The Heartening Surge Of A New Canadian Nationalism

COURTNEY TOWER February 1 1970

The Heartening Surge Of A New Canadian Nationalism

COURTNEY TOWER February 1 1970

No one knows exactly when it began. Nor can anyone guarantee it will last. But there is no doubt that it’s all around now, from the lyrics of pop music to the caucus rooms of Ottawa. And more and more it is forcing people to choose sides. Either you’re for Canada, or you just don’t care. Editorially, Maclean's cares intensely. We present this report, frankly, with an ulterior motive. Maclean's wants to fan the flames of what we take to be The Heartening Surge Of A New Canadian Nationalism.

LOOK FOR Prime Minister Trudeau to show sudden interest in the Seventies in bringing the Canadian economy back home.

In John Diefenbaker’s beloved crack, that may be the greatest conversion since Saul on the road to Damascus. Trudeau is notoriously cold to nationalism, economic or otherwise. But he is under heavy pressure from his party to do something about the surging American takeover of Canadian companies. Cabinet ministers admit they are divided. Backbenchers confide news of sharp exchanges with Trudeau himself from the sanctity of the Liberal parliamentary caucus — and caucus leaks under tight-ship-Trudeau are themselves a sign of unrest.

Liberals — traditionally free-trade continentalists — report a new unease among their voters that is much more profound than the usual ambivalence about U.S. control of the economy. Discontent now extends to American invasion of our universities and of television. Trudeau is under attack for continuing Canadian adherence to unpopular U.S. foreign policies. The New Democratic Party saw the new nationalism coming and — so far — has preempted it as a platform. The Conservatives have begun talking, uneasily, about restrictions on foreign ownership. Liberal MPs have banded into groups to study foreign domination and, as one member says, “to talk the issue up outside parliament, with academics and other Liberals, to try to move the PM.”

“It’s a non - concern with him . . . that’s the way I feel,” explodes Barney Danson, an important and normally nonrevolutionary Toronto MP. “He [Trudeau] understands the problem but it is very low on his list of priorities.” Or consider Robert Kaplan, Toronto MP, who prefers understated one-liners: “You can’t say today that the government has done very much to encourage Canadian participation.” Academics attracted by Trudeau, and young Liberals, are leaving the party. “It’s a trend across the country,” reports Tom Bernes, president of the Canadian Student Liberals and national party co-chairman of a special youth committee. “Two of my last three predecessors have joined the NDP.”

Energy and Resources Minister J. J. Greene has publicly exulted about a U.S. suggestion for a continental package deal to exploit Canada’s oil, natural-gas and water-power resources. “God,” says Danson, “that statement of his . . . and telling us not to be deterred by silly nationalism . . . well, that shook me and it shook an awful lot of people.” Hundreds wrote in protest to the CBC.

It is forthright for James Richardson, Minister of Supply and Services, to say, “We have made the mistake of allowing too much foreign capital to enter in the form pf ownership and not debt.” Richardson is a multimillionaire businessman and he’s from the west, which is supposed to abhor economic nationalism. But he agrees with the principle that foreign companies be required to permit Canadians to buy into them — the great U.S. subsidiaries in this country are mostly wholly U.S.-owned. He told Maclean’s he would “encourage” —which sounded like “require” — life-insurance firms and other major savings institutions to channel their billions into building Canadian firms.

Minister Without Portfolio Herb Gray, of Windsor, has been instructed to develop policies regarding economic sovereignty. He is working now on introducing the long-promised Canada Development Corporation (CDC) later this year. He says, “I think you will see a more positive approach.” Even Trudeau’s office has taken to saying, “You know, the PM is speaking only about chauvinism when he speaks against nationalism.”

Some tax incentives are promised, for 1971 perhaps, to encourage Canadians to invest in Canadian companies. But many Liberals look for bolder state controls, and some for more state financial intervention, in the economy. The NDP sentiment ranges from more public ownership and more regulation to Toronto professor Melville Watkins’ solution of widespread nationalization. Conservative leader Robert Stanfield admits “we certainly have a great deal of thinking to do.” All the parties have that. For if there was ever an explosive issue looming for the 1972 or so election, when the young vote will be decisive, this one is it.

Why a generation is changing its mind

DOUG WARD is 31 and he grew up in a generation of internationalists, when nationalism was scorned. Today he is a Canadian nationalist. Ward’s politics happen to be those of the Left — farther Left, he says, than those of the NDP but not as far as Canada’s New Left Marxists. But the processes that altered his thinking in the past few years are precisely those that are changing the thinking of many Canadians of his generation, Left and Right. To that extent, Doug Ward is a case history of the new nationalist movement.

