Canada, Senate Debates, “Motion for an Address to Her Majesty the Queen—Debate Continued”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (24 March 1981)

Document Information

Date: 1981-03-24
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 2132-2140.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).

SENATE DEBATES — March 24, 1981

[Page 2132]



The Senate resumed from Thursday, March 19, the debate on the motion of Senator Perrault that an Address be presented to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada.

Hon. David A. Croll: Honourable senators, the joint chairmen of the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada, Mr. Serge Joyal and Senator Hays, ran a very good show; they seemed to complement each other. The members of the committee took their work seriously, and their devotion, sense of responsibility and understanding were noted across the country. Credit is due to both institutions of Parliament. The participation by members of this chamber in that committee once again proved that there is talent in this house—talent which enables us to succeed in almost any undertaking. While it is not often that we are called upon, the country is noticing and appreciating more and more the work of the Senate.

For me, this is an opportunity, which I welcome, to participate in an historic event. I am not likely to have an opportunity to speak under similar circumstances again. I do not anticipate that by the end of my speech honourable senators on

[Page 2133]

the other side will be influenced by what I have said, but I am sure they will find my remarks worth listening to. I do not intend to discuss legalistic matters, for they have been so thoroughly and ably covered that, regardless of the source, the comments are becoming repetitious. I have practised law for 55 years. actively for 50 years. My law school, Osgoode Hall, which is the best law school in the country—

Senator Flynn: Hey!

Senator Croll:—paid very little attention to constitutional law in 1925. As a result, I have very little grounding in constitutional law, and when I am out of my depth I rely on experts. I am no expert on constitutional law, yet I recall an occasion—and it is recorded—40 years ago, after I had been in practice for nine years, when my opinion on the Constitution, to my utter surprise, ended up in the Privy Council, and I won. There and then I decided to quit while I was ahead. I realized that constitutional law was not for me. I devoted myself to other fields.

Constitutional law, as this chamber well knows, is a very specialized field. In my view, there are not a dozen top specialists in the whole of Canada, and half of them are in the Department of Justice. There are five or six in the academic field. Most of them speak very loudly, but do not pay too much attention to what they say. The experts are well known.

I decided, early in my career, that I would leave the matter of the Constitution to the experts, and when a constitutional matter arose in the provincial government I consulted the experts. In the House of Commons, it was Maurice Ollivier and, in the Senate, it was the late Russell Hopkins, recognized as the expert of all experts. Now it is Raymond du Plessis, whom I have not consulted on this matter because I did not think it proper. I am sure he will turn out to be as good as any of the people in the Department of Justice.

The experts in the Department of Justice must be just that because every constitutional lawyer in the employ of the provincial governments is looking over their shoulders. Their record is about 90 per cent correct. You cannot ask for more than that. I accept their opinion that what we are doing is legal.

I first ran into the constitutional question in 1927 when the Old Age Pension enactment was turned down by the Senate of the day on the grounds that we could not afford it, there was no mandate, and it was unconstitutional. I reasoned that they must be wrong, and proceeded on that assumption. It occurred to me that the state’s first function was to provide food, shelter and clothing for its citizens. How could it be unconstitutional?

I have now come full circle. I met the problem of unconstitutionality when I began my political career and now, 50 years later, in my twilight days, I meet it once again. I met it coming in and I meet it going out. I shall treat it as I treated my original introduction to it more than 50 years ago.

I was the earliest supporter of a Bill of Rights. As a matter of fact, I used to have a motion respecting it on the order paper—even when my party scoffed at it. Now it is augmented to help the disadvantaged, the disabled, women, those whose ancestors came from other countries and aboriginal peoples. The duality of our country concerning federal institutions and access to education in either language are included in the Bill of Rights.

I can recall no time in our history when we have moved so quickly and firmly to help the disadvantaged. For me, it is social paradise, and damn the torpedoes.

In speaking tonight, I have arrogated to myself the right to speak for other Canadians,’ and by that I mean naturalized Canadians. I am aware that success has many fathers. I am the only member of this house who, as a naturalized Canadian, has served, for a total of more than 50 years, in all Canadian political institutions, municipal, provincial and federal. I use the term “other Canadians” instead of using the term “naturalized Canadians.”

