foreign policy and what shape that policy should take. Pursuing solutions to the emerging environmental crises. Ensuring Canada's independence and strength in a multi-lateral as opposed to a continental framework. Securing greater independence in our dealings with the United States. Looking for leadership. Three fundamental requirements for an effective foreign policy. Comments on international trade and payments system. Some danger points of a worldwide financial crisis. Some positives. The needs of the Third World. Canada's relations with the U.S.; the most important part of Canadian foreign policy. Trade policies more in keeping with the facts of globalization. Recognizing changes and diversifying efforts to promote trade. Keeping Canada united. Finding solutions.
Date of Original
8 Mar 1990
Language of Item
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Full Text
The Hon. Jean Chretien Liberal Party Leadership Candidate
Chairman: Sarah Band, President


Honoured Guests, Head Table guests, members of The Empire Club, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to introduce a great Canadian as our speaker today. In the excitement of a race, one sometimes overlooks the personality of the runners. To do so with our guest today is to overlook personal achievement of the highest order. It is to turn ones' back on a man whose career in law, politics and business give him a rare depth of insight into our country and our people.

This is a person who won his first federal election before his 30th birthday. A man who, Maclean's magazine says, "...(is) a street smart populist ... (with) an astute political intelligence".

And Mr. Chretien is capable of creating quotations which rank with those I have mentioned. He says of politics in his best-selling biography; "The art of politics is learning to walk with your back to the wall, your elbows high, and a smile on your face."

There is much more which can, and perhaps should, be said about our guest today. However, one of his comments in a recent interview causes me to stop. He said, "If you cannot put what you have to say on one page, in a nutshell, it is because you do not understand what you are talking about". I would like to avoid the implication, by ending on this page.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming one of this country's most respected, most popular and most recognized political figures, Jean Chretien.

Jean Chretien:

Merci beaucoup, Madame Band, honoured guests, mesdames et messieurs. The contribution of women in our society becomes more and more important every day and I would like to salute them all today in this International Women's Day. But I am very impressed with your president who is a mother only since eight days and she is here today. You know, that's very impressive and I wish you and your daughter good luck and I hope that after this first speech that she will be listening to, she will definitely be voting Liberal.

Today, it is a speech that I want to make on foreign affairs. Since the beginning of this campaign, I've made three major speeches. One was on the Constitution and Canadian values; the second one was on Regional Economic Expansion policy; and today, I would like to deal with Foreign Affairs.----

I shall deal with Canada's position in this new and changing world, our concern and our objective--in brief, why we need a modern foreign policy and what shape that policy should take. I want a foreign policy that will pursue solutions to the emerging environmental crisis. I want a foreign policy that will ensure Canada's independence. and strength in a multilateral as opposed to a continental framework. I want a foreign policy that secures greater independence in our dealings with the United States. Canada played an effective role in post-war Europe. We contributed to the design of NATO. Mike Pearson exhibited leadership in United Nations peace-keeping. The Canada of Pierre Trudeau assumed international leadership in the Arctic, in the law of the sea, in the recognition of the People's Republic of China.

We have not seen much of that kind of leadership in the past five years. Certainly not in the judgement of President Gorbachev who publicly criticized Brian Mulroney for his resistance to change. Certainly not in the United Nations where our term on the Security Council has been close to invisible. Certainly not among developing countries that are disappointed by our response to their pleas for economic help. Certainly not in Latin America where governments watched in disbelief as Mr. Mulroney blindly saluted the American invasion of Panama.

To have an effective foreign policy, I believe we must meet three fundamental requirements. First, there can be no meaningful foreign policy without a united and independent Canada, a country capable of pursuing its own national interests. If foreign policy is about the pursuit of national interest and independence, as I think it is, then Canada cannot afford to fragment and decentralize. It will weaken Canada's voice on the international stage. Canada's weakness in the international arena would, in turn, facilitate our drift into the orbit of the United States.

Second, our dealings with other countries must reflect true Canadian values; respect for human rights and the rule of law; attachment to individual freedoms and to democracy; protection of the weak and the poor; and care for our natural environiment.

