|Montreal, September 14, 2002 / No 109|
by Daniel M. Ryan
This is 2004. Former Finance minister Paul Martin has finally succeeded Jean Chrétien as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Senior liberal campaign strategists are preparing the coming election. And QL has managed to get a copy of...
THE "MARTIN PLAN" FOR CANADA'S NEXT CENTURY
Canada has had a century of real progress, one that had been confirmed again and again by the decision of Canadian voters and other interested stakeholders to elect the Liberal Party again and again. It is a matter of great pride for the Liberals to be the party of choice for Canada, but such a role in the fabric of Canadian politics carries a responsibility level far higher than any other political party has to meet. The opposition criticisms about the previous Leader of the Liberals, Jean Chrétien, has been judged by today's Liberals as basically fair ones, despite their obvious root in mere partisanship. The overwhelming agreement of Canadians has confirmed it.
But rather than endure a change in vision, along with the accompanying cronyism that will inevitably surface, it would seem to be wiser for the Liberal Party to accept its historic responsibility as the "party that has built Canada." Sir Wilfred Laurier's pledge to the people – that the last century would be "Canada's century" – is a pledge that a fair-minded and impartial auditor would conclude has been fulfilled.
But, as noted above, there have been certain challenges marking the transition from Canada's Century to Canada's Next Century. The flag given to the Canadian people by the Nobel Prize-winning Prime Minister Pearson still has some spots which need cleaning. It is the judgement of the Liberal Party that the bulk of the blame can be laid at the feet of Conservative ideologues who see the process of business-government interaction as a simple process involving reciprocal advice-giving and financing through tax receipts and spending decisions. The Liberals, on the other hand, have found that the management of an entire economy is much more complex than what Mulroneyism would have us believe. It is a known fact in the great centers of learning that, when facing a complex system, the simple and intuitive answers are usually wrong.
The Liberal Party is as committed to planning as ever, but the mere belief of an honest patriot is not enough. So, instead of a hundred-page specification, the Paul Martin Liberals have decided to make a departure by making the plan more flexible and less bean counterish. This follows from Paul Martin's lifetime respect for parliamentary democracy and for citizen participation. So, rather than issue an overly detailed design, the Paul Martin Liberals will depend upon listening to diversity, and making any plan the result of MP-citizen interaction. This will give Canada the necessary flexibility in governance which is consistent with our tradition of honoring Parliament as the House of the People.
Below are the highlights of the New Liberal plan for Canada's Next Century – one that is sure to be as fulfilled in the coming decades as Sir Wilfred's original plan was during the previous ten ones.
Paul Martin, being both a man of government and a man of business, is quite competent to lead Canada into fulfilling these challenges. A background as the son of a most Liberal Cabinet Minister; a truly mind expanding education at the University of Toronto Philosophy Department; proven success in turning an ailing company around; the "Ender of Deficits" while serving in Cabinet. Clearly a record that Canadians can put their confidence in.
Quebec is Canada's oldest permanent settlement, and thus truly deserves the title "the soul of Canada." The decision last decade to renounce separatism in all but words, one enforced by the Liberals' Clarity Act, is more proof that only the Liberals know how to deal with Quebec and keep it in its rightful place as the soul of Canada. The attention paid to Quebec under previous Liberal governments will be continued under Paul Martin, and executed all over Canada.
The gift of Quebec to the rest of Canada can be summed up in the concept of collective rights and collective responsibilities. Unlike other provinces, Quebec has never lost sight of the fact that pluralism is a necessity for a united Canada; even the French word "socialisme" translates legitimately into "authorized collective property." It is this kind of social democracy that has been translated into policy and implemented by the government of Quebec regardless of ideology. It is clear to the Liberal Party that this kind of social democracy is in fact the most democratic kind, as the definition of the word shows: property, authorized from the people of Quebec as expressed in the Quebec National Assembly, to a collective specified in that same House.
Social liberalism is clearly inspired by Quebec, and this tradition will continue under the Paul Martin team. The Quebec model, adjusted to meet the needs of the jurisdiction, is clearly the model that has stood both the test of time and the test of the Constitution of Canada.
There are still suspicions left over from the continual attempt by Anglophones to assimilate Quebeckers, and the Liberal Party sympathizes with those who see separation as the only solution. But in a post-modern economy and nation, separatism has shown to be a dead end, as the traditional lack of clarity from the typical sovereignist has sadly shown.
One of the marks of a truly cosmopolitan Canadian is the ability to imagine oneself in other people's places. Unlike the Conservative party, the Liberals have had a long tradition of bring the little guy into the tent. All of the stout-hearted Maritimers that have gone with the Liberal vision of Canada are regular Canadians. Not private school graduates; not trust fund heirs; ordinary working Canadians. It is this innate respect for the principle of self-achievement and of contempt for the privileged that makes the Maritimes the heart of Canada.
This makes the Paul Martin Team an ideal choice for Maritimers. Paul Martin himself is a man that could have gone "into the family business," but instead chose to be an achiever out of his father's field. His success in the business world, unaided by a father that was a businessperson himself, makes Paul Martin clearly sympathetic with the average Maritimer's desire to overcome the obstacles of Tory tradition and Robber Baron absenteeism.
