The most serious consequence of sustained dependence on direct investment is the erosion of Canada’s economic and cultural independence to a point beyond which lies the disintegration of the Canadian nation-state.
What is in question today, is the willingness or the general population of English Canada to pay the price of Canadian nationhood. More exactly, what is in question is the will of English Canada to survive as a distinct national community on this continent. The price of survival is the reversal of the Americanization of Canada’s economic and cultural life, whatever the immediate consequences, and an acceptance of Quebec’s demands for full participation as a national community in an equal partnership of two nations.
The ruling elite which founded Canada one hundred years ago were nationalists. But they were never called upon to pay. There was, in the days of Macdonald’s National Policy, no conflict between the pecuniary interests of the dominant classes and their nationalism. The conjuncture of circumstance was such that they could enjoy both wealth and power. Power was exercised within a political framework which granted lo the Central Government wide rights of control over the population. In distinction to the open frontier lawlessness of American democracy, Canada was an ordered, stable, conservative and authoritarian society, based on transplanted British institutions. Canada’s “Constitution” was appropriately enacted by the British Imperial Parliament, on the initiative of an elite group of colonial politicians. venerably depicted ns the “Fathers of Confederation” who could evade the necessity of seeking the popular consensus which they could never have obtained . The arrangements were quite compatible with the interests of the bureaucratic clerical elite of French Canada. Between these groups, there was no serious conflict of interest or of outlook. The elite group of English Canada was defined by their rejection of American Democracy. The elite group of French Canada was in effective control if a national community which had been by-passed by the French Revolution. ·
Hitched to an East-West spine of trade and investment, the Canadian nation found strength to resist American annexationist pressures in the might of the pound sterling and in British Imperial power. For decades Canadian politicians refined the techniques of compromise and survival Externally, they manoeuvred between the British and the American metropolis. Internally, French-Canadian national survival was guaranteed by the powers exercised by the Catholic Church over education. Members of the French-Canadian elite were integrated into the political structure on the terms of the English-Canadian elite, which controlled the economic structure. There developed over these years, a sense of Canadian national identity corresponding to the conservative character of the nation under construction. Canadian patriotism vis-a-vis the United States was defined in terms of loyalty to the British Monarchy.
The passing of time has eliminated Britain as a significant factor in Canada’s life Economic forces pull to the new metropolis. Political forces act to weaken the power of central government. The problems are more difficult than they wen· in 1867. The English-Canadian elite is not sure where it is going. Compromise and accommodation are useful political techniques for a small or middle power which knows what it wants, and can navigate the cross-currents created by stronger extremal powers. Compromise and accommodation as an operating philosophy of a community which does not know what it wants, in a situation in which the current runs powerfully in one direction. can lead only to drift and eventually to disintegration. The performance of Prime Minister Pearson and his administration, bears witness.
The crisis of Canada’s national existence is expressed in three distinct but related confrontations: Canada versus the United States: Ottawa versus the Provinces; and English Canada versus French Canada. We are here concerned to assess the effects of the new links with the mercantilist American Empire on each of these conflicts, and the interplay of these relationships on Canada’s chances of survival?
Canada and The United States
It is clearly no longer in the interests of the economically powerful to be nationalists. As Grant has said: “Most of them made more money by being representatives of American capitalists and setting up branch plants. Capitalism is, after all, a way of life based on the principle that the most important activity is money making. That activity led the wealth in the direction of continentalism”.
In the National Policy era Canadian business could enjoy both wealth and power. The former was always primary. Power was a means to wealth. If today, wealth comes more easily without power, no tears are shed. In the words of E. P. Taylor: “Canadian nationalism? How old-fashioned can you get?”
While economic factors are quick to act on the orientation of the business class, the erosion of the value system, which accompanied the nation-building phase of Canada’s history, is a far slower process. Although branch plant industry, branch plant trade unions, branch plant commercial culture and branch plant universities are undermining traditional Canadian values, yet they persist.
Regard for law and order, regard for civil rights, abhorrence of mob rule and gangsterism, whether practised at the bottom or the top of the social scale and traditional respect for Ottawa as the national government of the country are deeply felt in English Canada. These are the elements of English Canadian patriotism and they define the English Canadian, as distinct from the American. This value system is as real as the branch plants. It is the source which nourishes Canadian nationalism, and it is reinforced by every action of the United States which violates the values.
