THE NATIONAL SCENE

This is a Watchbird watching Canada, This is a Watchbird watching YOU

PENNY WILLIAMS April 1 1971
THE NATIONAL SCENE

This is a Watchbird watching Canada, This is a Watchbird watching YOU

PENNY WILLIAMS April 1 1971

This is a Watchbird watching Canada, This is a Watchbird watching YOU

THE NATIONAL SCENE

PENNY WILLIAMS

DID YOU KNOW that Canadian passports may be changed to an embossed card, like a credit card? Well, you would know, if you subscribed to The Dempsey Canadian Newsletter, a 19-year-old, four-page, fortnightly digest published in Cleveland, and read by 20,000 businessmen and politicians in North America and Europe.

You'd also know how Americans viewed the FLQ kidnappings last fall: “Behind the scenes, such as in banks and other institutions with money at stake, there is some definite reexamination of the security of one's holdings. In terms of Canada as a whole, though, virtually every banker interviewed expressed greater concern over the pending tax reform than over the FLQ ... In Washington there was a sigh of relief over the firm position taken by the Canadian government” (October 19, 1970).

The Dempsey Canadian Newsletter may speculate about “Canadex” passports, but its real interest is the businessman’s interest. How attractive is Canada to foreign investment? Americans read it to find out. So do Canadians.

The publisher is John Bourne Dempsey II, a greying, stocky man of 45, founder and president of Canadian Enterprise Corporation. He calls himself a publisher, and adds, “I’m a consultant to Canadian and American companies doing or desiring to do business on the other side of the border” ($ 150-million worth of transactions since 1956).

This duality is more than sheer business sense. His father, now retired, was a prominent Cleveland lawyer, but his mother was from Montreal, and so is his wife. A year’s business experience in Montreal, right after receiving his BA from Harvard in 1948, convinced him that too many Americans don’t know enough about market conditions in Canada. This conviction helped lead to the founding of the Newsletter in 1952.

It appears every other Monday, so every other Thursday John Dempsey settles down in the office section of a fine old home on the shores of Lake Erie and edits copy from his correspondents. He has six regulars — four in Canada, and one each in London and Washington. As well, there’s a network of trendspotters reporting anonymously (and legally) from within the civil service, the statistical departments of banks, and the key industries — newsprint, auto, oil and gas.

Frivolities such as the great CP Air mini-midi controversy are included, but the crux of each issue is business. The yardstick is “the security of one’s holdings” and that’s why Edgar Benson is seen as a greater threat than the FLQ — at least somebody is doing something about the FLQ.

“The Dominion Bureau of Statistics reported a sharp reduction in the net value of Canadian securities bought by foreigners in November ... ‘So much for the argument that foreign money will always have a home in Canada — tax reform or not,’ growled one financial observer” (February 9, 1970).

At first, back in the complacent 1950s, the Newsletter didn’t pay that much attention to Canadian politics. “Civil servants,” explains Dempsey, “are both more influential and more nationalistic than they used to be. So American companies need to know more about the Canadian political scene.”

As the April 20, 1970, issue ruefully put it: “The conclusion is being reached in several quarters that the Trudeau government is a prisoner of the Mandarins — the senior civil servants — as has been no other government in recent history . . . Onetime Finance Minister Walter Gordon ... is now held to be greatly missed on the political scene, even by the business community, because he sensed the stranglehold the Mandarins were exercising on policy . . . Mr. Trudeau must revert back to his original objective — to see that it is the ministers and cabinet who make policy . . .To this point, there is no firm indication that he will.”

Trudeau, however, is generally viewed with a sympathetic eye, despite his so-called credibility gap — “that vast expanse between the liberal reformer he seems to be and the steady administrator he is increasingly revealing himself to be ... If nothing else, Mr. Trudeau’s sense of fiscal responsibility will prove a benchmark against which many prime ministers . . . will be judged” (November 30, 1970).

That same issue also commented on the Liberal Party policy convention and the nationalism issue, which is judged for the most part “a Toronto phenomenon — that even parts of Ontario are not in agreement with . . . The general consensus . . . was that only Toronto would benefit from it, that it would only work under a genuine socialistic government.”