Honourable senators, I have stood in this house for many years, and for many years in the other place, to speak on vital issues, most often on what have come to be called “social issues”—that is, matters of overpowering concern to me as a Liberal, such as a bill of rights, old age assistance, medicare, unemployment insurance, poverty, pensions, immigration, job discrimination and, yes, I even spoke for the Japanese when I came back from the war and found what they had been subjected to. I spoke more than once on their behalf, and 1 thought I helped their case. I spoke on the citizenship issue 30 years ago and in the flag debate 15 years ago.

My passion for these matters is part of the public record. This is the third speech I have made on an historic act of Parliament and I am not likely to have too many more chances to do so. I was right in my first two speeches, and I am confident I will be in this one.

Today, I stand to speak on yet another social issue, the most important of them all—the future political organization of this country. There has been much misunderstanding of the constitutional question by the public, by the media and even in Parliament itself.

The constitutional question before us is not primarily one of who gets what, or even a question of who has the primary jurisdiction in respect of natural resources; and it is not primarily a question of how the Constitution is amended once it has been brought home. It is obvious that neither the Victoria formula nor the Vancouver consensus could obtain unanimous agreement.

Under the Vancouver consensus an amendment would require the approval of seven provinces with at least half of the national population. Ottawa rejects that because it contains a provision which would allow individual provinces to opt out of certain amendments which directly affect them.

The federal government favours the 1971 Victoria formula which requires a majority of six provinces, so long as the majority includes any province that has or has had 25 per cent of the Canadian population—such as Ontario or Quebec—two of the four Atlantic provinces, and two of the four western provinces representing the majority of the population in the

[Page 2134]

west. There would be no opting out. In Winnipeg they are now considering the alternatives, and they will certainly choose one or the other which will be acceptable to the government.

Though these are all, of course, enormously important concerns, the real question—the fundamental question—is: What form of government can best provide the conditions of social justice and human dignity which are, or ought to be, the goals of all our other policies? No matter how you approach it, what we are talking about in this resolution is power, money and freedom.

I have lost track of how long this Constitution debate has been going on, and sometimes it seems like forever, but by now we must have heard from every pressure group in Canada, except one. We have heard from the east, the west, the premiers, women, native people, the handicapped, the Anglos, the Francos, the oil companies—you name it and we have heard from it. We have heard from just about every lobby in the country except mine, and that is because the group I refer to, and to which I belong, is not a pressure group and does not have a lobby. Nobody speaks for it which is kind of funny, because it just happens to be the largest group in the country. It has no official spokesman, no slogans, no battle cry. In fact, we have been listening to every interest group trying to protect its own piece of turf, whether political or economic. One almost begins to believe that our group does not exist, because up until now no one has even mentioned it or said very much about it. However, let me assure you that we do exist and that we are now 9 million strong.

We are the 35 per cent of the population who are neither English nor French in origin. We are not one of the founding races, although some of us were here when the nation was founded, but we are everywhere. We are in Parliament, on the bench, in the universities, in industry and on farms. We are in every business. We are drilling for oil, and we are in the Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower. We are a true, silent majority coming from almost every land in the world. Some of us have this advantage—we chose Canada. People who are born in this country sometimes have little to say about it, but there are millions of us who became Canadians because we wanted to become Canadians, and for that reason our feelings about this country are a little different from those of others.

We have been called new Canadians, hyphenated Canadians, and a few other things as well. Some of us in the past have sometimes been treated like second-class citizens, but let me assure you that there is nothing second-class about our devotion to our country.

Some of us have been a bit puzzled by the tone of much of the Constitution debate, not only in Parliament but elsewhere in this country. You see, we believe in freedom. That is why our fathers and mothers came here.

I cannot resist the temptation to read what I said in the Canadian citizenship debate on April 9, 1946:

We have not come, in the main, from some dark European morass where learning and culture never flowered. It was not ignorance that led us to reject our homes and our friends and the countries of our birth—and out of all lands to which we might have gone, to choose Canada. We, or our fathers, were actuated by those same impulses which, one or two or three centuries earlier, had led the forebears of the hon. members, whether they speak English or French, to make this same venturesome, sometimes desperate, move from an old world to a new, to escape from drudgery without hope of security, hunger of social injustice, religious faith without the freedom to practise it, democratic idealism ruthlessly supressed by the despot . . . So we made our choice, and gambled our lives and those of our families and by and large we won. Not without pain were the deep-grown roots of generations wrenched from the familiar soil; but mercifully soon, we found, new roots were taking hold in new, far more nourishing clay than ever we had known. We settled fairly easily, at least the younger of us did, into the new scene as gradually the old one faded. We became, in our own thinking, Canadians in all but citizenship, and we were eager for that day when that final proof of right and liberty would be added.

