“The bell of opportunity tolls for us, and the world, for once, will listen. It is our turn,” writes Conrad Black in this scintillating blueprint for a bolder Canadian future.
"Black’s Manifesto reminds us who we were and, therefore, who we are. In doing so, he lays the groundwork for us to consider who we might yet become."
– Jordan Peterson, University of Toronto, Author of 12 Rules for Life
Chipper, patient, and courteous, Canada has pursued an improbable destiny as a splendid nation of relatively good and ably self-governing people, but most would agree we have not realized our true potential.
Canada's main chance, writes Black, is now before it...and it is not in the usual realms of military or economic dominance. With the rest of the West engaged in a sterile left-right tug of war, Canada has the opportunity to lead the world to its next stage of development in the arts of government. By transforming itself into a controlled and sensible public policy laboratory, it can forge new solutions to the problems of welfare, education, health care, foreign policy, and other governmental sectors, and make an enormous contribution to the welfare of mankind.
Canada has no excuse not to lead in this field, argues Black, who offers nineteen visionary policy proposals of his own. He claims that this "is the destiny, and the vocation, Canada could have, not in the next century, but in the next five years of imaginative government.”
|Publisher:||The Sutherland House Inc.|
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THE PAST REVEALS THE FUTURE
Canada is the only bicultural, transcontinental, parliamentary confederation that has ever existed, and as it has functioned with relatively minor alteration for 151 years, it is surpassed in the seniority of its political institutions, among countries with as great a population, only by the United Kingdom and the United States. And the U.K. shed an important province (Ireland) in that time, while just two years before the launch of Canadian Confederation, the United States concluded the terrible war that was necessary to reunite the country, to abolish slavery and to render its claims to championship of the equality of all men remotely believable.
Not one per cent of Canadians would now appreciate that for the country to exist at all as an independent jurisdiction it had to begin as a French colony else it would have been assimilated to the American colonies. It had to become economically self-sufficient under the French, and then pass to the British, as the strategic division between the two leading Western European states was that Britain was supreme at sea while France was supreme within Europe. The French could never determine whether their strategic ambitions incited them to cross the Rhine or the English Channel to increase France's standing in the world. Ultimately France did not succeed in crossing either waterway durably and, across the seas, France had only Britain's leavings, so its occupation of New France (Quebec) could not have endured. In 1763, just thirteen years before the Americans proclaimed their revolt against the British Empire, Canada (chiefly New France) was ceded by France to Britain, avoiding being subsumed into the American colonies and republic.
Samuel de Champlain, who founded New France; Jean Talon, who founded the shipbuilding, iron, textile, and brewing industries that made New France economically self-sufficient, and introduced the one thousand fertile French girls from whom over six million French Canadians and Franco-Americans are now descended; and Louis de Frontenac, who defeated the militant Indigenous people and the Americans to preserve New France, were all great statesmen. So was the third British governor, Sir Guy Carleton, Lord Dorchester, who was absent four years in London lobbying for passage of the Quebec Act, finally adopted in 1774, just before the outbreak of the American revolution. The Quebec Act guaranteed the linguistic, religious, and civil legal rights of the French Canadians in exchange for adherence to the British crown. Without that allegiance, Canada would undoubtedly have been taken over by the American insurrectionists, who were represented in this country by the redoubtable Benjamin Franklin and by an army headed by the then loyal revolutionary, Benedict Arnold. As it was, Canada, strenuously defended by the French Canadians and the small British garrison, narrowly survived the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 thirty years later.
From the end of the War of 1812 (1815) for fifty years, as the United States was walking on eggshells toward, and then marching determinedly through the Civil War, internally tangled and preoccupied with the problems between the slave and free states, Canada had a great deal to accomplish to get itself to a position of plausible candidacy for autonomous statehood. It was just a string of adjacent settlements that did not happen to be American: British and French colonies in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec; and an infusion of fugitives from the American Revolution in Quebec and Ontario (created as the province of Upper Canada by Carleton in 1791). There was no particular affinity between the French and English Canadians, and almost no point of contact between them, and their legislatures effectively had only the authority of municipalities. The British were in the habit of sending as governors be-medalled veterans of the Napoleonic Wars who tended to be pigheaded, authoritarian Francophobes.