Whereas these values were created by the older Canadian elite, which shaped the nation, the existing business class cannot give effective expression to Canadian nationalism because it has been absorbed into the world of corporate empire.
It rejected John Diefenbaker because he is a. nationalist. It rejected Walter Gordon because he is a nationalist. Grant has observed that the power of the American government to control Canada lies not so much in its ability to exert direct pressure as in the fact that the dominant classes in Canada see themselves at one with continentalism.
Ottawa and the Provinces
The effect of the American corporate presence on relations between Central and provincial government is clear; The linear transcontinental axis, which integrated the nation in the past under an active and strong central government, has largely disintegrated. The new pattern of North-South trade and investment based on resource development and branch plant manufacturing. docs not require a strong central government. There is a balkanization of the country. Regional government is concerned with regional prosperity. It cannot be the function of regional governments to preserve national unity.
The central government is left to manage the old infrastructure of communications and commercial institutions carried over from the previous era. New public expenditures are typically regional – hydro-electric schemes, highways. schools, and hospitals. The operation of the system of fiscal redistribution conflicts with the economic interests of the richer and more fortunate provinces. The prime federal function of providing for the defence of the nation is not sufficiently urgent to offset the shift of so many other functions to the regional leve1. In any case there is considerable doubt as to what must be defended against whom and why, it serves Canada’s interest to spend money on knocking down hypothetical highly explosive objects on Canadian oil. Furthermore, a considerable part of the prosperity of defence work originates from the United States government. and is strongly regional in its impact on employment and income.
Political fragmentation on regional lines coincides with the interests of the corporations operating both in resource and manufacturing industries. If provincial governments were to negotiate greatly increased shares of corporation tax, there, there could ensure a competitive scramble of incentives to entice foreign industry, which would benefit nobody but these corporations. ·
The motives of provincial particularism are parochial and competitively materialistic. The provinces rather that the corporations, pressured the federal government into begging exemption from U.S. interest equalization lax. The U.S. companies can, in any event, transfer funds from the United States. The provinces are opposed to the rationalization of the fiscal structure recommended in the report of the Carter Commission. They may be expected to oppose each and every measure devised to control the terms on which foreign capital may enter. They reinforce the continentalism of big business by dismembering the Canadian nation.
English Canada and Quebec
In the relationship between English Canada and Quebec we have a different situation. Quebec is both a province within Confederation and the patrie of the French-Canadian nation. The demand for more autonomy by the Province of Quebec thus has a dual character. In part, it resembles demands for increased provincial powers expressed by all the larger provinces; in part, it is the political form in which the desire for self-determination of French Canada expresses itself.
Clearly, there can be no national equality for French Canada without power over economic decisions. In the area of public policy, we thus have the demand for a larger share of revenue, and for a voice in tariff, monetary and immigration policy. For French Canada, more economic power for the government of Quebec is crucial because the provincial public sector is the only effective lever b which French Canadians can influence economic decisions over their lives. While the English Canadian elite is rapidly relinquishing economic control to the American corporations, the French-Canadian elite has no entry to private corporate power. John Porter has provided documentation. Of the 760 persons in Canada’s economic elite, only 51 could be classed as French-Canadians, whereas French Canadians constitute about one third of Canada’s population. Even this overstates the French presence is business, because the 51 include the directors of two small French-Canadian banks. There were, according to Porter, no more than a handful who, like the Simards of Sorel, could be classed as top ranking industrialists. National equality requires that economic decisions affecting Quebec must be made by French-Canadians, not by English Canadian or American corporations. Nothing less can assure the continued existence of a French-speaking community on the North-American continent.
The forces of industrialization and urbanization have undermined the power of the;> old clerical establishment which effectively stood guard over the language and institutions, as well as the religion of French Canada for more than two centuries.
For French Canada, modernization has meant not only dislocation and disruption of settled routines but also incorporation into the Industrial System, and the new experience of humiliation by daily dictation by the Anglophone. This is as true for the miner, the factoryworker, the sales clerk, as it is for the professional and middle classes. Whereas the latter may have an educational advantage in terms of ability to function in the language of those who hold economic power. the humiHatfo11 is greater rather than less. Their education and their wider horizons en:1ble them to articulate the frustrations of the French Canadian community in Canada. The island of Anglophone privilege which extends from McGill University and Westmount to the western edge of Montreal, and controls much of the commercial and industrial life of the French-speaking province, acts as a c:on stunt abrasive to these frustrations.