We believe in free institutions, freedom to associate together, to worship, freedom before the law. We believe in the whole collection of personal freedoms that are gathered under the umbrella called “civil liberties,” and now in the Bill of Rights. I have to say that we—and I am not speaking for myself—have trouble understanding some of the vocal, even violent opposition, to the constitutional package, particularly to the Bill of Rights.

A few weeks ago the entire constitutional text was reported in many newspapers across Canada. It took up a double page in my evening paper. I read it, as did many of my friends and acquaintances with whom I discussed it later. Let me tell you something. There was nothing in that entire text that any of us could seriously take objection to. There may have been a word or phrase here and there that could have been improved upon, but basically the text was good and, more important, it was right.

As I listen to the debate—here and across the country—it strikes me that objections to the constitutional package fall under three main headings. The first is what I call philosophical objections; the second is what I call practical objections; and the third are procedural objections. Let me try to tell you briefly what I mean.

Philosophical objections come from more people who are against having things like those in a Bill of Rights written down. They say, “Look, the beauty of the British system is that nothing is written down—no Bill of Rights, no written Constitution. In England, people’s rights are protected by the common law, by the decisions of the great judges over hundreds of years that defined people’s rights and protected them against injustice by other people or by the state.” “Our rights have historically been protected by the common law,” they tell us, “and there is no need to write them down, no need to enact them as part of the Constitution.” In fact, they argue that to write them down might be to limit them. “If we write them

[Page 2135]

down,” the argument goes, “the only rights we can be sure of are those that are actually set out in the Bill of Rights. Anything not specifically mentioned would be—or might be— excluded. How could we ever be sure that we had included everything?”

That, it seems, in simplified form, is the argument of the common law people. They turn away in horror from the idea of putting things down neat and tidy in a certified form because, they tell us, rights cannot be certified; they have to be left free and at large to be defined and protected by the common law judges, just as they have been doing it in England since the year 1215. That was the year when the great charter of liberties of England was granted by King John under pressure from his barons at Runnymede.

There is a great deal to be said of Magna Carta that is as valid today as it was 766 years ago—for example, that no freeman should be imprisoned except by the law of the land. But does anyone seriously believe that Magna Carta, even with almost 800 years of interpretation by common law judges, is adequate for Canada in the last quarter of the twentieth century?

One will look in vain to Magna Carta to decide whether the legislature of one Canadian province may validly pass laws prohibiting Canadians from other provinces from taking a job or buying a home within its territory. Surely the need in this country for a new charter of basic human rights scarcely requires to be demonstrated. Nor will it be lost on common law lawyers that Magna Carta itself was a written charter of rights.

Speaking for the silent majority, I think it is fair to say that many of us come from lands where human rights have more often been honoured in the breach than in the observance. It does not shock us at all to have our rights written down. Most of us think it is a good idea. To our way of thinking, rights that are written down are a lot clearer and better than rights that are not written down. It is as simple as that.

The second kind of objection to the constitutional package is called the practical objection. By that I mean opposition to the slightest change in the division of powers between provincial and federal governments. I find it strange that provinces that have been complaining for generations about how imperfect and inadequate the B.N.A. Act is are suddenly sent into a panic at the thought of changing so much as a comma in that suddenly sacred document.

There was a report in the Globe and Mail on March 21 dealing with the federal excise tax on natural gas. It reads as follows:

A federal excise tax on natural gas cannot be levied against gas produced and sold by the Alberta Government, says the Alberta Court of Appeal. This is the part that is interesting. The whole thing is interesting ifyou like the decision—which I do not. It continues:

The court said the tax, as it relates in this particular case, is not a tax on a transaction, or on the movement or consumption of gas.

“It is a tax on a province respecting its property and is prohibited by section 125.”

The federal Government argued the tax is legal under trade and commerce powers granted in the BNA Act, but the court said that argument “confuses the raising of the money with the objective of a separate legislative program on which it will be spent.”

The court said it would be unwise, “and in this case, unnecessary,” to speculate on problems that could occur if provinces nationalized all business within their borders.

In addition, the argument that government activities different from those in vogue when the BNA Act was written remove the immunity “is not in keeping with the tradition of progressive interpretation” of the act.

This is the killer:

“Governments within Confederation are not to be chained to the past,” the court said.