Canadians had to have approximately the same civil rights and power to elect those who governed in all domestic-policy areas as their British and American analogues, or they would revolt as the Americans had, and the Americans would be delighted to receive them into their ever-expanding, though divided union. There was immense unrest in Britain for an expanded and more equitable franchise, resulting in the first Reform Act, of 1832. Canadians could not long suffer to be told that their entitlements were inferior. The matter was resolved in what would become a vintage Canadian manner. The insensitive and occasionally oppressive conduct of these often unsuitable governors produced the Gilbert and Sullivan rebellions of William Lyon Mackenzie in Upper Canada (Ontario) and Louis-Joseph Papineau in Lower Canada (Quebec) in 1837. The rebellions were really just a gang of unruly hotheads in a tavern north of Toronto, and a few earnest petitioners in Quebec, in the exaggerated style of the French National Convention of the 1790s, and they were easily dispersed.
The Canadians had arisen just vigorously enough to get the attention of the British, who had some sense of loyalty to the principal component of the English-speaking Canadian population who had fled the American colonies rather than depart British rule. And the 1837 rebellions were not sufficiently brusque to move the British to give Canada, for which it had little practical use at this point, to the United States for some less troublesome consideration, such as joint ownership of the isthmian canal that was already in contemplation for what became Panama (when U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt incited the secession of that Colombian province 65 years later). The task of the Canadians was to agitate sufficiently for Britain to grant them the civic prerogatives enjoyed by British and American citizens, but not so clangorously that Britain felt overburdened by its implicit military guaranty of Canada, which was all that deterred the Americans from taking it over. The War of 1812 was absolutely the last date when the United States would have had a substantial military problem doing so.
A reformer, Lord Durham, was dispatched in 1840 as governor, to recommend a resolution of the mysterious Canadian discontentment. He deferred the main issue of autonomous rule in domestic matters, "responsible government," but thought that the disgruntlement of the French should be addressed by relieving them of the supposedly intolerable burden of being French by assimilating them. To this end, Lower and Upper Canada were combined to form the United Province of Canada, which had a slight Anglophone majority that was unofficially charged with acculturating its French-speaking countrymen.
Durham was quickly sacked for exceeding his authority but his report was implemented. Again, a magnificent Canadian outcome: the political leaders of the two Canadas, Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, made common cause in peaceful agitation for home rule, i.e., responsible government by an elected legislature, until the newly installed monarch, Queen Victoria, sent out the enlightened governor Lord Elgin, with orders to give the Canadians their rights. Baldwin and LaFontaine produced responsible government, secularized for development of immense tracts of property that had been reserved to the Church of England, and assured that the University of Toronto would be multi-sectarian. This was Canada's participation in the immense international political upheaval of 1848 that brought back the Bonapartes in France, sent the long-serving Chancellor Metternich packing in Vienna, and led to widespread uprisings in Europe and as far afield as Brazil. Revolution was in the air and Canada responded, as it always does, with moderation. Having accomplished their purposes, Baldwin and LaFontaine, as incorruptible as Cincinnatus and Washington, withdrew from public life.
They had scarcely withdrawn from it when there emerged the man who would dominate the emergence of the metamorphosing country for thirty-five years and lead its establishment as a sovereign state, albeit sheltered by Great Britain as a "dominion," a term given political application for the first time. Champlain's seventeenth-century dream of a French Laurentia, which fit into Carleton's eighteenth-century dream of a French and British state flourishing to the north of the Americans, had survived and was almost ripe, a remarkable achievement in itself.
* * *
John A. Macdonald was co-leader of the United Province and prime minister of the Dominion of Canada for a total of twenty-eight years. He was the principal inspiration for the notion of Confederation and although he knew little about Quebec, he realized that the key to making a country out of all this debris of colonialism was a double veto on great projects and issues. On very important matters, there must be a majority among both language groups. He saw, as his more perceptive successors in the headship of the Canadian government did also, that if it became a matter of the English simply imposing their numerical superiority on the French, the Confederation he was fashioning through the 1860s would crack up.
