Read about what Angus L. MacDonald and Robert Stanfield thought about the failed economics of Confederation
A Nova Scotian View Of Confederation
AN ADDRESS BY The Hon. Robert L. Stanfield, PREMIER OF NOVA SCOTIA
To think of Nova Scotia is to be confronted by history. This is the "akade", the Micmac Indian word for "place", where Cabot and Cartier found the new world, where Champlain built Port Royal over 360 years ago and where the ravages of the wars of Europe left their toll during a period of 100 years, long before Canada was born.
We in Upper Canada should be aware that Nova Scotia was the first self-governing colony in the Empire which enabled our guest of today to say-"We were voting down here long before Toronto was even marked by the first rude hut."
Nova Scotians have always prided themselves on their keen politics and the Stanfield clan can claim to have held every office in the Province, from county warden to Lieu tenant-Governor, this last being our guest's distinguished father.
Nine years ago, this Club was honoured by the presence of Mr. Stanfield and we are again honoured today, sir, to have you with us as you celebrate, this week, your tenth successful year as Premier of your Province. When Mr. Stanfield assumed the leadership of his party in 1948, the political scene for Conservatives was bleak indeed. He had no seats in the House and the Liberals had been in power, except for a very short period, since 1882. However, eight years of reform and reconstruction can do wonders for a party culminating in the electoral success of 1956.
But in addition to a family political heritage, a glittering academic record, hard work and an unbounded belief in Nova Scotia, Mr. Stanfield has that rare quality for political greatness which was expressed, somewhat ruefully, by a grit protagonist,
"He has it going for him two ways
He not only is honest; he appears to be honest. He not only appears to be honest; he is honest!"
It is my pleasure to introduce to you the man who has given leadership, new vigour and pride to historic old Acadia, The Honourable Robert L. Stanfield, Premier of Nova Scotia and its Minister of Education.
It is certainly fitting that Canadians should think about Confederation as we approach its hundredth birthday. Centennial projects are an appropriate form of commemoration, but these acquire a deep significance for us only to the extent that we feel deeply about Canada.
Any views I express today are personal. They do not necessarily represent the traditional attitude of Nova Scotia towards Confederation. Nor do my views necessarily repre sent the general view in my province today. Consequently I would ask you not to hold it against Nova Scotia if you find my opinions shallow or in any way disagreeable.
You will recall that Nova Scotia has traditionally had serious reservations about Confederation. The people of Nova Scotia were not asked whether or not they wished to join Canada and they long resented Confederation and its terms. The great Joseph Howe fought against Confederation, and when he eventually accepted the best settlement John A. Macdonald would offer Nova Scotia, many Nova Scotians regarded this as betrayal. In the 1880's the Liberal Party swept a provincial election in Nova Scotia on a pledge to take Nova Scotia out of Confederation. Resentment continued into recent times.
A generation ago, on May 10, 1938, a former and distinguished Premier of Nova Scotia, Honourable Angus L. Macdonald, made an address here in Toronto. His title was: "The Nova Scotia Viewpoint, a Discussion of Nova Scotia's Past and Present Problems with Regard to Confederation." In the course of his speech Mr. Macdonald said (and I quote): "I know that few countries in the world present more acute problems of government than does Canada, with its diversities of race and tradition, of language and religion, of wealth and resources, of economic need and material desire."
What was Nova Scotia's viewpoint within Confederation as Mr. Macdonald saw it in 1938? Let me quote him again:
"It seems to me that from the Nova Scotian viewpoint the strongest argument for Confederation is the argument on sentimental ground. The economic argument, I think, is weak. Indeed I am now, and I always have been, convinced that, stating the case in terms of economics only, it would have been distinctly to Nova Scotia's advantage to remain out of Confederation."
This is a blunt statement hardly capable of being misunderstood. It was surely regrettable that the Premier of Nova Scotia would find it necessary to make such a statement 70 years after Confederation. You may dispute the correctness of his assertion. As a matter of fact I have always held a somewhat different point of view myself. Yet the majority of educated Nova Scotians certainly agreed with Mr. Macdonald's statement in 1938.