I call to your attention that statement made by the court because of the discussion here wherein statements that were made in the past about the BNA Act were held to be almost untouchable. The provinces think it might lessen their powers by one iota. I have news for them. The original BNA Act was not brought down from the mountain by Moses: it was a document prepared by men who were trying, in their imperfect way, to make a nation out of a bunch of squabbling colonies. When I look around the country today, I do not think the situation has changed all that much in 114 years. The provinces, with some notable exceptions, are still a bunch of squabbling colonies, each one threatening to take its marbles or its oil and “leave home” if anyone tries to change the rules and finally succeeds in making a nation—one and indivisible— out of this federation.

Who knows, it might even come to pass. We have been waiting for 50 years for it to happen, ever since the Statute of Westminster, and it has not happened yet, while even the thought that it might happen seems to scare some of the provinces stiff.

I am not all that impressed, either, with scare stories about how many oil rigs are leaving the country. Any time the oil rigs want to depart, along with their American owners, they should feel free to go. I would feel much easier if I knew that these people had left Calgary.

We Canadians who are neither Anglos nor Francos have different ideas about the future of this country. We believe that Canada’s natural resources, whether they lie under the ground or under the waters off our shores, belong to all Canadians. They are not the sole and exclusive property of the province beneath whose soil or under whose coastal waters they happen by the design of Providence to exist. They most assuredly are not the property of the multinational corporations which cannot wait to make as much money out of them

[Page 2136]

as the OPEC bandits, who are holding the world to ransom, are making out of theirs.

We other Canadians find it indecent that any province which threatens to turn off the oil tap on the rest of the country should say, in effect, “If you will not give us our price for oil, go buy it on the world market at whatever the price.” Can you imagine how long any federal administration would last if it adopted that attitude towards the provinces? We, in this country, have a habit of remembering, remembering and remembering.

We hear this from a member of the family sitting at our family table who has $12 billion rotting in the bank. We other Canadians find it unfair and unjust that one province should amass a fund of $12 billion at the expense of the rest of us, and when the rest of us includes three-quarters of a million old women—divorced, widowed and disabled—and half a million old men, all of whom are living below the poverty line. It bothers me and it should bother everyone in the country. We other Canadians believe that this could belong to us—to all of us—and that its benefits should be shared. We other Canadians believe that Canada is a family, where the members help their less fortunate siblings, because that is what families are all about.

The third kind of objection to our constitutional package is what I have called the procedural objection. That comes from the people who do not so much oppose what the government is doing as the way in which it is doing it. That goes back to what I was saying earlier, that there is precious little in the substance of the package that any reasonable person can object to, so they fall back on complaining about the procedure.

That brings to mind a story about the philosopher who once said that all good ideas pass through three stages—ridicule, discussion and adoption. Social ideas, with political amplification, pass through five stages: those who are opposed say, first, it is impossible; secondly, it is unconstitutional; thirdly, it may bankrupt the country; fourthly, it is not a bad idea, but you are going about it the wrong way; and fifthly, well, we were for it all the time, anyway.

We should, they say, bring the dear old B.N.A. Act home just the way it is, without touching it in any way, and then, after patriation, we will be more than happy to sit down in a nice, calm, reasonable way and talk about an amending formula, a Bill of Rights and anything else your heart desires. Well, as they used to say when I was a boy—oh yeah? It was a little rougher than that, but that is what I am saying. There cannot be anyone in the country over the age of 12 who really believes that that will ever happen. Trying to reach agreement with 10 provinces is like trying to nail jelly to the wall. It cannot be done, and anyone who thinks otherwise is dreaming.

The government’s constitutional package is fair and reasonable—and in their heart of hearts the provinces know it. But over the past 10 years or so they have become locked into their positions, and now they can’t move. It’s really the flag debate all over again on a larger scale, and I for one am convinced that once this thing is over and done with, we will not hear much more about it.

In any event, if, following patriation, the provinces do get their act together and agree on changes in the Constitution, it can then be changed; but I venture to make a small prediction that it will be a long, long time before we see any significant movement for further change. Once the shadow boxing is over, I predict that we will hear precious little from the self-interest groups. It will be a brave man indeed, perhaps a foolhardy one, who will stand up and argue that basic rights, which will then be enshrined in the Constitution, should be cancelled.