Third, the fundamental requirement of an effective foreign policy is a sense of purpose and priorities. I believe those priorities should be promoting a world environmental order; a revamped international economic and monetary system and a new global framework for peace and security. But let us do more than talk. Let our actions speak for themselves, beginning with the environment. It must be at the top of any domestic and international agenda. The international community has designed a system to protect us from nuclear war, a system for trading rules, a system of rules for international payments. Now, we need a system of rules to preserve and protect the world environment. Because of its location in the world, Canada is on the frontline. In the north, we are directly responsible for the Arctic. I want to press on with an international regime for the Arctic. In the south, our proximity to the greatest industrial power on earth makes us highly vulnerable to all kinds of pollution. I want Canada in the 1990s to be at the forefront of international initiatives to achieve an international law of the atmosphere. Only if countries work together following the same rules can humanity deal effectively with environmental threats that know no boundaries.

Now, let me turn to the international trade and payments system. I believe the system to be under such stress that without remedial action it may be incapable of dealing effectively with the major economic issues of the 1990s. We cannot afford to wait for a trade war or a worldwide financial crisis before taking action. Here are some of the danger points. First, the trend to regionalism has produced three trading giants--the European community, the Canada/U.S. Free Trade area, and Japan. The danger is that these three trading giants will turn inward and erect new barriers to trade against outsiders.

Second, the gap between developing and industrialized countries is widening in spite of past international efforts. In many developing countries, standards of living, already extremely low, sank further in the 1980s, partly because they were burdened with international debt. The poorest of the poor cannot be expected to make even more sacrifices to repay the wealthy.

Third is the continuing confrontation between the United States and Europe with respect to the subsidization of agriculture and trade in agricultural products which is doing so much damage to Canadian agriculture.

Fourth is the volatility of financial markets arising from vast sums of money which cross the exchanges on a daily basis. On the positive side, developments in Eastern Europe have created an opportunity to universalize economic agencies like the GATT, the IMF and the World Bank. A system of multilateral trade and payments at the highest level of freedom from barriers and artificial distortions should be the cornerstone of the foreign economic policy of any Canadian government. To settle for less as an objective of policy is a mistake for a middle power like Canada. The easier our access to world markets, world capital, world technology and world development, the better our chances to grow and prosper and to avoid domination by larger economic powers. That is why Canada should work with the various bodies of which we are members to open the international system to the Soviet Union, Eastern European countries and other countries willing to move toward free market economies. Apart from anything else, this economic cooperation provides a good foundation for international understanding. I believe the international debt situation of developing countries cannot be allowed to continue worsening without becoming a major threat to world peace and prosperity. Canada, as a major holder of debt, should be prepared to play a more active political role in bringing about acceptable procedures for reducing debt.

In our euphoria over developments in Europe, the needs of the Third World, the obligation to feed the hungry, must not be forgotten. Our government is wrong morally and shortsighted economically when it cuts foreign aid to reduce our deficit. In my opinion, the end of the cold war is going to convert the Atlantic Alliance and Warsaw Pact from military to essentially political instruments of consultation and cooperation. The historic developments in Europe and the Soviet Union have direct economic impact on Canada. I believe that defence budgets of our allies will be substantially reduced over the next few years. This will affect our industries which have become dependent on defence-related business. Many of our high-tech firms have prospered because of military contracts. Conversion of plans from military-related purposes to civilian purposes must be an essential part of industrial policy in Canada. If we do not act now and plan now, some of our most productive workers will be facing a bleak future. The idea of converting swords into ploughshares is as old as the Bible. Our industrial adjustment policies must take into account that it is an idea whose time has finally arrived.

I hope that the time will soon come that while keeping in close relations with our European friends, we can withdraw our forces from Europe as part of a concerted progress towards a new European order. I would like to see those forces used for new tasks at home and for peace-making in the world. Canada has a long and proud history in peace-keeping. Despite the relaxation of East-West tensions, the need for international peace-keeping operations in many parts of the world, unfortunately, still exists. Here, Canada can continue to play a leading role. Peace-keeping forces require training. I would propose that Canada offer facilities to train international peace-keeping forces. Instead of closing military bases such as Summerside, perhaps we can be imaginative and use our expertise and our facilities for productive purposes such as training peace-keeping forces of other countries.

I turn now to our relations with the United States, which must be the most important part of Canadian foreign policy. In most of our international endeavours, the United States is our leading partner. I welcome this, but we have a land of our own and a mind of our own, and we have learned by experience that the pull of the American culture and American economy is so great that it amounts to a permanent force of integration at work on Canada. This is why so many Canadian governments have had to put the brakes on continental integration or at least balance it with other forces. The more decentralized we become at home, the more difficult it is to resist the force of continental integration. That is why I insist that we have a national government strong enough to act on behalf of the whole country. The Mulroney government has chosen to accelerate continental integration and generally to follow United States policy in world affairs. The Mulroney government still fails to understand that the best protection of Canadian interests is an independent Canadian government standing on its own feet. Canada and Canadians do not want a government turned into one more Washington lobby trying to wheel and deal in the corridors of power on Capitol Hill.

