BACKSTAGE at Ottawa

What We Don’t Know About The U.S.

BLAIR FRASER January 15 1954
BACKSTAGE at Ottawa

What We Don’t Know About The U.S.

BLAIR FRASER January 15 1954

What We Don’t Know About The U.S.

BACKSTAGE at Ottawa

BLAIR FRASER

EVERYBODY talks about Canada-United States relations and now the international Chamber of Commerce proposes to do something ahout them. Its Canada - U. S. committee is commissioning a booklet for distribution in both countries to correct some of he misconceptions among each people about the other.

By way of preparation t he committee took a survey of a small but carefully chosen sample on each side of the border and winnowed out some leading examples of what the common misconceptions are. The survey located eleven among Americans about Canada, and seventeen among Canadians about the United States.

Merrill Dennison, an American journalist who spent much of his boyhood in Canada and knows this country well, once remarked that the average American is benevolently ignorant of Canada, whereas the average Canadian is malevolently well-informed about the United States. The Chamber’s survey confirms Dennison’s epigram. More t han half of the major American misconceptions, but only one of Canada’s anti-American prejudices, are simple .errors of fact. The rest are distortions of the truth, or merely sour reactions to existing conditions.

On the U. S. side, therefore, the task of enlightenment is relatively simple even though it may be difficult.. It’s just a matter of denying such fantastic notions as the following:

“Britain owns Canada. British money may be the common currency; in any case Canadians pay their taxes to f he King.”

“In spite of being British, most

Canadians are somehow French.”

“Canada produces nothing hut raw materials, has no industries, manufactures nothing. There are, of course, excellent places for Americans to fish and hunt, aided by quaint half-breed guides (who are really not to be trusted, but the Mounties are very diligent so don’t be alarmed).”

“People who live in Canada must be rather uncivilized possibly illiterate. Schools, if any, are probably low-grade. For these reasons there can be no large body of skilled labor or professional people. (Besides, aren’t all the best Canadians now in the United States?)”

OF CANADA’S seventeen misconceptions about the United States, only one can he thus corrected by simple denial. Oddly enough, it is an opinion which also appears in the American list. Here’s how Americans express it :

“United States investment in Canada is relatively small. U. S. trade with Canada doesn’t amount to anything important in terms of creating employment for the United States worker.”

Canadians put the same idea in words more like these:

“Although the United States has a lot of companies with Canadian branches, British investments are still greater than United States’. (In 1949 a survey of businessmen in Canada showed that twenty percent believed British investments were greater than United States’, and only nine percent could state what percentage of Canada’s exports goes to the United States.) Canadian trade with Continued on page 50

Backstage at Ottawa

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 5

Britain is still greater than with the United States. Canada’s economic ties are still with Britain.”

In fact, Canada’s trade has become mainly American in the postwar years. We are now selling to the United States about two thirds of all that we sell abroad, and buying there about three quarters of all that we buy abroad. Only about one sixth of our exports and one tenth of our imports are British. As for investments, U. S. interests have about eight billion dollars invested in Canada, British interests a little less than two billions.

But the typical Canadian misconception of the United States is not a mere error of fact, often not even a distortion of fact; it is more likely to be simply a prejudiced opinion, more or less immune from either correction or confirmation. Things like this:

“The United States, a badly run country, will ruin the world through its periodic depressions, its lack of insight into international diplomacy, and its war hysteria.”

“United States schools are inferior —they give a lot of courses in silly subjects and have no standards. Anybody can get a degree from an American college. The only truly cultured and educated people in the United States come from some other country. The hillbilly group is typical.”

“Trading too much with the United States is a fatal mistake. The United States is too ‘unstable’ to represent steady markets for the future.”

“United States investments, now at a very high level, are calculated to overwhelm the Canadian economy for selfish U. S. reasons. The United States is trying to ‘buy’ Canada as it ‘bought’ Latin America.”

This list would seem to indicate that contrary to most Canadians’ opinion, the Chamber will have a harder job on its hands in this country than in the United States.

I HAD LUNCH the other day with a European who was in Ottawa gathering material for a thesis on the Canadian political parties. He’d beer working on it for weeks and he wry a bit baffled.

“I have come to the conclusion,” he said, “that all you Canadians are Liberals. Your Prime Minister once said that the CCF were Liberals in a hurry. It seems to me the Conservatives are Liberals who are dragging their feet.”

I don’t know which of the three parties ought to be the most disturbed by this observation. Anyway, that’s what the man said.

DR. W. G. BLAIR, the respected Conservative MP for Lanark, Ont., rose in the House of Commons not long ago to speak about the textile industry and its need for protection.

“I do not advocate a policy of high prohibitive tariffs for this or any other industry,” he said, “because such a device can only provide stability for an uneconomic unit at an unwarranted high cost to the Canadian consumer . . .

“I do not believe, however, that any honorable member of this House would class the Canadian textile industry as an uneconomic unit.”

Dr. Blair was perfectly right. No politician of any party is likely to use such brutal candor about an industry which employs enough people to cast a deciding vote in a dozen constituencies between Truro, N.S., and London, Ont.

However, whether you call it an

uneconomic unit or not, the cold fact does remain that the Canadian textile industry cannot compete with its rivals in other countries. British and American competition has caused some dismay already; the threat of Japanese competition is far worse, and yet Canada is negotiating a trade agreement with Japan and thereafter will support Japan’s admission to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

From the standpoint of doctrinaire Liberalism the textile industry is indefensible in Canada. It is already heavily protected by tariffs of up to thirty-five percent. It is not an _ “infant industry,” for it has been established in Canada for more than a' hundred years. It does not use Canadian raw material to any significant extent. In theory, at least, it is no more justifiable than the orangegroves-under-glass which are the orthodox Liberal’s most horrible example of protection’s logical conclusion.

But the textile industry, excluding the clothing industry, does employ nearly a hundred thousand people. That is not a very large fraction of the whole labor force but in many a town and village it is the only local industry. If the cotton mill goes down, the town goes down. No government of whatever doctrine can see this happen with equanimity.

• Moreover, the textile industry is merely a test case for several others. Japanese plumbing and heating fixtures, to pick another example at random, are now being made in quality identical with the Canadian product, and can be sold profitably at about half the price. 11 is probable that Japan could provide the same sort of lethal competition in almost any line of secondary manufacture.

UP TO NOW, the Government has been steadfast in resisting pressure for higher tariffs or other protective devices. Up to now, however, the outcry has come mainly from industries who were hollering before they were hurt. This is the first time since the war that any political party has had to make a firm unequivocal choice between the primary Canadian industries which sell in the world markets and therefore want tariffs as low as possible, and the protected Canadian industries which cannot compete with others abroad.

Neither of the major parties seems particularly anxious to fight on this traditional issue. The Conservatives have studiously avoided any outcry for the “national policy” of high tariffs which Sir John A. Macdonald laid down in 1879. The Liberals have continued their customary lip service for freedom of trade, even while C. I). Howe was in Cuba arranging that no more cheap Cuban sugar should be sent here to compete with the sugarbeet industry.

Perhaps the Liberals will be sufficiently adroit to make some similar arrangement to smother the competition of Japanese and German light industry. If not, we may see a real issue rising between the major parties for the first time in more than twenty years. ★

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