The Choice for Canada
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 May 1979, p. 1-16
Broadbent, Ed, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
An election campaign address. The speaker makes a proposition about the future of Canada, based on the current situation, connected to a previous time in Canada's history following World War II when decisions were made concerning the selling off of Canada's resources as a primary source of economic growth, and the lack of manufacturing that would take place in Canada. A discussion about those decision and how they have effected the current set of problems. The issue of political leadership in the campaign. The speaker speaks about the other candidates, and himself, as policital leaders dealing with several issues. The speaker's election platform, with specific details. His priorities.
Date of Original
11 May 1979
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
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
MAY 11, 1979
The Choice for Canada
CHAIRMAN The President, John A. MacNaughton


Ladies and gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada: Welcome to the first meeting of the seventy-sixth season of The Empire Club of Canada. Not only is this our first gathering of the new year, it is also a special meeting that has been scheduled in order to hear from the Leader of the New Democratic Party, during our current general election campaign.

I should tell members of the club that the day after the writ of election was issued we contacted the offices of Mr. Broadbent and Mr. Trudeau offering to arrange special events for them. Mr. Clark had been scheduled many months earlier to address us during our regular season on a date that, as it turned out, coincided with the election period.

Our hope was that the Empire Club could score its first election hat trick: addresses by all three national party leaders during the course of an election campaign.

Mr. Broadbent's staff replied to our invitation immediately and affirmatively and proposed today, May 11. Subsequent to confirming that date with Mr. Broadbent, Mr. Trudeau's staff indicated through our Past President, Joe Potts, that they too would like to accept our invitation and that the date they had in mind was May 11.

The overlapping of calendars was unfortunate for the Empire Club which lost an opportunity to hear from Mr. Trudeau. It was also unfortunate for the Liberal Party of Canada because, in the absence of the forum that we might have provided, they were obliged to make their own arrangements--for a rock concert at Maple Leaf Gardens. Our crowd may be slightly smaller today, Mr. Broadbent, but at least, sir, you may be pleased to know that unlike many of those at the rock concert, everyone here is of voting age.

Mr. Broadbent is one of those guests who comes to us well-known and for whom a recitation of a curriculum vitae is unnecessary. As leader of his party and as Member of Parliament for Oshawa-Whitby, John Edward Broadbent receives a great deal of media attention; he is a familiar figure to members of this club and to Canadians from coast to coast.

Two aspects of Mr. Broadbent's background are interesting for the lack of emphasis they have received in newspaper articles or New Democratic Party literature.

The first is that Mr. Broadbent is a native son of Ontario. While his opponents are often perceived and promoted as being in close communion with the soul of the nation by virtue of their origins: a Quebecois who lives and feels the duality of Canada or an Albertan who understands the pioneer spirit of the country, little is made of the fact that Mr. Broadbent is an Ontarian.

One can only conclude that either there is no electoral mileage in coming from Ontario, or that Mr. Broadbent is perceived, not as a representative of a regional mentality, but as a Canadian in the broadest and best sense of the word.

Another item in his official biography often overlooked in commentaries is that Ed Broadbent has earned his doctorate in political science and taught that discipline for three years at York University during its early days. In 1968 Dr. Broadbent decided to abandon the world of contemplating politics for the role of an active participant.

In entering the lists of partisan politicians he opened himself to all the wisecracks that go with the pursuit of public office. Among these is the simplistic stereotyping of partisans of various colours.

For example, in dismissing both Conservatives and Liberals, Ambrose Bierce once observed that a Conservative is "a statesman enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal who wishes to replace them with others."

Mr. Broadbent, a Vice-President of Socialist International, and his followers have not escaped unscathed from the pens of wits. George Orwell wrote that a socialist is ". . . usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings." For the true socialist perhaps the deepest cut of all came from Prime Minister St. Laurent who said that "socialists are Liberals in a hurry. "

Whatever the comic relief that sometimes goes with politics, the process of choosing a government is serious work. To assist in that work the Empire Club has provided a forum for seventy-five years for leaders of diverse points of view to present their thoughts on the issues of the day. We are delighted that during this very important election Ed Broadbent, whose effective leadership in Parliament and on the hustings has won widespread admiration, and whose commitment to serving the people of Canada 'is evident to all, has accepted our invitation to be with us today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have great pleasure in presenting to you Ed Broadbent, Member of Parliament, leader of the New Democratic Party, who will speak to us on the topic "The Choice for Canada."


Thank you, Mr. President, for that thoughtful introduction.