The experience is unknown to the English-Canadian. It is unknown, also to the immigrant, who chose to leave his native land to come to North America to assimilate. In this sense the so-called “ethnic groups” are an integral part of English- Canada. The experience of linguistic domination also explains the lack of discrimination in French Canadian resentment between English-Canadian and American domination. It is interesting that public opinion polls constantly show concern about American domination in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada. What difference, after all, to the French Canadian worker in Arvida, whether orders are received in English from a foreman employed by a Canadian Company like Alcan, or an American company, like C.I.P.?
The French-Canadian middle class is comprised of self. Employed professionals small business and bureaucratically employed technocrats. No private French Canadian entrepreneurial group can effectively challenge the powers of the Anglophone corporations. The logic leads from nationalism to state entrepreneurship. This was the policy which guided the more radical elements of the Lesage administration during the so-called Quiet Revolution. It was symbolized by Rene Levesque’s creation of Hydro-Quebec US’ the first step to a more extensive expansion of the public sector into resource industries of the province.
In such a confrontation with the corporations, the advantage which French Canada has over English Canada is a more clearly defined sense of national purpose and a greater confidence in its ability to achieve its objectives. The objectives is to build, a North America, a modem French-speaking society in which the population can enjoy both prosperity and dignity. If this can be achieved in union with English-Canada the association of the Canadas will continue. If English Canada makes this impossible, there is every indication that, eventually, Quebec will secede.· It there is an economic price to be paid for control by French Canadian over the terms on which their daily lives lived, an increasing minority seem ready to pay it. Nationalism and separatism have struck n chord because the population of Quebec is Quebecois in the sense in which not one living soul in Ontario can be Ontarian.
The Definition of National Purpose:
Even after the response to de Gaulle’s state visit to Quebec and the declaration or Rene Levesque for Quebec sovereignty, English Canada finds it impossible to comprehend that French Canada can stay within a union with English Canada only if the rights of French Canada as a nation are recognised.
Indeed, this lack of comprehension is precisely the difficulty in English Canada. The Protestant individualistic culture finds it difficult to accept the idea that a nation, like a family, is more than an aggregation of individuals. It does not explicitly recognize that a nation is a community shaped by common cultural and historic experience. More particularly, it does not recognize that the experiences shared by English and French Canadians in British North America have left a very different imprint on the consciousness of the two national communities.
English Canada’s refusal to recognize the fact of national consciousness is ironic at a time when it is exhibiting a chauvinistic reaction to French-Canadian self-assertion. The violence of the reaction has its roots in English resentment over the fact that French-Canadians do not want equality on the terms set down by English Canada. The effort to provide French Canada with a bi-lingual federal civil service, or French Schools in English provinces, has limited appeal in Quebec and has caused some dissention within English Canada. The refusal of Ottawa to recognize French Canada as a nation and its insistence on the ten provinces concept of Confederation, is leading to the balkanization of the country as the pressures applied by Quebec are used as a lever to escalate provincial powers at the expense of the central government.
The ambivalence of English Canada concerning the reality or the nation, as a community underlies the difficulties of communication with Quebec. Sadly this same ambivalence renders English Canada so vulnerable to the disintegrating forces of continentalism vis-a-vis the United States. If national purpose is nothing more than a cumulation of individual purpose, and if individual purpose consists essentially of more money, more leisure and more consumer goods then why trouble about Canada’s loss of independence vis-a-vis the United States? And yet English Canada is deeply troubled.
The “foreign investment” issue in Canadian politics will remain unresolved until English Canada redefines its goals as a national community. As Horowitz asked: “Control our economy for what?” That question, in the end, is one which individuals must answer. Dwelling in the web of the new mercantilism of the great corporations, Canadians will have to decide what value they place on living in a human community, which they can control and handle. For French Canada that community appears to be Quebec. From the desire to control their environment arises the demands for effective political and economic power. In English Canada there exists the possibility that the cultural integration into continental American life has proceeded to the point where Canada no longer is a meaningful national community. Yet here there is the possibility that the current reaction among the younger generation against domination by the efficiency-mongers of big business, big government or big anybody may revive the “conserving” nationalism which derives from the desire to shape the conditions of life within a system within English Canada can ensure the existence of a nation here. “Man and His World” indicates that the open is still open.