I do not personally believe Nova Scotia would be economically viable on her own in the world of today. The world has changed greatly since 1867 and indeed since 1938. I do not propose to lead Nova Scotia out of Confederation. And I do not come here today to complain. But I would remind any of you who believe in the supremacy of economic considerations above all others that if Nova Scotians had allowed themselves to be governed by economic considerations in 1867 Canada would not have been born and Old Canada would have disintegrated into chaos. Pure economics are no more capable of binding Canada together than they were of creating it. None of us should live in the past, but a remembrance of the past illuminates our understanding of the present.
The point I wish to make here is that purely economic considerations are no more capable of binding Canada together today than they were of creating Canada in 1867.
I wish to emphasize this point. If economics alone had been considered Canada would not have been created in 1867. If economics only are considered, it is difficult to justify today the continued existence of Canada. Our country was not created and it does not continue to exist for economic reasons.
This does not mean that we can properly ignore economic considerations. That would be folly. It does mean, however, that in Canada when we are discussing politics we must consider more than economics. We cannot clinch an argument on public policy by proving that the policy we advocate is sound economically, because something second best economically may better suit our national purpose.
Our national purpose obviously is not simply the pursuit of the highest possible standard of living. If a Canadian wishes to make as large an income as possible he will ordinarily move to the United States, where income standards are higher than ours. If all we are interested in is making as much money as possible we should abandon Canada as a country and throw in our lot with the United States.
The achievement of wealth never was the main purpose behind Confederation. The Fathers of Confederation were seeking a practical way to achieve a number of aims: (1) governmental stability in Upper and Lower Canada; (2) continued independence from the United States; (3) the development of the North and the West by Canadians. Confederation involved both a solution to pressing problems and a vision of the future. Its purpose was not predominantly economic. It envisaged a satisfactory economic future, but the essential purpose of Confederation was to enable the British Colonies in North America to develop British North America themselves in their own way and independently of the United States.
It is easy to understand why French speaking Canadians, would not wish to become part of the great United States melting pot. And, of course, Canadians of British descent wished to preserve the British connection. Both were prepared to sacrifice economic well-being to some extent, if necessary; although it was presumably hoped that Canada would be able to challenge the United States economically as Canada developed and prospered.
But Canada has not been able to challenge the United States in terms of income or material wealth. I doubt if this bothers many French speaking Canadians in Quebec because their main objective in entering Confederation was to be able to participate in Canadian development through a vehicle which would enable them to preserve their language and culture. Their original objectives are still valid for them, although they vigorously question whether our constitution enables them to achieve their objectives.
While economic lag behind the United States presumably does not much bother the people of Quebec, it obviously bothers many English speaking Canadians. Preserving the British connection was worth a substantial economic sacrifice to most English speaking Canadians at the time of Confederation; but today a large proportion of English speaking Canadians are not of British descent. They may respect British achievements and institutions, but a British connection can hardly mean to them what it meant to most English speaking Canadians in 1867.
For Canada to survive, we must wish to be Canadian and wish to live in Canada even if we could make more money as part of the United States. I believe this is the way Canadians do feel. Surely there is nothing surprising in this. Most Nova Scotians prefer to live in Nova Scotia than to make more money in some other part of Canada. I can explain this for myself, but my reasons are not necessarily those of other Nova Scotians. Similarly Canadians may have a variety of reasons for loving their country and the life it offers.
Canadian life has distinctive qualities which most of us would not willingly surrender in order to increase our incomes. We growl about this and complain about that, but we would not willingly live anywhere else. We would like to make the money they make in the United States, but not enough to go there. Of course, some do go and always will, because they are attracted by the quality of American life and the opportunities it offers. We should try to hold down this drain by developing opportunities here and by doing our best to reduce the income gap, but we must expect some drain.
If we feel that Canada and the Canadian way of life worth preserving we must work at it. This involves many tasks, but I wish to mention only two or three here today.
We must create confidence in Quebec that Canada does offer French speaking Canadians a way to preserve and develop their culture as well as to participate in Canadian economic life. English speaking Canadians must take a little trouble to create and maintain this confidence. We have extremists on both sides of this question, but most Canadians are moderate in opinion and attitude. It is surely important to the people of Quebec to work out a reasonable solution within Confederation. It is also important to English speaking Canadians because it is difficult to see Canada and the Canadian way of life surviving and flourishing if Quebec pursues some separate course. If we all recognize the importance of understanding I am sure we can achieve it.
Secondly, Canada must create confidence that all parts of Canada are being fairly treated; and we must create a sense of "belonging" throughout the country. I hear it said, for example, that British Columbians often feel that Canada is a long distance away and that British Columbia gets little from the association. If this feeling does exist it should be given attention and the causes of this feeling removed or eased.