I am all for a stronger trade relationship with the United States achieved through the elimination of trade barriers. I am all for open and fair new rules on services, investment and movement of resources, technology and people. I am pleased that so many of our entrepreneurs want a new crack at the continental market and I am confident that they will succeed. I am all for settling trade disputes speedily and efficiently, but I am dead set against letting our agriculture and fisheries go down the drain. I am against having our working people left to the sole play of economic forces beyond their control and without any recourse because of a perceived need to harmonize with the United States.

I believe that Canada needs a trade policy more in keeping with the facts of globalization. As you know, I opposed the Free Trade Agreement with the United States principally because I believed that an international trading policy for this country is preferable to a continental policy. I am still of that view. Nevertheless, the agreement is now in effect. So far, the results of the Free Trade Agreement, to say the least, have not been encouraging--our agricultural industry is threatened; our West Coast fisheries are facing a crisis; the softwood lumber industry is still penalized; our food processing and our furniture industry, our automotive industries are at risk; jobs are being lost; people's livelihoods are threatened. What can be done?

While abrogation of the agreement should not be ruled out, I believe that the most effective pragmatic step is renegotiation. By the time of the next election, many Canadians will have made plans and investments based in good faith upon the Agreement. Our international reputation for reliability would be better served by a renegotiation of those provisions that reflect adversely upon Canadian independence and integrity. The very fact that some Americans say renegotiation would be difficult is the best evidence that our negotiator gave away much too much.

We must ensure in the course of renegotiation that both Americans and Canadians understand a simple truth--a level playing field is only level when Canada's size and position relative to the US. are fully taken into account. The auto pact gave us that kind of protection. Today, we are in the process of negotiating a subsidy agreement that will form the real heart of the Free Trade Agreement. Canadians have a right to be very worried because we have a "do-a-deal-at-any-cost" Prime Minister. Unfortunately, it is the average Canadian through job loss and lower wages who will pay the price for these one-sided negotiations. Canadians need a government that will bring to the negotiating table a mandate to defend their jobs and their incomes. We also need a government that can see beyond the U.S. The United States is our biggest and most accessible market. It has been for many years. The Free Trade Agreement is resulting in even greater concentration on that market, but a tremendous shift is taking place in the world economy to date which is no longer centred on the United States.

It is time for the Canadian government to recognize the changes that are taking place by diversifying its efforts in the promotion of trade. We should be participating more actively in the Uruguay round of negotiations. This is the way to open markets throughout the world. Canadian business enterprises should be given greater practical encouragement and incentive to go after markets in Europe, Eastern Europe and on the Pacific Rim and to establish themselves in those markets as some of them are doing.

Dans le monde d'aujourd'hui, 1'idee que les autres pays se font de nous a beaucoup d'importance : pour des raisons commerciales et d'investissement, pour des raisons de cooperation politique egalement. Cette perception compte egalement dans le fa(;onnement de ('image que nous avons de nous-meme. S'il est une idee qui fasse l'unanimite au Canada, c'est ('image que nous aimons projeter a 1'etranger : un pays sur, en qui on peut avoir confiance, un pays honnete, solidaire, un pays capable de defendre ses idees et sur lequel on peut compter car il croit profondement dans le droit qu'ont les gens partout dans le monde de vivre dans la dignite.

But there can be no Canadian international policy, there can be no Canadian economic policy, environmental policy, social policy if we don't have a country. I am preoccupied because I care and I said on Sunday to the Prime Minister that he does not have the right to play high stakes poker with the future of Canada. You know, if around the world today, Mandela and President de Klerk can sit down and find some common ground, if the leaders in Eastern Europe and Western Europe can sit down and put their differences behind them, certainly we can ask all leaders in Canada to sit down and find a solution that would permit us to have a deal on the constitution that will allow the five conditions of Quebec to be accepted and acceptable by everybody, and at the same time, satisfy the needs of those who have some objection. But we have failed to do anything since the last two years and a half. It was evident right at the beginning that this deal was going to be in difficulty. I said that at that time and they kept the same policy that it is "my deal or no deal"--not a word, not a comma can be changed'. It is ridiculous and it is extremely dangerous. I'm telling you again that I'm convinced that we can meet the five conditions of Quebec and make a deal. But you have to meet together to do that and it is the role of the Prime Minister of the country to do that. He is the one, after all, who opened that deal. After 1982, we were not talking much any more about the constitution. We were preoccupied everywhere in Canada about other priorities. That was a great period after 1982 for my fellow Quebeckers to make a great impact in Canada because of their new commitment to economic progress, entrepreneurships and so on.

