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The Canadian Model: A Winning Approach for the 21st Century

Friday, November 18, 2021
Toronto, ON
Source :  Address to the Rotary Club of Toronto

Thank you very much for that kind welcome.  Merci beaucoup.

 

It’s wonderful to join you today - after the week we’ve just had, frankly its nice just to be outside of the Ottawa bubble.

 

It is said that there are pessimists who see the glass as half empty….that optimists see it as half full.  Well, if you listened to the  opposition describe the state of government in Canada, you’d think the glass was completely broken.

 

That shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the Opposition always focuses on the negative. That’s their job.

 

But after poring over 28 million pages of documents and listening to 172 witnesses, Justice Gomery was neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but a realist.  And here’s what he said in his report about the state of government:

 

“A system of government that would impose upon itself a searching inquiry by an independent commissioner…with a far reaching mandate to investigate and report on matters that could prove to be embarrassing to the Government itself, is proof that our democratic institutions are functioning well and objectively.”

 

“There are very few countries in the world where an inquiry commissioner has the power to summon the sitting Prime Minister and his predecessor.  The fact that the Inquiry has been held demonstrates that in this country persons at even the highest levels of government are accountable for their actions, not only to Parliament but also to the citizenry.”

 

Judge Gomery is right; our country is blessed with some very strong democratic institutions, our rule of law, good governance, our Charter of Rights, and our policies of multiculturalism and bilingualism to name just a few.

 

Canada stands as a unique model in North America and the world.

 

Section 91 of the Constitution Act of 1867 mandates parliament to make laws for the  “Peace, Order and Good Government” of Canadians.

 

The U.S. Constitution instead speaks of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”… Now I know what you’re thinking… that sounds like a lot of fun!...

 

 “Peace, order and good government” may sound boring, so boring that we often take it for  granted.  But peace order and good government are exactly what most of the peoples of the world are demanding, fighting for and even dying for. And those principles have spawned many of our most progressive and important laws, policies and institutions.

 

Our democratic institutions are the pillars that support our social policy, our economic policy and our foreign policy.

 

It’s important that we as Canadians dedicate ourselves to recognizing, preserving, defending and, yes, even celebrating those institutions.

 

I’d like to explore with you some of the pillars of success that created the Canada we love and discuss how we can use this solid foundation to build a brighter future for Canadians in the 21st Century.

 

Take for example Canada’s multiculturalism policy. That policy has been embraced across Canada but nowhere is it more evident than here in Toronto.

 

Multiculturalism is a cornerstone of Canada’s progressive society, and it’s also an important economic driver.

 

Canada needs more immigrants.

My colleague, Joe Volpe, has unveiled a plan to  increase the number of new immigrants by up to 300,000 a year. 

 

You may well ask : How can we as a country welcome well over a million new immigrants over the next five years while avoiding the social upheaval found in other countries?

 

Well, clearly our policies such as multiculturalism, the Charter of Rights  and our dynamic economy mean that newcomers do not just arrive in Canada, but they have the opportunity to thrive in Canada.

 

And when you can thrive, achieve your dreams and take pride in your achievements and sense of inclusion, it creates diversity, harmony and a sense of social cohesion that benefits all Canadians.

 

Just two weeks ago, the French Prime Minister was forced to cancel a state visit to Canada in order to deal with race riots at home.

 

The Economist Magazine says “despite claims that the riots are France’s Intifada, they have not taken on a religious tinge.  A much greater contributor than Islam to the malaise in the suburbs is the lack of jobs.

Work is the archetypal social activity.  It provides friends and contacts beyond your family or ethnic group. It pulls you further into the society around you.”

 

Canada’s strong economy and low unemployment helps new Canadians build strong, prosperous and happy futures.

 

Sound economic fundamentals combined with progressive social policies define the Canadian Advantage.

 

 

Multiculturalism helps new Canadians  maintain their cultural distinctiveness, while  participating fully in mainstream Canadian society and enjoying access to better economic opportunities.

 

Canada has become a country unique in its ability to embrace both free markets…and free peoples.