The son of a rich Toronto financier, Ward was active in the World University Service while studying history from 1957-61. “The late 1950s to the early 1960s was a time of internationalism, when nationalism meant defining other people as the enemy — and that’s not the road to peace,” he says. “Internationalism was in the universities. It was in Quebec, in the people who were fighting Duplessis. The United States was their model. Prime Minister Trudeau was in this bag.”

Ward’s internationalist beliefs continued while he studied theology at Princeton and Toronto from 1961-64. He was a member of the Students’ Union For Peace Action, which wanted to abolish national states. “But then the problems of the U.S. started to become clear,” he says. “We started to see it as an imperialist state, in Santo Domingo and Vietnam, as much as Russia in Czechoslovakia or -China in Tibet. Canada had become economically and culturally subject, because we had thought everything American was beautiful and we brought it in. But Canadians finally realized that in order to survive when you are surrounded by a nationalistic superpower, you have to be nationalistic too.”

Ward has since been an employee and president of the Canadian Union of Students and chairman of the beleaguered Company of Young Canadians. A CBC radio producer now, he says, “What I really want is to live in a country that is independent and self-governing . . . and I don’t think we are.” Ward’s best chance to contribute to that independence is before him, in an appointment to study and make recommendations on the future of CBC radio. “I can already see that when broadcasting was established in Canada, we had a will to be self knowing and self-governing,” he says, “and we will have to get that back.”

When patriotism makes best sellers ...

“FOR THE FIRST TIME since the turn of this century, the country is alive again,” says Jim Bacque. “Everybody is being c r e a t i v e.” At 40, Bacque’s way of joining that creative scene was to quit his job as a publishing - house trade editor, write a second novel and form a publishing house with Dave Godfrey and Roy MacSkimming in Toronto last year. Their new press publishes in the casual clutter of an old brick house next to a funeral parlor . . . “nonfiction and poetry for the maybe one quarter of Canadians who know that Canada is unique, that American ideals and institutions and problems are not necessarily ours.” That is Godfrey speaking. He is 30, a professor of English, an author, cofounder of House of Anansi.

The two - year - old House of Anansi does well publishing poetry and fiction by Canadian writers, mostly new ones. New press’s first book last October was The Struggle For Canadian Universities, by Carleton University professors James Steele and Robin Mathews. The book documents the current virulent battle among academics about the immense foreign takeover of teaching positions. The book sold more than 3,000 copies by Christmas, excellent going in Canada. “When j House of Anansi brought out a manual for draft-dodgers and it sold 25,000 copies, we knew a change was coming,” says MacSkimming, 26.

Other nationalistic publishers are Mel Hurtig in Edmonton and Peter Martin Associates in Toronto. The big domestic publisher, McClelland and Stewart, is printing more Canadian books. The University of Toronto Press is publishing in February Close The 49th Parallel. This collection of essays would turf the Americans out of influence in economics, foreign policy, sports and the arts. The title, and the cover illustration, are from a painting by Greg Curnoe, of London, Ontario. The painting is simply words that say, “Close The 49th Parallel, Etc.,” and it is on government-sponsored exhibition now in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Curnoe is clear about his nationalism. “It’s because I don’t want to be an American. One should be close to one’s environment. First of all, I’m from the street I live on . . . and then you take it up from there.”

Curnoe took it a little far for the Women’s Committee of the Art Gallery of Ontario a year ago. They decided to have a Christmas tree at the gallery and to dangle from its branches works commissioned from Canadian artists. An international firm thought that would be lovely, too, and arranged to buy all the works and tour them around Canada later. Curnoe produced a round red wooden disc that had a hook in it to make dangling easy, and on one side it said:

The ladies didn’t hang it on the tree.

The Arctic judge who keeps the flag flying

JUDGE WILLIAM MORROW of the Northwest Territorial Court believes sovereignty and nationalism have to be built slowly, of many strands. He convicted Eskimo hunter Tootalik last November of violating an NWT game ordinance by killing a polar bear four and half miles beyond the three-mile limit on frozen Pasley Bay. The decision continued 40 years of assumptions of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, by courts and the RCMP. Judge Morrow told Maclean’s he thought Prime Minister Trudeau was clever in attempting to establish sovereignty by arguing Canada’s need to protect the Arctic from pollution — “If he gets agreement on that, well, he’s sort of crept in without a head-on collision.” From Yellowknife, Judge Morrow adds: “We’re pretty patriotic here. You see a lot of Canadian flags. I’ve got one in my backyard.”