But today, we're back to discussing the same problems and I'm urging everybody to go back to the table and stop the aura that this negotiation is going to be the end of Canada. It will not. We have to appeal to the common values that we have in Canada. We have built that for 123 years together. You know, we're a much better country today than before. I would have never dared 25 years ago to speak in French at The Empire Club in Toronto and now, we can do that. The surprise is that some understand. It's like that across the land.

What we have to do is to appeal to the generous side of Canadians, not to the fears of Canadians. I see in Ontario today that there are people who are taking a lead for the protection of the English language in Ontario. Come on. You know, they are about to branch out in London, England to protect themselves against the Welsh people. You know, let's be fair and appeal to the good sense of Canadians. It's what we have to do. Nobody talks anymore in my province about Canada. Everybody seems to be shy to talk about a good thing. I will. Had I been all the way for Meech Lake, I would have had 95 percent of the vote in Quebec, of the leadership. But I knew that it was not acceptable to some provinces and I knew too that it was not to pass because of Manitoba. They have a minority government there and if he calls an election, he has to run against Meech Lake to win. So he won't call an election. And Carstairs is known for her opposition because she's afraid that women's rights might be jeopardized by the Accord and nobody will help her to change her mind on that. So let's be realistic that Filmon cannot move when he knows that 80 percent of his own members will not vote for him.

So let's go back and find a solution, where the five conditions would be met. But in order to do that, we need a Prime Minister who goes and speaks for Canada everywhere. It all started when, in Saskatchewan and in Alberta, they took rights away from the Francophones two years ago after a decision of the Supreme Court. And the Prime Minister say, "I understand. Only 25,000 and 50,000 French Canadians in the two provinces... you know, why bother. A few million here will buy peace:" he said. So, he did that. No wonder if it's all right to take rights away from the Francophones in Alberta and in Saskatchewan that we take rights away from the Anglophones in Quebec. After that, fears develop and you end up with city councils here proclaiming themselves unilingual--as if there is a danger in Sault Ste. Marie that they will be taken over by the French factor. But it's the way that fear creates this situation and what you have to do is to go to Canadians and say that Canada is the best country, that it is possible to be Francophone outside of Quebec and be at home in Ontario or anywhere else in this country. If you go for a French Quebec and you go to an English Canada, that means you don't have one country--you have two and it is the beginning of the end. So if we want to have a good international policy, we need leadership in Ottawa who will be able to speak for all Canadians. Just to have peace for the sake of peace leads to a very bad situation and we are in one today. So, what we have to do is to go to every part of Canada and say that we have built something very good and this is the message that I want to carry. I came back into politics because I believe strongly that it is possible to keep this country together to have a very good place in the world. If we are united, if we keep Canadian values as they are, a country where we have two official languages, where the French feel at home in Canada and where the new Canadians who are coming feel at home in Canada, because we believe that it is possible to be different and to be equal at the same time, we will be an example to the world. You know, when I see the wall crumbling in Eastern Europe; when I see all these countries who will have to experience democracy soon--they all have the Canadian problems. You go to Romania and they have a minority Hungarian. You go to Yugoslavia where there are six people who have to share a piece of land. We've done it in Canada for 123 years. So we have to preserve it and we will, because I know travelling from sea to sea that when people sit down and reflect, they all realize that Canada is number one. Merci beaucoup. Thank you very much.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by the Hon. Barnett Danson, Chairman, Canadian Arms Control Centre, Former Minister of Defence and a Director of The Empire Club of Canada.

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A Modern Foreign Policy

Foreign Affairs: Canada's position. Why we need a modern foreign policy and what shape that policy should take. Pursuing solutions to the emerging environmental crises. Ensuring Canada's independence and strength in a multi-lateral as opposed to a continental framework. Securing greater independence in our dealings with the United States. Looking for leadership. Three fundamental requirements for an effective foreign policy. Comments on international trade and payments system. Some danger points of a worldwide financial crisis. Some positives. The needs of the Third World. Canada's relations with the U.S.; the most important part of Canadian foreign policy. Trade policies more in keeping with the facts of globalization. Recognizing changes and diversifying efforts to promote trade. Keeping Canada united. Finding solutions.