That really is what is so significant about the proposed Bill of Rights. Just as the provinces have never been able to get together and agree on it, so they will never be able to agree on abolishing it. That will be its greatest safeguard. Once those rights have been spelled out, no politician will ever dare risk the wrath of the electorate by threatening to remove them.

To me, these rights spell social progress. To have the rights enshrined in the Constitution is, for me, social paradise, unbelievable progress, that I did not anticipate in this century. It even leaves me with the hope that in my lifetime I shall see the promised land. Many of us who are legislators must keep in mind that the ultimate aim of law is social justice, and our job must be to insist that whatever laws we are instrumental in enacting serve that end before any other.

Two weeks ago, at the Juno Awards in Toronto, the Prime Minister said that legislators create the conditions in which freedom can flourish. That is true, and it is true also that freedom can flourish only when the excesses of inequality, that continue to plague our society, have been eliminated.

The disadvantaged in our society do not have the luxury of concerning themselves with a constitutional crisis. They must survive the daily crises of poverty, human indignity, lack of hope, and despair for their children’s future. The 500,000 old men and the 750,000 old women who live below the poverty line cannot be expected to share our concern for the Constitution—but it is for them that it is being written.

The student with no job prospects; the immigrant who suffers discrimination in the work place, or in trying to obtain decent housing; the native Canadian who feels, justifiably, that he is a second class citizen; the parent whose child has been taken beyond the reach of the law to another province; the handicapped and infirm, the unemployed—none of those can be expected to share our concern for the Constitution. But it is for them—for them more than for any of us—that it is being written. It is for them that we are debating today, not dry legalisms, not empty rearrangements of powers, but, first and foremost, a social document, a charter not merely of rights, which are so important to us, but of national emancipation. That is what, in essence, we are debating today.

In patriating the Constitution, we are taking a giant step toward patriating the national consciousness, the national dream—indeed, our national integrity. In voting for this resolution, we are helping in the long process of freeing this country from the forces, both inside and outside, which have

[Page 2137]

historically prevented the fulfilment of the best possibilities which we could offer to all segments of society.

It is not possible to dream someone else’s dream, honourable senators. That is what we have been trying to do in this country for all too long: we have been dreaming someone else’s dream; we have been dreaming it in someone else’s bed; and all too often we have watched our dreams become our nightmares. We have not been able to offer our citizens the best that is possible, because we have not owned our resources; we have not been able to moderate the effects of inflation, of technological change, or regional disparity, because our economy has not been entirely within our control. The passage of this resolution will be an unmistakable signal to all that the best interests of Canadians can be served only by Canadians. We can only dream our own dreams when we control our own destiny, and that is also what we are debating today.

To the critics who argue, honourable senators, that unilateral action by this government is a radical alteration of the federal character of this country, let me answer that without such unilateral action we would still be a colony today: we would have no flag; we would still be British citizens; we would have no national social policies. Indeed, honourable senators, we would probably still be a disunited rag-tag of provinces arguing whether or not there should be a confederation.

The argument that the provinces are losing their traditional powers by this resolution is a red herring. They have in fact been deprived of no powers. Not a crumb, not a morsel of provincial powers will be lost, except one: the petty power to stand in the way of national unity.

We have what is already the most highly devolved federal system in the world, and that remains, and the relative balance of powers remains, too. I do not argue with the proposition that it is necessary to have strong provincial governments to represent the diverse regional interests in Canada. The federal system is one of sharing responsibility between federal and provincial legislatures, a wise arrangement by the very wise men who structured our political order, who accommodated themselves to the reality of the Canadian fact that no one government could properly represent the diverse interests of so diverse a country; but it is also true, truer now than ever, honourable senators, that it is essential to have a strong central government to hold together those disparate elements.

On their own, the provinces cannot agree on anything. The seven premiers who got together in Montreal could not even agree on how to disagree. The sum total and end result of their meeting was that Premier Lévesque criticized the government for “British bashing”. There’s a joke for you, honourable senators a man determined to bash the entire structure of this country can do no more than accuse the government of “British bashing.” It is an empty and hollow joke, honourable senators, and we should be wary of laughing too loudly It shows us how barren is the provincial position, how little the people of Canada can rely on their provincial leaders to take the necessary action They are riders on pale horses, honourable senators, tilting at empty windmills, and we cannot allow them to play politics with the future of this country.