You can hardly expect businessmen to cheer the idea of “a genuine socialistic government.” John Dempsey represents them well when he expresses his belief in the need for a strong North American bloc to counter “that other system.”

Last fall the Newsletter related the concern of a Canadian businessman on a trip behind the Iron Curtain who was told by a Russian spokesman that “the free enterprise system is being steadily undermined in Canada, the U.S. and some other western nations by .the growing role of the central governments and their tendency to restrict and regulate too much, as compared to what is happening in Germany and Japan where the governments are openly assisting business, and not the least bit ashamed if those who are successful become wealthy.”

Here’s how the Newsletter views other Canadian issues and personalities:

TRUDEAU’S WASHINGTON VISIT: “The office secretaries were evidently disappointed that the PM did not swing from a White House chandelier

. . . However, those whose views really count hailed the visit as one which reestablished a productive working relationship between Washington and Ottawa for the first time since 1960” (April 7, 1969).

OIL AND GAS: “One thing is certain: oil flows in North America five years from now will be a far cry from what they are today and the ironing out of details will provoke considerable debate in both countries” (January 27, 1969).

CAMPUS UNREST: “It is increasingly evident that the degree of faculty sympathy for the students suggests the long-term outlook is for the preaching of very leftist and unbusinesslike thinking" (May 5, 1969).

WESTERN SEPARATISM: “Real momentum toward a breakup of Canada . . . could get its impetus from the west” (April 20, 1970).

NATIONAL UNITY: “Canada’s political malaise of the 1970s is causing concern in some business and political circles . . . The view is widely held now that Mr. Trudeau is failing in the very area in which the voters had placed their greatest faith in him — national unity ... In the inflation fight and other areas such as the Arctic waters issue, many observers feel the Trudeau government has indeed shown great political courage ... On the debit side of the ledger is the White Paper on Tax Reform . . . No matter what the end result may be, some harm will have been done to the Canadian economy, especially through the flight of money from the country to various tax havens” (April 20, 1970).

Which leads us back to EDGAR BENSON: “The finance minister gave virtually all sectors of the economy, with the exceptions of maybe war veterans and pensioners, a letdown of monumental proportions [in his interim budget]” (December 14, 1970).

JOE GREENE: “In an Ontario

speech rivaling his infamous Denver lecture to U.S. oil executives last spring, Mr. Greene took the gloves off . . . about pollution . . . There is a growing feeling here that natural resource exports in the future just may be tied to social measures, in addition to the usual money deals, of course” (November 30, 1970).

ROBERT BOURASSA: “The Wall

Street fraternity like his cut, his realization of the functioning of the economy and his clean presentation of Quebec as a place for investment” (October 19, 1970).

QUEBEC: “If Quebec votes to separate, the rest of Canada may take a ‘let them go’ attitude . . . The official

American attitude would be to watch closely for Communistic evidence, and if it crops to the surface there would very likely be some sort of action with the objective of preventing another Cuba” (April 20, 1970).

THE WILL TO WORK: “In short, as our advisers assess matters, the root of the problem is that too many in Canada are not being educated to appreciate that progress is the result of work . . . Government welfare programs are terribly abused and have done much to destroy the incentives to be productive on the part of thousands of Canadians” (September 1, 1969).

John Dempsey assesses it all as a businessman, but for him it’s not just business. He has relatives in Canada, and a network of friends and acquaintances, people such as Mayor Jean Drapeau (“I value highly my relationship with a man like Drapeau”), Eric Kierans (“Sometimes I feel poor Eric wants to get to the other end of the building without taking every step along the way”), and Charles Rathgeb. president of Comstock International (“He’s literally building Canada”). John Dempsey loves Canada, enthuses about it and promotes it . . . well, the way Jean Drapeau cherishes and promotes the city of Montreal, for example.

So it’s not with menace aforethought that Dempsey says there is no border, economically speaking. He continually prods Canadians to exploit the situation: “I happen to be convinced that the U.S. market offers the average Canadian producer his biggest potential after his own market, if he has a position in his own market at all. It’s that simple.”

At least, it is to John Dempsey. □