MACLEAN'S Canada Report


COURTNEY TOWER October 1 1969
MACLEAN'S Canada Report


COURTNEY TOWER October 1 1969


MACLEAN'S Canada Report


One thousand determined men and women meet in Winnipeg this month to prove that W. A. C. Bennett was wrong when he boasted he had “saved all Canada from socialism.” They are delegates to the policy conference of our perennial Tomorrow Party, the NDP, a movement that has struggled within sight of power several times within the past 30 years, only to see the vision fade. They sighted it in British Columbia until Bennett fogged the view with a propaganda assault upon socialist “barbarians at the gate,” though they were more accurately a mild reformist party led by a small-1 liberal lawyer seeking to duplicate the successful Manitoba campaign of fellow moderate Ed Schreyer. But if the degree of “socialism” in the well-organized party Bennett defeated is questionable, there is no question that a real socialist thrust is shaping up at Winnipeg. Even before the BC disaster, strong NDP voices were calling for more radical policies; the disaster made them more insistent. They were urging a new direction for the 70s, a program that would confront issues all parties have shrunk from — such issues as the foreign control of our resources and manufacturing, and the plight of the individual in a computerized, corporate world. Such a program is needed, Winnipeg delegates will be told, to bring the young, the bright and the concerned out of dissent on the streets and campuses and into the political process. It is this demand that makes the NDP today something more than a party nursing battle wounds. It could make it a source of revitalizing debate among Canadians.

After BC: “Wait till you hear the Left insist we stress socialist policies now”

ED SCHREYER, an uncommonly sage-looking 33, slowly sips rum-and-Coke in a Winnipeg bar, munches a ham-and-Swisscheese sandwich, pauses before each sentence. For all his green suits, sideburns and modish haircut — the Premier of Manitoba is cautious, tightly self-controlled. “I was first elected at 22, and very afraid I’d make some horrible faux pas: it’s become ingrained in me,” he explains. The carefulness, characteristic of this German-Canadian farmer’s son, extends to the brand of socialism advocated by Canada’s only New Democratic premier. He candidly says he is: unhappy with “too much anti-Americanism in the NDP”; seeking all the foreign investment he can get; convinced foreign corporations “are ready to play ball” with Canadian governments; leery of Canadian nationalism.

Premier Schreyer is clearly out of tune with the mood of the party elsewhere.

Schreyer won power, which is not an NDP habit, in part by avoiding the word “socialist” like the plague. He became the Golden Boy of those in the party who will resist any move to the left, in a debate that surfaces at the NDP policy convention in Winnipeg, October 28-31. Tom Berger, who led the British Columbia NDP, was cast for another Golden Boy role, but Premier W. A. C. Bennett dealt crushingly with that on August 27. British Columbia spurned the Manitoba prescription of youth, a new face, and studied moderation — Berger is 36, was leader only since April and didn’t even mention in his campaigning the spreading foreign ownership of BC’s resources. Bennett, 69, in power 17 years, waged a vastly expensive campaign against what he called the threat of a takeover by “Marxian socialism,” in Canada’s own free-enterprise California. He eliminated Berger and reduced the NDP from 17 to

11 seats, with a scare campaign assisted by businessmen spending big on newspaper and broadcasting ads.

“Wait till you hear the Left insist we stress socialist policies now,” sighed Gordon Brigden, Ontario NDP organizer who worked in the BC campaign. “Look "where moderation got us.” And many other NDP leaders agree that the BC devastation strengthens those who would make Canadian sovereignty, through public ownershp and/or control of corporations, the central issue of the ’70s. Schreyer intends to work differently, to “start programs of social reform in a moderate way,” to cut medicare premiums, set up a government auto-insurance plan, help Manitoba’s more than 50,000 Indians and Métis with schools and industries where they live.


But Schreyerism is unlikely to appear a glamorous package to the 1,000 delegates who will gather in Winnipeg’s Civic Auditorium, a 1932 relief project that trumpets the motto: Commerce, Prudence, Industry. Though a national Gallup Poll taken before the BC election had shown NDP support at 24 percent, its highest since the fall of 1967 (when it reached 26), all other indicators supported the case for a new policy direction. The 20 colleagues former MP Schreyer left behind on Parliament Hill were still a tiny third force. The party had lost ground in crucial Ontario cities in Trudeau’s sweep of ’68. It was nowhere in the Maritimes or Quebec. And there was the leadership problem, which Winnipeg would not resolve. (Tommy Douglas, 65, and no longer credible for the Trudeau years, would soldier on until a leadership convention in 1971.)

More basic, the party was still shaky in finances, support and membership. In 1968 it polled only 1,360,000 votes, 17 percent of the total. That election left it

^With the rapture of Trudeaumania waning,the intellectuals were seeping back to the NDPÇ

$100,000 in debt and membership fees bring in only $200,000 a year. The massive trade-union base anticipated by the NDP’s founding fathers in 1961 never materialized. (Today’s party membership of 350,000 includes only 260,000 of Canada’s 2,000,000 trade unionists.)