 

Canada’s diversity is helping build a stronger sense of national identity and its important that this diversity be reflected in our government.

 

New Canadians can thrive, build their lives, get elected and rise to the highest level of government in our country.

 

Consider our federal Cabinet Ministers who were born outside of Canada: Joe Volpe, Raymond Chan, Albina Guarnieri, Jacques Saada, Joe Fontana, Ujjal Dosanjh .

 

Our new Governor General, Michaelle Jean – and her predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson – show new Canadians are shaping the new Canada.

 

Diversity and equality are not only social advantages but they are economic advantages as well.

 

Our multicultural peoples are natural bridges to emerging economies such as China and India. As such our diversity connects us to world trade opportunities and offers the Canadian Advantage to the global economy.

 

In his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class”, Professor Richard Florida of Carnegie Mellon University, posited the idea that socially progressive cities and jurisdictions have a distinct advantage in the new global economy, because they attract members of the quote, unquote “Creative Class”.

According to Professor Florida, the Creative Class is “a fast-growing, highly educated, and well-paid segment of the workforce on whose efforts corporate profits and economic growth increasingly depend.”

 

“Members of the creative class do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries---from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts.”

 

That’s why government investments in culture and the arts are so important.  It’s another reason why multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights are important.

 

Canada can be a magnet for creative talented leaders how value human rights, equality and cultural diversity.

 

Still, we have to admit that as a society we can and must do more.  We need to streamline the recognition of foreign trained professionals.

 

It’s not good economic policy nor is it good social policy to have doctors or engineers driving cabs or sweeping floors.

 

That’s why this year’s budget allocated $75 million to accelerate the integration of internationally educated health care professionals.   And just this week the minister of finance, Ralph Goodale, announced an investment of $1.3 billion over five years to improve integration services for new immigrants to Canada.

 

Canada was founded by two equal partners, the French and the English. 

 

Over time the two founding peoples have not just co-existed, they have flourished.  Our bilingual bicultural nation speaks to a sense of compromise, understanding and a peaceful resolution of differences. 

 

While bilingualism and multiculturalism have both helped strengthen diversity in Canada, it’s the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that has allowed diversity to blossom. 

 

Our Charter of Rights helped create a society where diversity is not merely tolerated, its celebrated.   Our commitment to human rights and equality defines us as one of the most socially progressive societies anywhere in the world.

 

Now, I know that when I speak to the Rotary club, I shouldn’t be too political.  My dad is a proud Rotarian, so I understand the importance of a non-partisan approach.

 

We are fortunate to live in a country where differences can be debated in a civil way, and those debates actually make our society stronger.

 

An overwhelming majority of Canadians cherish the Charter of Rights. But we have to be vigilant in defending the Charter on an-on-going basis because there are still those who are opposed to the Charter.

 

I want to tell you a story of two political conventions last winter that illustrate the choices faced by Canadians.

 

At the first convention, held by my party, there were delegates wearing buttons that said “It’s the Charter, Stupid!”

 

A few weeks later at the second political convention, there were delegates who wore buttons that said “It’s the Stupid Charter”.

 

We can never take the Charter for granted.  I was 14 years old when Pierre Trudeau brought in the Charter of Rights.  If Trudeau hadn’t done what he did then, I would not have the opportunity to be doing what I’m doing today.

I mentioned earlier the Canadian economic Advantage.

 

Look at the facts. We’re the only country in the G-7 with eight consecutive budget surpluses. We’re the only country paying down our debt. We have the fastest rate of growth in our standard of living, and the lowest unemployment numbers in 30 years.

 

We are able to invest in progressive programs, cut debt and reduce taxes.

 

Just this week, Finance Minister Goodale  announced 30 billion dollars in tax cuts over the next five years -- with the emphasis on low and middle income Canadians.

 

And he also announced a prosperity agenda with strategic investments – in post secondary education, in workplace training , in research and development and in helping small businesses connect with emerging markets.

