EDITORIAL

A little help from Big Julie and his gutsy Gang of Eight

Peter C. Newman August 2 1982
EDITORIAL

A little help from Big Julie and his gutsy Gang of Eight

Peter C. Newman August 2 1982

A little help from Big Julie and his gutsy Gang of Eight

EDITORIAL

Peter C. Newman

Canada’s economic development has always flowed from two very different strains: the buccaneering impulses of explorers, fur traders, industrialists, prospectors or oil wildcatters and the public sector advocates, including politicians and civil servants.

In the early days of canal building, highway construction and such epic projects as the building of the CPR and the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the TransCanada pipeline, the two sectors functioned in harmony and for mutual benefit. During two world wars and many lesser emergencies, the twin strains of public and private enterprise joined common cause to protect their joint patrimony.

This style of partnership is rooted deep within the Canadian psyche. Thomas d’Aquino, president of the Business Council on National Issues (which speaks for 130 chief executive officers of Canadian corporations with $440 billion in assets), has recently pointed out that Canada’s historical tolerance of government enterprise is based on “our formidable geography, our recurrent fear of United States domination” and the cultural factors manifested in our collective attitude toward society, contrasting sharply with the competitive individualism of American life.

The reason why this theory has suddenly become relevant is that a squad of some of Canada’s most powerful industrialists has sprung to the defence of the Trudeau government’s sixand five-per-cent wage guidelines. Calling itself the Private Sector 6/5 Committee, the group is headed by Ian Sinclair, chairman of CP Enterprises, and includes Harrison McCain, the potato king, Cedric Ritchie, chairman of the Bank of Nova Scotia, Bill Hamilton of the B.C. Employers’ Association, Jack Barrow, former chairman of Simpsons-Sears, Sam Hughes, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Ed Newall, CEO of Du Pont of Canada, Mitzi Dobrin, a Steinberg director, and Sébastian Allard, president of Conseil du patronat du Québec.

They are determined to swing their fellow entrepreneurs behind the notion that despite the strong antipathy toward Trudeau, the Liberal government has set a worthy example with its wage guidelines. Not only that, but the 6/5 Committee has taken upon itself the task of persuading the business community to apply the same set of rules to prices and profits. “It would be a hell of a thing if we didn’t give it a real effort,” says Sinclair, the burly CP chief who is known as Big Julie and who has spent the past 40 years fighting government intervention. “Besides, if we don’t succeed, the guidelines will become compulsory.”

The committee will not reverse the current recession, nor will it effect much of a dint in the inflation spiral. But the very fact that such a powerful coalition is willing to stand up in support of a restraint policy we all need is a good start.

Big Julie’s Gang of Eight deserves all the help it can get.