But there were hints of change in the wind. One hint was the national political situation, the other the beginnings of a searching party debate into the problems and programs of the ’70s.

Trudeaumania was waning, extinct on the wheat-glutted prairies, with no sign that Robert Stanfield’s Conservatives, annihilated in the great cities, could exploit the disenchantment. Though Trudeau had maintained his personal charisma, he had appeared sombrely conservative in his approach to the nation’s economic and social problems. “He’s the Herbert Hoover of Canada,” Tommy Douglas proclaimed. And, said party secretary Clifford Scotton, the intellectuals were seeping back to the NDP, responding to new concerns.

Foreign takeovers of Canadian enterprises rose to 159 in 1968 (from 85 in 1967, 70 in 1965, 37 in 1963) and the financial house of Royal Securities Ltd. had become a U.S. subsidiary. Even academe was not immune; 1,103 Americans — as against 362 Canadians — were appointed to Canadian university posts in ►

^There is no room in Canada today for a third party in the liberal centre^

the 1968-69 academic year. Since the Liberal government had pigeonholed Walter Gordon’s report on U.S. ownership of Canada, only the NDP had voiced concern — and even it was muted.

The prodigals returned in time to join a revitalizing debate within the party, a debate that will be copiously reported because of the socialist party’s historical function as an antenna signaling new ideas in Canadian politics. Winnipeg sees the NDP more fiercely locked in internal debate than any conference since the party was formed in 1961.

Three points are at issue: HOW CAN CANADA preserve an industrial and business system that Canadians will own and operate?

HOW CAN CANADIANS, and not giant American corporations, control the in-

vestment decisions that determine where and when the country will develop?

HOW CAN PEOPLE take part in the decision-making of the impersonal corporation that employs them, the government that rules them, the city that taxes them, the neighborhood in which they live?

Ironically, all these timely issues have been raised by Charles Taylor, the bilingual, 37-year-old Hegelian scholar the party Establishment favors to succeed Tommy Douglas. As Taylor sees it, there is no room in Canada for a third party in the liberal centre. He wants an alliance of the “middle group” of moderately affluent workers, clerks and technicians with the organized working class to produce a Left party that eventually would be pitted against a unified party of the Right.

Taylor argues that Canada’s economic problems derive in part from the fact that corporate capitalism in Canada, mostly American-owned, generates its own funds here. It invests this Canadian money where, how and when it sees fit; it may be producing a mushroom crop of branch plants in suburban Toronto at a time when such plants could provide desperately needed jobs and prosperity if they were located in the Maritimes.

Taylor is no doctrinaire nationalizer

— “We can’t nationalize without compensation or the Marines will be here!”

— but he would restore control of the economy to Canada by government price controls on strategic goods (steel, oil, aluminum, gas), controlling the corporations’ disposition of their reserve funds by means of investment licenses, setting ►

up a Canadian Development Fund to start investment projects in poor regions or places where the corporations were threatening to pull out. Alongside this moderate nationalism, Taylor would emphasize People Power — in municipalities, schóól boards, industrial management. He would create a new tier of government — the urban neighborhood — to create more leverage for the newly activist poor by giving them a power base.

It is these political standards — a new nationalism and a new participation — that Taylor and those to the left of him set against the pragmatic Schreyerism that “business will play ball.” Three broad trends are discernible:

THE CENTRE: A large grouping that includes Taylor and most current leadership contenders. In varying degrees, they are ready for more emphasis on nationalism, People Power, government control of the economy.

THE RIGHT: This group says the important thing is to get elected; it cheered loudest for Schreyer. It includes a powerful contingent of trade-union leaders,

ÇTommy wants to hand over to a man from the left because'the public will soon enough catch up'Ç

Ontario NDP leader Donald MacDonald (a reformed fire-eater) and ex-MP columnist Douglas Fisher.

THE LEFT: The smallest group. Its ablest spokesman is University of Toronto economist Melville Watkins, head of Walter Gordon’s disregarded task force on foreign ownership. Watkins is backed by the youth wing of the party (100 delegates), its few New Left graduates, a sprinkling of old CCF warhorses. “The American empire is the central reality for Canadians,” declares Watkins — and both his nationalism and his socialism are more radical than Taylor’s.

Winnipeg is only the first round of the great debate, but its political tenor will undoubtedly influence the party’s approach to the delicate business of choosing a leader in 1971. The existing leader, Tommy Douglas, knows he must go, but is sad — “I’m not physically or mentally tired.” Unsurprisingly, he would like to hand over to a successor from the left of centre because “the public will soon enough catch up with him.” If that is conventional wisdom, it is no more conventional than the advice of a onetime CCF supporter who wrote: “The dreamers of today frequently become the realists of tomorrow.” The supporter’s name was Pierre Trudeau. □