October 19 1987


October 19 1987



Last week business leaders, politicians, artists and other opinion leaders were assessing Ottawa's free trade agreement with the United States. Excerpts of random interviews by Maclean’s Assistant Editor Cindy Barrett and Staff Writer Sherri Aikenhead:

Pierre Berton

Author: “It’s dreadful. It is selling the soul of our country. It means we are one step closer to becoming American. Canadians should demand an election. If the Prime Minister thinks it’s such a good idea, then he should have the guts to go to the people.”

John Polanyi

Nobel Prize-winner in chemistry: “Free trade is the way of the future. In science there is no duty levelled on ideas and we compete internationally. It is a logical extension that business, which depends on ideas, compete internationally.” That said, we have to take measures to protect our political independence.”

John Kenneth Galbraith

Harvard University economist: “I don’t automatically support free trade. I have no theological commitment to it. But Canada clearly has a trading advantage under this deal and much wider access to the United States.”

Roger Abbott

Member, Royal Canadian Air Farce:

“Wine is on the table but beer is under the table. I think it’s interesting that we’ll have free trade with the United States. Maybe 10 years down the road we might have free trade between the provinces.”

James Lorimer

Halifax publisher: “In 1867 the Maritimes entered into a free trade arrangement with Central Canada and suffered deindustrialization. The most worrisome consequence of the deal is that the Americans will be looking over our shoulders at all times and Ottawa will use it as rationale for all kinds of policies.”

William Bennett

Former Social Credit premier of British Columbia: “People who support the status quo are sticking their heads in the sand. There are no such things as safeguards anymore. We’ll be vulnerable if we don’t become competitive. A deal will mean we are much stronger economically than if we don’t have one. The principle is absolutely sound. It’s not a political alliance, it’s an economic one and there is too much rhetoric that has no basis of fact. ”

Gorden Pinsent

Toronto-based actor: “There is something good about the fact that we can borrow from each other more than the borders allow, but this goes beyond economics. What scares me is that we will be a mere expression of another country. We’re at our best when we have someone to serve. I feel better serving a Canadian identity. I don’t want to be a cultural tenant.”

Eric Kierans

Halifax economist and former cabinet minister under Pierre Trudeau: “The underlying crime in all of this is that Canadians believe others can create more wealth in Canada than we can create ourselves. The bottom line is that we are asking for a quick fix. What we should be

doing is working on our economy. If you can’t control your own economy, you have no right to call yourself a nation.”

Tony Penikett

Government Leader, Yukon: “Over the past 10 years we’ve been working to gain more control over our local economy, development and resources. We’ve been working at making local purchases and policies. This is very much against the grain of free trade. We as a community may find ourselves swimming upstream.”

Marie-Josée Drouin

Montreal economist: “Most studies show that free trade will cause dislocation, but the whole effect will be positive and we will experience rapid growth. But this really is a partial accord. Let’s not kid ourselves. This is just the beginning.”

Scott Abbott

Montreal co-inventor of Trivial Pursuit:

“We have the best of both worlds now. Canadians like to cherry-pick. We can read magazines we like, watch the shows we like and sometimes look down our noses at what we don’t like. I love the United States, but the more I see of the States the happier I am to be here, even if it does cost more.”

David Suzuki

Scientist/broadcaster: “I am horrified because of the assumptions underlying a deal—that the marketplace and jobs must determine the future of this country. This is misguided entrepreneurship on the part of some Canadians who want to be big-time businessmen. Canadians are different from Americans because of the CBC, medicare, Quebec and Tommy

Douglas. I don’t want to live in Reagan’s America. This is a sellout.”

Elizabeth Beale

Halifax economist: “It won’t eradicate our economic problems, but it is the best opportunity we have. You can tinker with regional development programs, but in the long range we need basic economic changes. The status quo hasn’t been good to us. We have little to lose.”