You did allude to the fact that I'm from Ontario and I want everyone to be perfectly clear that I know very well it's the centre of the universe and I'm delighted to be here as an Ontarian.

The second point that you mentioned in the introduction, that doesn't get elaborated upon in my biography or when it's read out in other circles, is the fact that I have a Doctorate in Political Science. It's a fact that I try to disguise from time to time but it does remind me of a story that is pertinent to another character who happens to be the Prime Minister of Canada right now. You see both the Prime Minister and such other ne'er-do-wells as Dalton Camp and myself studied at the London School of Economics. In that election of 1968 when the Prime Minister did reasonably well across the country, I ran and won by the landslide victory of fifteen votes in Oshawa, which I hasten to add has risen to 10,000 more recently. In 1968 it was very close indeed and I had the temerity after that election to go back to my old high school in Oshawa to speak as a newly elected Member of Parliament in that terribly "liberal-infested" House of Commons. At the end of the assembly a student got up, no doubt a ne'er-do-well Liberal, and said, "Mr. Broadbent, I understand that you studied at the London School of Economics. Is that true?" I had to admit it. Then he said, "I understand that the Prime Minister studied there as well. Is that true?" I had to admit that too. Then he said, "Well how come he came back a Liberal and you came back a New Democrat?" And I said, "The Prime Minister was always a poor student." Needless to say I haven't, after eleven years in Ottawa, changed my mind at all.

Members of the Empire Club, on a more serious note, I am delighted to be here at this particular stage in a very important election campaign. I was pleased to accept your invitation and I want to turn immediately to the subject matter.

Many of you are directly or indirectly involved in the business community and many of you, I know, are in other professions. Because of your particular occupations you will perhaps know, more than most other Canadians, a lot of the statistics that have been used by the Prime Minister, Mr. Clark and myself in this election. I have no intention of boring you with the repetition of those statistics. Perhaps I will bore you with a few others in a minute, but I don't want to go over ground that is totally familiar. You know at this point in Canadian history after eleven years of the Prime Minister, unemployment has increased substantially, inflation is back, we have a declining value in the

Canadian dollar and the issue of national unity (and I give him credit because he is concerned about it) has never been more serious in the history of our country than it is right now.

I want to make an argument with you today; an "argument" not in one sense of that term which means a quarrel but an argument in the original sense of "proposition," a reasoned view about the future of our country, about our present dilemma. I want to make the case that these problems that we are experiencing now--a million unemployed, a nine per cent inflation rate, a decline in the value of the Canadian dollar in particular, are all related and they connect back to a rather happy period in my Ontario boyhood days.

I grew up in what I regard as the happiest period for a Canadian anywhere in our land. I was born in 1936 which means to someone of my maturity (some have said I haven't reached maturity yet) that in the forties and fifties I had a good life and so did Canadians of my generation wherever they lived. But that was because in the economic philosophy of the time, a major economic decision was made in our land. It was made by the Liberals because they were in government, but it was supported also by the Diefenbaker government. It was made also, I want to stress, in the main, in good faith. It was not simply a partisan argument; it was an intellectually thought out economic position and it was a position that I am suggesting is largely responsible for the difficulties that we are now experiencing as a country.

The decision, which I associate with C. D. Howe, was made just after World War II. I admire C.D. Howe as a man of determination and industry, a man who believed that government existed to do something and not just mushroom into a bureaucracy. But I didn't agree with his decision and that's the point I want to talk about. That serious decision was as follows.

Right after the war Canada was a rich resource land.

We had resources in every province, from Newfoundland in the east (though it was not yet a province), through to our rich heartland of Ontario, right across to western Canada. The argument was made that we had these unlimited resources but we had a small population, and therefore it was contended we would have to grow as a nation in a modern world by selling off these resources. That would be the primary source of economic growth for the future of Canada.

Secondly, intrinsically related to that argument, was the view that manufacturing in Canada would not be of a world class order. It would be turned into the kind of industry that I would argue that Helmut Schmidt in Germany or my friend Olaf Palme in Sweden or a number of others I can mention in Northern Europe would have dismissed out of hand in their own countries. The argument was made that because we had a small population we had to sell our resources on the one hand and on the other we had to develop, in the main, (and I do not want to say all Canadian manufacturing is in this category) a second-class manufacturing base that would be primarily, if not exclusively, foreign-owned. It would be a branch plant manufacturing economy.