The social feeling of the Maritimer is well known. But so is their desire to succeed economically, and their consciousness of the obstacles which self-serving, and therefore bad, traditions have put in their way. Paul Martin pledges that all future aid to Maritimers will be consistent with giving the "edge" to those Maritimers whose sense of collective responsibility outweighs their self-seeking greed. It seems almost a certainty that the average recipient of help from the Government of Canada will prove to be the most well-liked people there. For, as any Maritimer knows, people that help people are liked by people; it is only the self-serving that are shunned.
It is now known among today's youth that a hearty heart and a clean soul is not enough for personal development: a healthy body is central too. The Liberals have known it since the 1970s, too, thanks to the great and cosmopolitan Pierre Trudeau.
In terms of nation building, it is clear that the analog to regular exercise and a healthy diet is economic performance. This is what the province of Ontario is known for. Long known back in the old industrial times as "the economic engine of Canada," its muscular growth has kept Ontarians proud and happy.
The government of Ontario, though deserving of credit, has a known record of simple-mindedness when it comes to economic growth: particularly, its disdain of expertise. This is not consistent with the future of Canada as many distinguished futurists see it. The biotechnology field owes its very existence to experts, and the financial district of Toronto, self-serving as it sometimes is, shows true expertise when properly regulated. The province of Ontario needs the experience with complexity that only the federal level of government can provide.
That includes the expertise in dealing with inequalities, both at the provincial level and at the individual level. The Liberals have a long-proven record of accomplishment in upholding this kind of trusteeship, and the Paul Martin Team will continue doing so with both toughness and vigour.
The Prairies, in the eyes of Paul Martin, have been greatly underappreciated. Ostensibly known for farming and native affairs, the Prairies have also a quite distinguished record of participation in national affairs, both in government and in other areas of public service.
It is no accident that a Prairie resident, Tommy Douglas, was the first political figure to introduce public health care to Canada. The very existence of the New Democratic Party owes its existence to public participation from the Prairies.
But it is the Liberals who have the expertise and the long-run track record of success in implementing those social programs which the stout-headed Prairie citizens have given to the rest of Canada. Social consciousness is quite obviously necessary to govern, but it is not sufficient.
The Liberals will continue to pay close attention to the expressions of social patriotism emanating from the Prairies, and to give social credit when deserved. This will include, also, listening to the voices of plain and unrecognized citizens as well as to the heads of participating provinces on the relevant issues, and by continuing the Liberals' close partnership with the NDP.
Long underdeveloped, the traditionally have-not West is clearly poised to participate in the continued expansion of the Pacific Rim, as well as in the emerging knowledge economy. So too is Canada's North.
But anarchic development all-too-often leads to chaotic policy, which, quite obviously, now merits international disapproval. The province of British Columbia, sadly, has suffered for this more than others.
The Paul Martin Liberals are clear in their continuing commitment to help British Columbians, as well as citizens of other provinces of Canada, when international trade hostility leads to poverty and losses. But it also recognizes that such hostilities can be averted with the necessary expertise. National development, as noted above, is a complex process, and the competing claims of competing countries make it even more so. It is the position of the Paul Martin Liberals that the federal level has a unique skill in overcoming these difficulties due to Federal Liberal expertise, in international relations particularly.
But diplomatic excellence is only one example of how management of complexity can avert disasters caused by well-intentioned but narrow-minded plans at lower levels. The continuing sense of responsibility that the Federal Liberals have shown with respect to global mishaps will continue, in even stronger form.
The same vision underlies the development of infant industries. The removal of tariffs under the Mulroney government has, ironically, brought the Liberals back to their Laurier roots, which undergirds the known expertise of Liberal governments. Rather than give marching orders, the Liberals plan to listen to diversity by relying upon grass roots information through Liberal MPs. The twenty-first century values flexibility too much for any other choice to be practical.
The presence of Aboriginals before the first white man's colonies were established makes them unique in Canada. From initial pacts of friendship, relations between Natives and Anglos have been marked by both hostility and word-breaking. The Paul Martin team has researched this very well.
And so, the present policy of aid to Aboriginals will continue. The earlier irresponsibility and cruelty on the part of the old Anglos has left Canadians with a real debt to pay, one that will continue to be met until the groaning inequalities of the reserves have disappeared.
There is also an inequality of dignity too, brought by the utterly justified suspicion of the white man on the part of Aboriginals. The Anglo has broken his word too often for there to be real trust between natives and the rest of Canada.
But Canada is also a nation of compromise. The continual payment of the debt does not extend to the cosseting of the fantasies of radical Aboriginals who dream of turning large parts of the Canadian economy back two hundred years. The debt of other Canadians does not extend to any form of separation.
It is clear that the too-rigid approach to planning Canada's future has seen its day come and go. Such is the new consensus among Canadians, which Jean Chrétien deserves much credit for listening to.
But times change. The new Liberal challenge of listening to diversity will ensure that the Liberal Party continues to be the party that responsible Canadians can trust.
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