Jean-Luc Pepin

Former Liberal cabinet minister under Pierre Trudeau: “I’m like a frustrated lover. When I was minister I saw Canada doing rather well by itself. Fifteen years later I’m told that I live in a dreamworld for believing that Canada can go at the international markets alone. I don’t accept that.”

Nicola Pelly

Montreal fashion designer: “I’m all for free trade in principle. We do 95 per cent of our retail business in the United States. It’s still hard to know, though, how it will affect the textile business. But if we see a wide-open market, we’ll be able to do more of our manufacturing here than in the Orient.”

Richard Cashin

St. John’s based president, Fishermen, Food and Allied WORKERS-CAW : “The deal is a manifestation of slavish devotion to Reaganomics, which has run its course. Essentially, there is no doubt that it puts limitations on our ability to make our own social and economic decisions. It’s a dramatic reversal of the way in which this country was founded.”

Sheila McCarthy

Actress: “When I auditioned for I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, I thought, big deal—the small Canadian film that no one will see. I had auditioned and lost three-line secretary parts in big U.S. films and cared more. When Mermaids received international applause my face I

was red. If free trade means closer cultural ties and less Mermaids and more secretary parts, I say a reformed, emphatic and born-again Canadian no.”

Conrad Black

Chairman of Argus Corp. Ltd.: “I’m in favor of free trade with the United States. The freer, the better.”

Robert Blair

Chairman of NOVA, an Alberta Corp.:

“In our business we would prefer to fight than be protected. We’re ready to compete with anyone. The kinds of businesses in Western Canada require a large market to build. Even if we had the entire Canadian market, it would not be enough to sustain our output.”

Denis Stairs

Political science professor, Dalhousie University: “In 10 years we’ll be a society run on hard-nosed competition and laissez-faire, more American and much less gentle. Today, we don’t assume that because Cape Breton is not economically viable, it should be allowed to die. Those kinds of attitudes will dissipate and the emphasis will be for labor to move where the jobs are.

Peter Bentley

Chairman of Vancouver-based Canadian Forest Products Ltd.: “It’s a fact of life that we need access to this market. This deal gives me peace of mind that we will be able to maintain our employment levels in pulp and paper. A loss of a deal would mean a threat to those jobs.”

Charles Pachter

Toronto artist: “It’s still so confusing. I don’t think the government is being upfront. We don’t know what we’re getting. It could be that in the future all lettuce will come from California because that may be the very best place to grow lettuce—and maybe that’s not bad. It sounds like our wineries are going to get screwed, but the fact is everyone sneaks

down to Rochester to buy wine anyway. We shouldn’t be hypocritical. My artist’s instinct tells me that this is inevitable as the world develops. It may be a 19thcentury opinion that nationalism is tied to a country’s betterment.”

Israel Asper

Chairman of Global Communications Ltd.: “I am a free trader by economic philosophy. All my life I’ve lived in Western Canada, where we’ve had to buy goods from tariff-protected Central Canada, so Western Canada has historically endorsed free trade. But this deal is concerned with the total economic infrastructure of North America and things that have nothing to do with free trade, such as the communications industry.”

Dave Barrett

Former NDP premier of British Columbia: “Complete resource access will leave us forever as hewers of wood and drawers of water. It’s really an incredibly bad deal.”

Pierre Péladeau

President, Quebecor Inc.: “This is a positive step. The ones who can act fast will benefit. Those who are stagnant will not survive. Today we have a market of 25 million—tomorrow we will have a market of 150 million. If we can’t make a living out of that, that’s our own damn problem!”

Bruce Hutchison

Vancouver journalist: “If an election were held on the issue, I don’t think it would be fought on facts but rather on a gut or visceral reaction to free trade. An expansion of world trade generally is vital to world development. If world trade shrank, it would be disastrousruinous to Third World countries and bad for us. But will the deal even go through the U.S. Congress? Are they going to repeat the protective madness of the 1930s? I can’t say whether I’m for it or against it.”