That was the source of our prosperity for my generation. We were more prosperous as young Canadians than otherwise would have been the case then because we did sell off our resources. We did very well. We had rapid periods of economic growth. We produced some of the most creative people in our land. The most creative generation of Canadians in the arts, both in French- and English-speaking Canada, have come out of the last twenty years because we had it pretty good.

The point I want to make is that the problems we are running into in 1979 are directly related to that very long-range decision made just after the war and the problem is not getting better, it is getting worse. In resources and manufacturing the total amount of foreign ownership in Canada today, and all that entails in terms of the export of dividends, payments for services and a declining dollar, surpasses in its amount in our country the total amount of foreign ownership in Western Europe, Scandinavia and Japan combined. This degree of foreign-ownership is bound up, I want to stress, with our current economic difficulties and has to be met head on without rhetoric, without foolish nonsense about blaming our neighbours whether they are Americans or from Western Europe. We invited them to come in and invest. They didn't come as some kind of imperial army. We have to deal with our reality. And I want to tell you that the economic chickens of that position taken after the war are now coming home to rest.

Consider the resource sector of Canada. What's happening? We are now discovering that there are, particularly in the Third World, other resource-rich countries that are just as prepared to sell off their resources, and ironically and sadly, their selling off is being aided and abetted by our federal government through the Export Development Corporation.

I am more than disturbed as a Canadian to find out that in Panama, in Guatemala, in Indonesia there is expansion in resource sectors financed by the Export Development Corporation of Canada which has led directly to layoffs in Canada. We have had layoffs in Sudbury, in Thompson, Manitoba, in Stewart, British Columbia. In Newfoundland, a whole town named St. Lawrence was shut down completely because Floorspar could be bought a little more cheaply in another country even though Alcan, the company involved, was making a reasonable profit in St. Lawrence. The point I'm making is that even in resource markets we are no longer in an exclusive position. We are in difficulty.

Secondly, and very importantly, the manufacturing sector of our economy is doing even worse. Our domestic manufacturing as an employer of Canadians has been in steady decline. In the last eight years our manufactured goods deficit has increased by 400 per cent, from $3 billion to $12 billion. For me, an economist, that is serious. In the last decade the percentage of our labour force employed in manufacturing has dropped from 27.6 per cent to 21.6 per cent. That, too, is serious for a nation that wants to be an industrial leader. The rising deficit of the manufacturing trade is, in my view, responsible for the loss of thousands of jobs at home and is a major reason for the decline in the value in the Canadian dollar abroad.

I hardly see most of you as likely or ready at this point to vote for the New Democratic Party, but I'm asking you and through you many other people in our country today, to think of all three parties in the context of what I regard as this very serious economic situation. I acknowledge on the part of the government that they have created in the past year a lot of jobs. But the point is that we need a lot more jobs. The very serious analytical point I'm making is that we have lost thousands of jobs and we are going to continue to lose them unless some serious new direction is taken in economic policy.

I want to say to you right now, just a few days before the election, that in my view political leadership is the issue in this campaign. For me, as leader of the New Democratic Party, there are two aspects of leadership. There are the personal qualities. I think it is appropriate for Canadian men and women to look at Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Clark and me and to ask, how do they measure up in terms of intellectual capacity? How do they measure up in terms of compassion? How do they measure up in terms of commitment and dedication? These are attributes of personality that count in politics and, I'm inclined to say, count more in politics perhaps than in most other activities. They count particularly in a country as difficult to govern as ours. There should be no mistake about that. Canada, with its great diversity, culturally and economically, is beyond question one of the most difficult democratic countries in the world to govern. So there are personal attributes that must be assessed. But above and beyond personal attributes there are the policy and direction in which a political party or a movement wants to take a nation and I think that is fundamental. So when the people of Canada are looking at Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Clark and myself and our respective parties they have to tell themselves that we have difficulties and, I want to stress, we also have prospects. But which party in this campaign has really laid it out, has said to the people of Canada that there is a new course that we can pursue to make this great and decent land of ours even finer.

I want to say something about my opponents and I am not going to be entirely complimentary, I want to say something first about the kind of campaign that Mr. Trudeau has waged because I have been disturbed as a Canadian. In 1968, I opposed the Prime Minister as a local candidate, and I had a higher set of expectations about what he would do. His views don't accord with my party, they don't accord with my program, but certainly I had a greater set of expectations than what has been produced. Mr. Trudeau has been in power for eleven years but what has he done in the past six or seven weeks? The issue of jobs is an important issue. We have more than a million unemployed. For me, it is more than economics. It is very much a matter of human dignity for human beings to have the right to work. Human beings do not want to collect welfare; they do not want to collect unemployment insurance. Of course there are a few, and we all know them, but, overwhelmingly, deep inside most men and women want the opportunity to work. Yet Mr. Trudeau when pursued on this issue in British Columbia said to a young person, and I quote, "Get off your ass and you'll get a job." He knows that for every job available in Canada there are twenty people looking. In the Province of Quebec, when a group of farmers told him about problems in dairy farming, he did not say, "All right, you have difficulty and we'll do something about it." He said, "Farmers are a bunch of whiners."