The Atlantic Provinces and eastern Quebec have substantially lower standards of living than the rest of Canada. For a long time this was regarded in central Canada as something inevitable about which nothing could be done. I am happy to be able to say that during the past decade attitudes and policies have become more enlightened and a start has been made towards economic rehabilitation. We have apparently not done as well as the Americans in reducing regional economic disparities of income, but we have made a start. Today I simply wish to emphasize that this remains an important challenge to Confederation.
We seek only that development in Nova Scotia which is consistent with the national interest, nothing more; but we believe the Government of Canada has an obligation to pursue the national interest throughout Canada. A regional incentive policy is a desirable corrective to the centralizing tendencies inherent in tariff policies. A belief in fair treatment is important.
Fixed ideas and doctrinaire attitudes probably constitute the greatest danger to Confederation in the years ahead. Rather than reacting emotionally from prejudice, we must be prepared to look at the facts and to face them. One fact is that millions of Canadians along the eastern seaboard will not happily accept permanently a substantially lower living standard than other Canadians. The problem will not go away by ignoring it or simply regretting it, or by uttering economic doctrines promulgated in the nineteenth century to prove nothing can be done.
Another fact is, of course, that French speaking Canadians wish to preserve their language and culture, and wish institutional arrangements to ensure these. It surely does not help to get into arguments about whether Canada is one nation or two. These are doctrinal positions which are usually irreconcilable. Surely we require pragmatic adjustments which provide French speaking Canadians with the sense of security and opportunity all Canadians reasonably expect, without impairing the governmental structure essential to the peace, order and good government of our country. No one need pretend the adjustments will ever be final or perfectly happy. Nothing is in politics. But if we try to reach practical and fair solutions rather than behave like bigots and doctrinaires we can make progress.
Some, perhaps many, Canadians resent provincial objections to shared cost programmes, evidently believing these programmes necessary to Canada and Confederation. In my view federal officials and politicians have used shared cost programmes to impose their views upon the provinces in fields of provincial jurisdiction. These programmes have been used to extend the authority of the federal government. I readily understand why Quebec objects vigorously. I do not believe these programmes are essential to Canada, at least, in the form they have taken. If we will take the trouble we will find ways of getting things done without isolating any province.
Certainly we must preserve the essential powers of the federal government. This is obvious to the people of any small province like Nova Scotia. Interprovincial co-opera tion is important, but if Nova Scotia has a particular problem of some sort we cannot properly seek assistance from other provinces who have no responsibility to assist Nova Scotia. We need the help of a government at Ottawa which has responsibilities in the development of the whole country. So any Nova Scotian is well aware of the importance of preserving the essential power of the federal government.
I suggest, however, that there will be fewer challenges to these essential powers if the federal government avoids improper extension of its powers. Let us not assume that shared cost programmes of the traditional sort are necessary to preserve our country or to ensure progressive government. Let us develop a sense of trust and confidence throughout our country. If we have trust and confidence we can find ways of getting things done without resorting to methods which are offensive to many Canadians.
I realize that in the United States the trend has been for the federal government to devise and proceed with educational and welfare programmes without regard to state governments or their programmes. The consequence is that federal and state programmes are not co-ordinated. One gets the impression of an increasing role for the government at Washington and a decreasing role for state governments. In Canada, education is a provincial responsibility and will remain such. We cannot resort to a federal steamroller as the Americans have. We must use other methods, including inter-provincial co-operation. The Washington solution may appeal to many Canadians, but it is not available to us. We must develop Canadian methods to solve Canadian problems.
Looking ahead one can see causes for concern, but also causes for optimism. One must be concerned about the extreme and unyielding positions adopted by many Cana dians on questions of basic importance. We all encounter feelings so fierce as to be almost fanatical, and certainly not compatible with reason. And yet when we look abroad most Canadians seem moderate and reasonable by comparison.
If we value Canada as something worth preserving-and we do-then we should each ask ourselves whether we are prepared to modify an opinion or two in the interest of national accommodation. A good Centennial project for each Canadian is to examine his own mind and surrender some prejudice against Canadians of another group. I assure you that we in Nova Scotia have firmly resolved to set an example to other Canadians and that throughout Canada's second century we are determined to love all the people of Toronto, including the aldermen.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.