To stem the flood of American TV . . .

A GOVERNMENT AGENCY, of all things, is delighting people who worry about being overwhelmed by American TV. The Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) forbade microwave link-ups that carry U.S. channels to Canadian points not near enough to receive them on ordinary cable TV. Whether the 45 percent of Canadians the decree affects are happy is another thing.

CRTC president Pierre Juneau answers that all present and future “technological gimmicks” that can flood American TV into Canada must be controlled. And the CRTC will require that Canadian broadcasters vastly improve programming.

CRTC vice-chairman Harry Boyle is saltier. Question: “What if broadcasters just don’t improve programming?” Boyle: “They goddamn well will ... or else there’ll be no broadcasting system.”

Boyle speaks vividly of Canada as being held together by communications—today’s significant version being broadcasting. Now cable TV is threatening that linkage, he says. “Already it takes great bites out of that blood flow from east to west. If you allow it to go on it will gobble up the whole system. We’ve got to find a means of reinstituting the same principle of keeping an east-west flow.”

Students play a game of Nations . . .

GREG GAGLIONE was the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and he lived his role, very assured, buttoned-down cool, firmly setting Canada straight: “You don’t realize your feeble position . . . the United States does not intend to be flexible at all.” Eric Mills was Finance Minister Benson. He flushed in frustration and became coldly polite as he began to bend before U.S. pressure. Political Science 201, Canadian American relations acted out, is only a game at the University of Toronto, but one that bares young nerve-ends, it is plainly painful to learn at 19 that what you may dream for Canada is too often what the United States will allow.

The second-year students play Canadian and American ministers, civil servants and newsmen, 50 on each side. Their own CBC, NBC and blackboard newspapers report negotiations, press conferences, meetings of parliament and congress. One Monday there was a Canada U.S. economic negotiation.

The U.S. delegation made the same hard noises about the U.S.-Canada auto pact that the real Washington is making now. The student Canadians’ response was to suggest sending the issue to a committee, to keep it open. Gaglione smiled, but agreed. “It takes only a little longer,” he said later. Then he struck with a plan remarkably similar to the one that excited federal Energy and Resources Minister J. J. Greene—a continental energy package giving the U.S. a perpetual resource base for natural gas, oil and even water. Mills, less joyful than Greene, said Canadians would be upset. “You don’t understand: you have little bargaining p o w e r,”

Gaglione repeated. “We can just crush you any time we want to.”

A compromise, on U.S. terms, was emerging. Abraham Rotstein, one of three professors running the course, sounded rueful: “We feed in issues that ought to be critical, but somehow they get smoothed over. It’s what happens when a small power is enmeshed with a giant.” To Evelyn Kolish, a 19-yearold in the role of a CBC announcer, “the issues are evaded in public . . . it’s good for America and bad for Canada.” David Jackson, a fourth-year student tutorial leader, said, “Students who have the American role tend to say we should simply be resigned. Those who play Canadians become more radical about Canada asserting itself.” Stephen Langdon, a fourth-year leader with the American side, disagreed: “Our group prepared a hardline position — and then it dawned on them that they were Canadians. They feel much more strongly now.

“It makes me very nationalistic — whatever you do you are under the gun of the U.S.,” said Herb Pirk, 20, who played Trade and Industry Minister Jean-Luc Pepin.

Down the corridor another professor, Melville Watkins, whose personal inclination is to nationalize everything American that moves, was grinning. “Prime Minister Trudeau” had introduced a bill in parliament to legalize marijuana. The Americans were annoyed, picturing fields of Canadian hemp waving temptingly on their borders, Prohibition revisited. And so, after discussion, Canadian parliamentarians voted the bill down.

. . . Musicians play a Canada rock

CANADIAN POP SONGS, contrary to the notions of most adults, don’t deal exclusively with sex, drugs and the hassles of adolescent love. Many recent lyrics are, in the words of Ian Tyson of Ian and Sylvia, “getting into a patriotism bag.” Increasingly, composer-performers such as Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young (of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) and Robbie Robertson (of The Band) are producing songs that celebrate a fresh awareness of Canada.