The women in our society have been making real progress in Canada as elsewhere in the Western World within the last half dozen years, gradually moving towards sexual equality, gradually accepting the notion that if a woman wanted to stay at home that was her right but also accepting the notion that if she wanted to go out to work that too should be her right. But the Prime Minister and his ministers have blamed women in part for creating the unemployment problem because they have come onto the labour market.

In 1974, the Prime Minister promised that 50 to 60 per cent of all new resource projects in Canada which were central to our development would be Canadian controlled. He has done nothing about it.

On the question of national unity, ten days ago Trudeau was in Saskatchewan saying to a group of farmers, "You've got to be aware of those Trade Unionists from the east." That was from a man who claims to be concerned about national unity.

Two nights ago in this city, he says he wants to repatriate the Constitution. Fine, who's going to disagree. And last night, in Montreal, he promised a special session of Parliament within thirty days to deal with this matter. Well, I say that Canadians all across this land--men, women, young, old, lawyers, doctors, farmers, auto workers, all want to repatriate the Constitution, but I also say it is not the over-riding issue of the people of Canada right now. Trudeau says he would call a special session within thirty days to deal with the Constitution, but I would call a special session of Parliament within thirty days to deal with unemployment, to deal with rising prices, to deal with the ordinary problems that most seriously affect the people of Canada. That's what ought to be done.

I want to turn now from Mr. Trudeau to Mr. Clark. I want to say at the outset that I have not found Mr. Clark to be either arrogant or aggressive in dealing with the problems that Canadians are having. I think that is true and is beyond argument. But I think very serious questions have to be raised about the leadership of a man who wants to be Prime Minister. I for one do not see an alternative view of Canada coming from Mr. Clark. In particular, I don't see an alternative set of economic policies. If he has an alternative vision, I hope he spells it out before May 22.

I am concerned as a man about the kind of reactions he has had in the course of this campaign. Can Canadians seriously turn to a man who one day wants to tax Medicare benefits and the next day changes his mind, who one day says he wants to abolish PetroCan and the next day says he may not, who one day says he will negotiate sovereignty-association with the Parti Quebecois and the next day says that he won't.

I want to stress with you that the pressures of a campaign in a democratic society are real, but the pressures of governing a country as diverse as Canada are much greater and certainly a legitimate question for me to ask is, "Can Joe Clark handle those conflicting pressures?"

I want to now turn, because I have raised the questions about the Liberals and about the Conservatives, to my own view and state it as precisely, as clearly and as honestly as I can. As a Canadian, I say at this time in our history surely it is time for a new beginning in our whole approach to national politics. (Incidentally, I am the first leader of my party who was born in Canada.) It is time that we set out to make this country not only more productive which I strongly believe it can be in the economic sense, but also more decent in its relations and a more exciting country to live in, in terms of our personal life. And I say to you that government leadership is required. Government leadership is as required here just as it has been in Western Europe, as it has been in Japan.

One of the phony issues in recent months in our country has been the big government versus the little government argument. Have you ever heard a politician say he or she believes in big government? Of course not. The real issue before us nationally is effective government or non-effective government. And I want to say on behalf of my party, because I know in the minds of a number of you that the NDP stands for something called big government, that the government with the smallest per capita civil service in Canada is Alan Blakeney's in Saskatchewan. I want to point out to you that the provincial government with the largest cabinet numerically in Canada and one of the largest bureaucracies per capita in Canada is that of Peter Lougheed in Alberta.

I want to stress that my party does not believe in big government; it believes in effective government whether it is that of Helmut Schmidt in Germany or of Alan Blakeney in Saskatchewan. We don't withdraw behind the clichés. We want effective government, whether it is at the provincial or federal level.

Now what specifically are we saying in this campaign? I think we have been addressing the issues. I think, unlike the other parties, we have been trying to come up with some practical solutions that are not going to fundamentally change Canada overnight but would make things a little better, a little more decent and a lot more productive in the short run. Instead of ignoring prices we have advocated a Fair Prices Commission to investigate and order rollbacks when price increases are unfair. I happen to believe it would work now at this point in the economic cycle. If we are going to say, from a government and business point of view later this year, that wage and salary increases have got to be reasonable, then surely it is time for us to be saying and demonstrating through effective government action that price increases have to be reasonable. If they aren't reasonable we need, in our view, an instrument that would have the authority to roll back unfair price increases.