For years we have witnessed provincial attempts to use constitutional conferences to hold to ransom the people of Canada to achieve their demands for increased power and increased jurisdiction over the national wealth. It has been said before, honourable senators, and it is very true: you cannot bargain fish for fundamental freedoms, or oil for autonomy, or political power for national dreams. Yet that is what some of the provincial premiers have been doing.

If we wait for the provinces to get their act together, the curtain will never rise. The same empty wrangling will go on for the next 53 years as it has for the last 53. We cannot afford that kind of time, nor can the country.

The central government is the only government which can and must speak on vital issues for all Canadians. After much soul-searching, much consultation and redrafting, after hearing from Canadians right across the country, it is acting now. It is acting to redeem the future from a record of dismal failure.

It is clear to me now—just as it was clear nearly fifty years ago, but now more than ever—that only strong, bold action by the central government can preserve the fabric of this Confederation.

Honourable senators, it is now, and always has been, in the best interests of the multinational corporations, in the best interests of the oil companies, in the best interests of short- sighted provincial governments, in the best interests of all those whose vision of society goes no further than the bottom line on a financial statement, to maintain the dependent and fragmented nature of our economy and our institutions. That is what colonialism is all about, honourable senators, and it is high time that we in this government said: No; no more of this. We will no longer sell our hopes to the absentee profiteers; we will no longer sell our future to the multinational rip-off artists whose vision of society is to be found entirely within the confines of a balance sheet. That is evidenced by the most recent voluminous report made by the Combines Investigation Branch—on which there is bound to be some follow-up.

The only way we can oppose these rapacious forces is by affirming a different vision, a vision which sees Canadian society as more than the sum of its parts, a vision in which the national good has precedence over the regional will. To ensure this, we must insist not only upon constitutional patriation, but on the repatriation of the national economy. The two, honourable senators, go hand in hand. If we remain an economic colony, constitutional independence is just so much paper.

We must make sure that the ownership of this country’s resources is in Canadian hands, not in the hands of the robber barons who see Canada as a place to get rich quick and run home with the profits. It is beginning to be understood now that the national energy policy is an important step towards the protection of our economy from the economic colonialists who have done this country so much harm.

[Page 2138]

The process must continue, honourable senators. Canadianization of our resources must assume the highest priority. This great debate symbolizes a new direction in Canadian national life. There is nothing sinister about being a Canadian nationalist or in arguing that the control of Canadian institutions and resources must be in Canadian hands—and by “Canadian hands,” honourable senators, I mean in the hands of all Canadians, to be used for the national good, not to pile up billions of dollars for a heritage fund which benefits only a few.

While Mr. Lougheed calls on the people of Alberta to “bleed” for their province, there are Canadians—in the maritimes, for example—who have in fact been “bleeding” for years. In my view, the maritimes have always given more than they have received from Confederation.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Croll: How generous Mr. Lougheed could have been had he used some of Alberta’s Heritage Fund—which now amounts to $12 billion and will, in ten years, amount to $50 billion—to aid the Nova Scotia coal mines by lending $1 million, without interest, in perpetuity. If this were done, I would venture to say that he would hardly miss it. Unlike the American dream, which has always meant power, wealth and freedom, the Canadian dream has meant sharing and freedom.

No member of the Canadian family should be allowed to suffer at the hands of any other. We can no longer tolerate a state of affairs in which there is punishing and dehumanizing poverty in the midst of plenty. The national good must always come before the local good. The people of this country will not tolerate this grotesque aberration of the social order in which some have so much while many have so little. We agreed to share our wealth. That was the promise we made to one another when we agreed to Confederation, as is evidenced by the equalization payments that are made by the government today, small as they may be.

If Canadianization of the Canadian economy still frightens some die-hard continentalists among us, if those left-over doubting Thomases and nervous Nellies believe that when Washington or Imperial Oil sneezes we should take out our handkerchiefs, well, honourable senators, I say that we can no longer afford the luxury of the crocodile tears being shed over the obvious route this country must follow. The oil is ours, honourable senators. The trees, the coal, the uranium, the natural gas, the potash, the asbestos, the nickel, the water— these are the real heritage funds of the future, and they are too important to be left in private hands. This land is our land.

If some run scared at the thought that Canadianization is another way of saying nationalization, well, honourable senators, so be it. Let us stop being afraid of the word. Nationalization has worked well for us in the past in vital areas of the national economy, and that is the road along which, for the good of all of us, we have to proceed. I say that if we could afford it we should buy back the whole works right now—we will only have to pay more later. Our resources, honourable senators, can only increase in value. If we buy them back now, we won’t have to pay through the nose, financially and socially, later.

