CANADA REPORT

Convinced the time is now or never for nationalism, these five men launched the Committee for Independent Canada

December 1 1970
CANADA REPORT

Convinced the time is now or never for nationalism, these five men launched the Committee for Independent Canada

December 1 1970

Convinced the time is now or never for nationalism, these five men launched the Committee for Independent Canada

CANADA REPORT

CIC hopes for half a million names — in support of a firmly nationalist policy statement (its eight main points are outlined on the facing page) which will be presented to Prime Minister Trudeau. If it draws anything like the support the committee expects, the petition will mark the time when the Canadian people decided, once and for all, that the independence issue was more important than any party platform.

The CIC was founded because its members believe the time for Canadian nationalism is now or never. They see three reasons for this urgency:

One is the familiar litany of 606 Canadian firms gobbled up by foreigners in seven years; of the U.S. domination of our culture, from the TV we watch to the professors we hire; of the American ownership of key industries. We have always been told that this foreign domination was inevitable, that we had to have American capital to survive; but recently that myth has been shattered. New studies show that American subsidiaries operating in Canada take out more capital than they bring in. From 1960 to 1967 that imbalance was $1.8 billion. As Professor Rotstein explains: “Foreign investors

come here to make a profit. They use some of that profit to buy up more Canadian industry and send the rest

home. We are put in the extraordinary position of financing our own sellout.” There’s been another new development. The American energy crisis has led to pressure on Canadian resources, and we have shown ourselves barren of any policy to meet that challenge. While official Ottawa denies that any kind of continental energy deal is planned, official Washington speaks of “the North American energy pool,” the oil tanker Manhattan plies Canadian waters, Canada commits an additional 6.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to U.S. needs, and schemes for the tapping of Canadian water resources for American use proliferate like rabbits on the desks of bureaucrats in both national capitals (there are at least 10 of these schemes extant).

“Every day,” says CIC member and adman Jerry Goodis, “another piece of Canada slips into the Hudson River. Every day you can hear another chunk go. Chunk. Chunk.”

The third reason for urgency is more positive. Because of the pressures brought to bear by U.S. dominance, because of a growing rejection of some of the symbols we identify with American affluence, from urban blight to pollution, Canadians have begun to react; and nationalism, a nasty word in Ottawa two years ago, has become almost respectable.

Energy Minister Joe Greene went to Denver to shake a fist at U.S. oil producers. The radical Waffle group shook up the NDP and stirred the nationalist issue in every party. A House of Commons committee suggested that 51 % of the equity of all firms operating here should be owned by Canadians. Recently Revenue Minister Herb Gray handed the government a tough-minded policy paper on Canada-U.S. economic relations, which has gone into the cabinet mill. How much will emerge for legislative enactment depends largely on the success of the CIC in stirring nationalist sentiment.

The most intriguing thing about the CIC is that it is a lobby manned largely by smallor large-l liberals and aimed at the heart of the Liberal government. The committee plans to ask every candidate at the next federal election to take a stand on its policy statement and will support those who accept it. Since Liberals have traditionally been continental thinkers, and Prime Minister Trudeau on more than one occasion has dismissed nationalism with disdain, the committee may find itself o p posed to a good many Liberal candidates. “That is not our intention,” says CIC Honorary Chairman Walter Gordon. “Our purpose is to show that nationalism makes good politics, and we would do that no matter what party hap-

pened to be in power.” But it is the Liberals who are in power — and squarely in the committee’s sights. Publisher Mel Hurtig, Alberta co-ordinator for the CIC, is also chairman of the Liberal party task force on international affairs, and he says bluntly: “In the past, we’ve approached the independence issue in the time-honored Liberal way, and our graph of progress has been one inch to the mile. That’s not good enough. By the time we do it that way, the country will be gone.” For all its high ideals, the CIC has run into some mundane problems. After the early meetings (one of them held, with delicious irony, in the Colonial Room of Toronto’s Granite Club), a timetable was drawn up, tuned to a countdown calendar in Peter Newman’s Toronto Star office. On October 22, the committee would take out full page ads in every newspaper. A press conference would announce the CIC’s existence to an unsuspecting world a few days earlier. The committee’s statement of principles would blossom biculturally. On a trip to Montreal, Newman had talked to Claude Ryan, influential editor of Le Devoir, and, during a taxi ride to the airport, signed him up. Ryan, in fact, helped redraft Newman’s original statement, adding increased emphasis on regional problems, and delicately substituting “governments” —

that is, both federal and provincial — for “government” in a call for legislative action. The new statement was to be translated into French by novelist Roger Lemelin, and issued simultaneously with the Toronto announcement. But too many people knew of the committee, word got out, and on September 16 an investors’ newsletter appeared in Toronto offices with a story about the CIC. “That was a bad day,” as CIC co-chairman Jack McClelland recalls'. “We didn’t have a headquarters, we didn’t have a staff, a list of members, a letterhead, not a bloody thing. But we had to announce.” By nightfall, Bruce Lawson, 35, a personable Australian (not a Canadian citizen), had been hired as executive director, an office had been rented, the statement polished and a press conference called. Ryan happened to be in Toronto for the committee’s weekly meeting and was able to appear at the somewhat disjointed press conference. Ready or not — and it was not — the CIC was launched.

Public response was gratifying. Although the committee had not received the smooth public send-off hoped for, and did receive some harsh editorial knocks — including a sneering article in Time and a wicked Globe and Mail reference to “The Company of Old Cana-

dians” — letters began to pour in, many of them containing money and offers of help.

A great many problems remain. Because the CIC is, doctrinally, a come-as-youare party, its members agree on the need for independence but not on how to get it. Left-wing members see the committee as a place to sell the socialist approach, including nationalism, while right-wingers see it as a chance to prove that free enterprise really works. To minimize quarrels the committee deals only with general principles and steers clear of specific issues, a policy that makes its meetings, as one member put it, “like lovemaking among the porcupines — everything is done very gingerly.”

Then there is the antiAmerican taint bound to be picked up by any nationalist group. “One thing we are not,” says architect John Parkin, “is anti-American.” Other CIC members aren’t so sure. As Peter Newman notes: “Of course there’s a measure of anti-Americanism implicit in the committee — after all, we’re not being threatened by Poland — but the prime motivation is not to be against the U.S., it’s to be for independence.”

Despite these worries, and the organizational problems of raising a $120,000 budget, setting up speakers’ bureaus, preparing research and handling publicity, the CIC has a lot going for it, including some of the nation’s shrewdest political minds — from Dalton Camp to Newman — a tight organization, and a spirit, half idealist fervor, half hardheaded political savvy, that seems a refreshing change from the banality and dogmatism that have marked /party approaches to the independence question.

Most important of all, the CIC has an issue, the issue of Canada’s survival, likely to draw wide support. “Canadians have to get behind this issue,” Newman says, “or there won’t be a Canada at all.” □