Instead of ignoring the housing problem we have made a suggestion that would make mortgage money available not to everyone, not to people in my income category, but we have proposed giving those Canadian families who are earning $30,000 or less a year a tax concession and helping them with mortgages. Incidentally the lower their income, the greater the tax concession, unlike the Conservative proposal. At the same time we have said something has to be done for those Canadians who rent.

Instead of tax benefits for upper income Canadians we have proposed a tax cut for those families earning $30,000 and less to stimulate the economy and provide a little more equity.

Instead of ignoring women's rights in this campaign as the other parties have, we have said let's mobilize them. It is not only a question of justice that a woman should have the same rights as a man, but let us also draw upon their talents, whether they are lawyers or scientists or tool and die makers. There are thousands, indeed millions, of Canadian women who could be making a profound contribution to the Canadian economy and we should welcome them to do so.

I want to say today that all of these programs in my judgement are within our financial capacity to deal with as a nation. We have costed them out and we have calculated that the effect of spending this year would increase the deficit by $1.5 billion, but because of the nature of the spending, and I can't elaborate beyond what I have already said today, the net stimulative effect on the economy would be a reduction in the deficit of the Government of Canada of some $3 billion within a three year period. Economically, in a classical Keynesian sense, our program makes sense and in terms of providing more equity for Canadians at this point it makes social justice.

I want to conclude with what for me perhaps is the most embracing of all issues. It ties directly to my own generation of Canadians, perhaps more than our predecessors. In travelling across Canada I have been moved sometimes to despair. When I was in Labrador, I learned (and I didn't know before I was there) that Newfoundland produces almost half the iron ore in Canada and most of it is shipped out. Quebec has one of the major deposits of asbestos in the world and most of it is shipped out. In our home province we have nickel, we have iron, we have copper, we have lumber, and most of it is shipped out, in relatively unprocessed form. In the prairies, we have immense deposits in oil and natural gas and potash and again so much is shipped out. British Columbia, that marvellous province on our west coast has almost the same range and diversity of natural resources as Ontario. I want to say to you, as a Canadian who came of age after World War II, that I want a new beginning for a future Canada in terms of these resources. My generation of Canadians wants these resources processed at home; not abroad. We want to make jobs here in Canada, not elsewhere.

I want to say, in this context, very specific proposals have been made to do it. Planning agreements that have worked well in most countries of Western Europe with the private sector could work here. Tax policies related very specifically to a higher degree of processing could work well here as they have elsewhere. Special concentration in certain economic sectors in which we could have a world competitive position should be developed with provincial and federal leadership. Fourthly, in the resource sector there is a major role

to be played by government investment, sometimes through government ownership, sometimes through mixed enterprise, but certainly clear moves have to be made to regain more Canadian ownership in the resource sector.

The point I want to make about all of these instruments is that it is not knowledge that is lacking. It is the political will to apply that knowledge here in Canada. That, for us, is what an industrial strategy is all about. We have the knowledge, we know what ought to be done. We are saying that political leadership in Canada that would bring the things together and do the job is long overdue. We want, in short, to export more metal products and not iron, we want to export furniture and not lumber, we want young Canadian men and women to have jobs in the petro-chemical industry instead of exporting the alleged surplus of natural gas that the National Energy Board says we have in western Canada. I want a Canada that is determined in its thinking to become both economically strong and economically independent. Surely it is time that Canadian resources were owned by Canadians, controlled by Canadians. Mr. Trudeau may want to put his priority on bringing home the Constitution. The priority of my party in this campaign is to bring Canada home to Canadians.

The thanks of the club were expressed to Mr. Broadbent by R. Bredin Stapells, a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada, who presented Mr. Broadbent with an Empire Club tie.

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The Choice for Canada

An election campaign address. The speaker makes a proposition about the future of Canada, based on the current situation, connected to a previous time in Canada's history following World War II when decisions were made concerning the selling off of Canada's resources as a primary source of economic growth, and the lack of manufacturing that would take place in Canada. A discussion about those decision and how they have effected the current set of problems. The issue of political leadership in the campaign. The speaker speaks about the other candidates, and himself, as policital leaders dealing with several issues. The speaker's election platform, with specific details. His priorities.