Let the multinationals go. They pay only disrespectful lip service to our laws and very little in the way of taxes. They are more acquainted with the loopholes than with the spirit of the Income Tax Act, not to mention our social needs. We don’t need them any more. If we buy our natural resources back now, we can manage, develop and plan every bit as well as they can, and a whole lot better than those corporate panhandlers like Chrysler and Massey-Ferguson can—those economic incompetents who are asking us to keep them afloat in a sea of red ink.

The amending formula that really counts, honourable senators, is the one we will use to amend the resource ownership for the national good. We can no longer be hewers of wood and drawers of water for someone else’s industry, someone else’s research and development, and someone else’s profit.

This is the real job of “bashing” that has to be done— bashing into the heads of multinationals the idea that Canadian resources must be used to benefit Canadians, not head office Chicago or head office London. It should go without saying that it is only the central government which can do this job, because it is only that body which represents the interests of all of us. In voting for this resolution, we are affirming that the central government has that right, that mandate, that responsibility. We would also be affirming what is quite literally the “last act of colonialism.” Westminster will send back the Constitution post haste, because it knows that a joint resolution of this Parliament represents the best interests of the Canadian people.

Honourable senators, I have dreamed many dreams for this country in the last 50 years, and at the centre of all of them was the passion that my country would be strong and independent so that it could provide a more just society for all its citizens.

I entered local politics largely as a result of this dream; I went to war because of this dream; and I came to Ottawa, and ultimately to this chamber, in defence of this dream.

I believe as strongly now as I did 45 years ago that it is better to march with the workers than to ride with General Motors. I believe as strongly now as I did then that it is the duty of good government to alleviate the human suffering that arises out of social and economic inequality. I believe now as strongly as I did then that only a dismal and derelict society ignores the needs of the disadvantaged, the old, the sick and the injured.

That dream and those beliefs have given meaning to my life and to my political career; and as I come closer to the end of that career, honourable senators, I don’t want to see that dream hazarded by wrongheaded nay-sayers who do not understand the moral imperatives in our society.

And those dreams go back a long way, honourable senators; they are almost as old as this century. I was born a scant 33 years after Confederation, and in many ways I feel myself to

[Page 2139]

be an almost archetypal Canadian: I was an immigrant, like so many Canadians before and since. My parents chose this country. I know what it means to have an immigrant’s view of the human possibilities in a new world, the vision of the future that melts away fears and forges hope. I was aware from a very early age of the ideals that ultimately shape a society’s future.

I remember my father taking me to hear Sir Wilfrid Laurier speak in the election campaign of 1909. When the speech was over, my father pointed to Laurier and said, “That’s a Liberal.” And to my father that wasn’t a partisan designation, but the measure of a man’s political philosophy. It characterized for him, as it has for me almost ever since, the best human values that a society and political system could embody.

The process of my Canadianization, like that of so many Canadians, was a process of understanding the possibilities offered by political action based on liberal principles. In that sense, honourable senators, I have become Canadianized in the fullest possible way. The Canadian dream served me, and I served it, and thus, in a way, I am a symbol of the pioneer Canadian immigrant—only in my case, I not only benefited from political liberalism; I took an active part in it, and I helped to build up the state to assist those who were less fortunate.

I remember when the first old age pension bill was passed by the House of Commons in the late twenties, and was rejected by the Senate of that day on three grounds: first, that the Senate had no mandate to pass such a bill; second, that there was not enough money to pay for the bill; and, finally, that it was unconstitutional. Well, honourable senators, we didn’t reward obstinacy in a bad cause then, and we must not reward it now.

I supported that pension bill and the political ideals that lay behind it, and when I was elected Mayor of Windsor, a city very hard hit by the Depression, those ideals led me to establish a welfare department. And when I went into provincial politics in 1934 and to the cabinet, I followed those ideals to establish a department of welfare.

When I went to war at the age of 40, it was in part because I believed that the ideals of political liberalism at home demanded the defeat of fascism abroad. Indeed, honourable senators, it could be argued that the essence of this country, the very best that has been created here, that which will endure the longest, is a consequence of this kind of political liberalism. This liberal sense of society was behind the Old Age Pension Act of 1927—a first small step, but a vital step. It was the first social measure enacted by the Government of Canada. I participated in its acceptance, and in every social measure since—and there have been many—in which I have participated.