 

Again, these are forward looking investments that will help us secure a  prosperous future for all Canadians.

 

Clearly Canada is a lucky country.  And our good fortune didn’t  just happen, but is the result of long-term visionary leadership. 

 

As a lucky people we have the moral responsibility to build a brighter future for future generations of Canadians.

 

That’s why it’s so important that our government has brought in an Early Learning and Child Care Initiative to help put all families on a more equal footing.  It is aimed at giving our children – our most precious resource - the best possible start in life.  After all, they are the innovators and entrepreneurs of the future.

 

It’s also why it’s so important to continue to pay down the debt and reduce this burden on future generations of Canadians.

 

As a lucky people, we also have a moral responsibility to help our neighbours on the global stage.

 

Canada came of age when our proud forefathers fought for freedom on the blood-soaked sands of Juno Beach and Dieppe and endured the battlefields of Korea and the prison camps of Hong Kong. 

 

Since then Canada has carved out a place of leadership on the international stage. - in the fight against AIDS in Africa, the treaty to ban landmines, the fight against Apartheid, and the campaign to get the Kyoto Protocol adopted and ratified.

 

Lester Pearson won a Nobel Peace Prize for introducing the concept of peacekeeping to this world. And our brave sons and daughters are still defending freedom in places such as Haiti, Afghanistan, and Darfur.

 

Canada’s role in the world has been guided by our core values of respect and a commitment to equality.

 

In this new century, we must apply our principles of peace order and good government and our core values of human rights, equality and a celebration of diversity.

 

Our foreign policy must be guided by defending Canadian interests while at the same time defending Canadian values. Because in the same way Canadian values are good for Canada, they are also good for the world.

 

We occupy a very unique space; we are trusted by the US as a friend and respected by the rest of the world as a multilateralist.

 

As a result, we are in an exceptional position to help bring the United States and the United Nations closer together. And that would  truly be a positive contribution to building a more peaceful, stable, democratic world.

 

Canada stands today as a beacon of hope for people around the world. We enjoy a combination of progressive social policies, and widespread prosperity that benefits every region of the country.

 

It’s no accident that we have arrived at this point. The policies and institutions that shaped Canada came from leaders with vision and courage. 

 

There is a plaque found in the House of Commons that quotes from the Bible saying “without vision, the people perish.” 

 

The fact is without vision and without courage these policies - so important to the Canada we love - would not have come to pass.

 

Multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights didn’t come from focus groups and public opinion polls.

 

They were shaped by visionary leaders.

 

Visionary leaders such as Wilfrid Laurier

who at the dawn of the 20th Century,  said “the 20th Century belongs to Canada.”  Canada is a young country and in many ways it has fulfilled some of Laurier’s promise. 

 

 

However we have a responsibility as modern day nation builders to fulfill that promise absolutely in the 21st Century.

 

We must continue to be “avant-gardiste”, in the vanguard of social progress.

 

We must harness the energy of our young and diverse population, ensuring that economic benefits flow to all levels of society.

 

And we must strengthen our role in  the world and foster peace and democracy.

 

Canada has always had tremendous potential, and thanks to far-sighted policy choices we are in a stronger position than ever.

 

Now it is up to all of us to make the most of the opportunities that are before us.

 

I know that Rotary International’s motto is “service before self”. That is a principle that draws many of us to public life.

 

And speaking of public life, I’d like to quote Justice Gomery one more time: In his report, he said, quote: “Canadians should not forget that the vast majority of our public officials and politicians do their work honestly, diligently and effectively…”

 

I consider it an honour and privilege to serve my country.  And an honour and privilege to share my thoughts with you today.

 

As the Rotary club celebrates its 100th anniversary, I invite you to join in a grand endeavour.

 

Lets work together to keep Canada on the right track;  to build a stronger economy; and to help build a better world.

 

And finally, let’s defend Canadian values as we foster a progressive society where every Canadian can reach his or her full potential.

 

That is a Canada we can all be proud of. That is a Canada that will thrive in this exciting new century. 

 

Thank you very much. Merci

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