Some songs document the country’s special history and geography. Lightfoot’s multiversed epic, Canadian Railroad Trilogy, is specific and poetic about the building of the CPR and, as one pop critic noted, the song exudes “the quality of Francis Parkman’s histories of Canada.” Alan MacRae, a wandering folk minstrel based in Toronto, rhapsodizes prairie wheat fields in his Shake The Dust and so does Buffy SainteMarie, born in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, in her I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again. Luke Gibson, a young rock’n’roller from Toronto, heralds his discovery last summer of northern Ontario in a new series of lyric ballads. Tyson’s Four Rode By reconstructs a tale of three McLean brothers from the BC interior who were hanged in 1881 for the murder of a mountie.

“We used to have about eight national anthems in Canada and no love songs,” Tyson says. “Well, now we have the love songs and we’re also getting songs that tell you how the country feels.” It’s a beginning in Englishspeaking Canada, at least, of a vocal nationalism that French - Canadian chansonniers have celebrated for many years.

Three businessmen who sell ‘buy-Canada-back’

WALTER LOCKHART GORDON, 64, is out of politics now and much more respectable among his own tribe than when he roused the fury of Canadian businessmen in 1963. In that year, his first budget as Minister of Finance proposed a 30 percent takeover tax on the sale of Canadian firms to foreigners and other measures by which Canada might regain some economic control of itself. Terms such as “economic nationalist” somehow became clichés of abuse of this precise, horn-rimmed Toronto accountant. Gordon lost the battle for his takeover tax and his portfolio, but continued preaching economic sovereignty.

Finally, his own Liberal Party destroyed him politically.

Today, Gordon says, with perhaps 600 more Canadian firms taken over in the past two years, “many businessmen speak to me and write me letters saying they are coming around. Their children influence them.” Highschool and university students this year have applauded his message that a satellite Canada would become embroiled in U.S. racial strife, violence and such adventures as Vietnam with little or no more prosperity in return. Gordon says his takeover tax and bold buy-back incentives could be enacted without the U.S. retaliating. “But everyone is fearful,” he says. “That kind of timid attitude is what worries me most ... If Canadians are not ready to stand up for their rights, nobody else is.” He also says, “It may be the last chance.”

BY DEFINITION, multinational corporations are hard to control. They generate so much money for expansion wherever they operate — and Canada is no exception — that they can simply shrug off such pinpricks as goodcitizen guidelines or taxes on foreign investments. They control markets and make major decisions about how and where Canada will develop, all on their own. Some socialists would nationalize their Canadian subsidiaries. Concerned people in some countries talk of international control over these corporations. Robert Parker would welcome them — but on remarkable terms.

Parker, a 41-year-old immigrant Englishman, is founder-president of the new $ 14-million Multiple Access General Computer Corporation in Toronto. He recalls working for Canadian General Electric, a subsidiary where “you couldn’t get research money . . . but you could get all kinds of funds for copying U.S.-designed steam irons, pots and pans and light bulbs.”

Parker’s solution: welcome multinational corporations, if they bring head offices and all the chief executives to Canada — with their major research and development facilities. No takeovers unless the buyer is ready to move here. Why do we need control? “So that we can develop our culture in the way we want, to try to find satisfactory solutions for co-operative federalism. We won’t even have an opportunity to work on these solutions if we don’t preserve our national identity.”

JOHN MOORE is fifth-generation London, Ontario, and as a child he lived with the history of Canada, played in its forts, was never in any doubt. “I breathed Canada and I knew what it was,” he says. “But you don’t see that any more. We live in Toronto now . . . ” The wistfulness passes but Moore, president of Brascan, a $900 - million company that operates a power utility in Brazil, is still saying Canadians should own Canada. This Canadian capitalist reversed the economic trend by buying two important Canadian companies back from U.S. ownership.

Moore, 54, was president of John Labatt Ltd. in 1964 when the 141-year-old London, Ontario, brewing firm was taken over by Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. of Milwaukee. He put together a group of London investors and Brascan, and together they bought back Labatt in 1967. In 1969, John Labatt (John Moore, chairman) bought the 57-year-old Laura Secord Candy Shops Ltd. back from two years of U.S. control.

Moore disclaims any sentiment but shareholders’ interest in the deals. But then he talks of foreign firms siphoning off profits that should feed Canadian social needs, of talented Canadians leaving communities when the challenges are moved south. Moore would like frankly tough policies against foreign ownership, as well as incentives and protection for Canadians. Can Canada be bought back? “In the short term, it would be difficult to churn out the capital, et cetera,” says Moore. “But if there was the desire, sure we could do it.”