I have been lucky to be in Parliament for so long a time. Because of that, I know that the view of society is behind the commitment that food, shelter and clothing are the fundamental rights of each citizen of this country—a commitment that was given shape and meaning during the Depression. It was behind the decision in 1952 that the Old Age Security Act should be made universal, and that the degrading and humiliating means test should be done away with. Political liberalism lay behind the suggestion made by Prime Minister King in 1919 that there should be a national health plan.

It took us 50 years to fulfil the promise of that suggestion, honourable senators, but in 1959, in this place, we passed one of the best national medicare plans in the entire world. It was the spirit recognized by my father, an immigrant from a repressive regime, who had dreamed of the future, it was the political spirit that he had recognized in Laurier, that made that plan possible. This is what the Bill of Rights is all about. I have told you I have always been a supporter of it. That fact did not help me any in my party, but it was worth it.

Honourable senators, I have been personal witness to this long, slow process of change in Canadian life. I am able to remember when lack of work meant lack of food; when the children of the poor were hungry because they were made to suffer the imagined sins of their fathers. I remember when there were no unions to protect workers’ rights; when sickness could mean personal bankruptcy; when the best medical care was reserved for the rich; when accident or illness on the job meant the degradation of relief; when that relief was not enough for more than a bare subsistence.

I remember a time not so very long ago when old age meant poverty for all but the very few; when widows were not provided for; when the disabled were offered neither hope nor protection. I remember, honourable senators, when this was a harsher country by far, a more unfair country by far, and a meaner country by far than it is now—in short, when society was working for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.

But I have also been witness to the softening of the harshness by slow degrees over the years, so that we now have a much more human and humane place to live than we once had. Most of us are at least able to agree that “poverty is no disgrace to acknowledge, but a real degradation to make no effort to overcome.”

Honourable senators, I was privileged to be there at each small step along the way to where we stand now: I held office; I spoke in the debates; I raised my hand to vote; I helped make policy; I served on many committees, and chaired some of them; I served my constituents; I have served my party; and I have served my country. I have been in the front line of the battle for human decency in our society. So the dreams that I am dreaming now are not pipe-dreams: they are founded on a clear understanding of what can be accomplished and of what has been accomplished in this country.

I am a creature of my dreams, and they have led me to this debate, and to the great dream embodied in this resolution. I am here to remind you that the progress we have made has been won by idealism married to practical politics. And I am here to remind you as well that that idealism is rooted deep in the hearts of our people, that in the end it will brook no

[Page 2140]

opposition, no watering down, no endless delays. I am here to remind you that people whose memories are otherwise very short never forget when those deepest desires are frustrated.

It seems to me that there are two roads before us: we can go back to the moral meanness of the past; or we can continue on the road towards a humane society. The way back is easy, and it has been mapped out for us for years by those retrograde forces who, during all those great debates on the great social issues, said, “No” or “Not yet” or “Too much” or “Too soon.” Those same forces are with us again; they are asking us again to follow them backwards by opposing the spirit of political liberalism which has accomplished so much. They would divide and fragment this society so that no useful programs for the national good can be set in place.

The other road is the one to the future. Following it demands that we recognize that what is truly in the national interest is also in the regional interest; while what is in the regional interest is not always in the national interest. Following it demands that we give assent now, in this place, in as loud a voice as we can muster, to the ideal of a nation, of nationhood and of the national goals that are symbolized by this resolution.

In doing so, we are taking possession of this land that has for so long been only partly ours; in doing so, we are giving voice and substance to that idea of nationhood; in doing so, we are registering the claims of millions upon millions of Canadians to a piece of their country’s future; in doing so, we are telling our citizens that they will not have their dreams deferred, as they were in the past. In his song, The Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Gordon Lightfoot writes:

Open our hearts and let the life-blood flow,
We’ve got to get on our way,
‘Cause we’re moving too slow.

Honourable senators, I’ve watched this country come a long way in the last 50 years, but for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians whose lives continue to be blighted by inadequate human and social conditions, we are still “moving too slow”. This resolution puts us in a position to remedy that tardiness, at least partially.

My pioneering days are almost over, but before my political career comes entirely to a close, I would like to see my dream come true, of a strong and just Canada, independent and united, proud in its diversity rather than strained in its dissention. That would be a confirmation, not only of my dreams but also of the dreams of all Canadians.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

On motion of Senator Phillips, debate adjourned.

The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Leave a Reply