Macdonald sold his ideas to enough Canadians, hammered them out at conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec, sold them to both parties in London, and to Disraeli and Gladstone personally, and maintained cordial relations with President Lincoln. The end of the U.S. Civil War and the assassination of Lincoln gave the Canadian progress to confederation a special urgency. The United States now possessed, in the Grand Army of the Republic, the greatest army in the world, and the greatest generals also, and post-Lincoln America was unencumbered with any reservoir of goodwill for Britain, most of whose leaders had overtly favoured the Southern Confederacy in the late war. Macdonald's French-Canadian associate in the project was George-Étienne Cartier (named George because of his parents' admiration of King George III, against whom the Americans had rebelled), and together they put confederation through with Victoria's blessing, under Disraeli's leadership of the House of Commons, in a break in the tumultuous debate of the Second Reform Act, which greatly expanded the British electorate again in 1867.
Macdonald would bind the country together with a miraculous railway, built with great difficulty over the Canadian Shield much of the way, and largely financed by the federal government, reviving Jean Talon's strategy of private- and public-sector collaboration in nation-building. He established Canada as a serious and autonomous neighbour of the United States by his robust stance at the Washington conference of 1871, where the British had to be steadily stiffened and propped up to avoid a complete capitulation as they resumed peaceful relations with the Americans. The United States did not really take Canadian sovereignty seriously and the British, after the founding of the united German Empire by Bismarck earlier in 1871, were determined to appease and conciliate every other Great Power, given the sudden emergence of Germany as the greatest state in Europe after its defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War.
Macdonald had to deal with many secessionist threats, including the Metis in 1885, which he used to gain approval of the last slice of financing for the railway, having credited that project with saving the country by the rapid dispatch of troops to quell the uprising. This was the splendid achievement of using two crises to solve each other. Macdonald died in office in 1891, the head of a stable and rising country. Even in the times of Lincoln, Palmerston, Bismarck, Disraeli, and Gladstone, he was a great statesman and was seen as such by all of them except Bismarck (they had no exposure to each other).
Yet, at time of writing, Macdonald has just been demoted from Canada's ten-dollar bill, from single occupancy of one side to sharing his position with Cartier and gender and native tokens who are worthy people but not of the stature to put on a banknote. Macdonald's name has been voted to be removed from the law faculty building of Queen's University in his native Kingston, and he is regularly burned in effigy by militant Indigenous groups, though he was not hostile to Indigenous people. Rather, he gave them the right to vote and had many Indigenous allies, including the Cree and Blackfoot chiefs Poundmaker and Crowfoot. This sort of reflexive self-consciousness remains an aspect of the Canadian political culture, partly from an ignorance of the country's history. Americans and some other eminent nationalities may be insufficiently historically self-critical; Canada has the reverse problem. The country was a well-launched dominion, midway between a colony and a completely independent country, when Macdonald died in 1891.
* * *
In the next election after Macdonald's death, his party was replaced by the Liberals, led by Wilfrid Laurier, who would serve fifteen consecutive years as prime minister and prove to be a statesman of approximately equivalent stature to Macdonald. Laurier was elected despite the Conservatives promising more generous schooling than did Laurier for Roman Catholic (mainly French-speaking) families in the territories of Alberta and Saskatchewan, about to be admitted as provinces. The Conservative leader, the estimable Sir Charles Tupper, who had been a founder of Confederation from Nova Scotia and Macdonald's minister of railways and canals and high commissioner in London, hoped Quebec, which had voted narrowly for Macdonald over Laurier in 1891, would vote as Roman Catholics rather than as French Canadians. They did not, but Laurier managed an elegant compromise on the western schools, ultimately accepted by Pope Leo XIII. Laurier declined to send regular forces to support Britain in the South African War, where the enemy Boers, despite their racism and philistinism, had attracted considerable unofficial support, including from Britain's rival Germany and the colonial skeptics of America, which had just scooped up Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines in what Theodore Roosevelt had called the "splendid little war" with Spain. Roosevelt, oblivious to the well-publicized fact that Canada had become an independent country twenty years before, also described Canadians as colonists who "remain in a position which is distinctly inferior to (their) cousins in England and in the United States. The Englishman at bottom looks down on the Canadian, as he does on anyone who admits his inferiority, and quite properly too. The American, on the other hand, with equal propriety, regards the Canadian with the good-natured condescension always felt by the freeman for the land that is not free."
Obviously, Canada has made its point these 130 years, but Canadians generally suspect that the British regard us as innocuously indistinct, a worthy but unexciting cousin, just as they suspect that Americans think of us as an inoffensive Christmas card, and of themselves as a great honking train roaring through world history. These were and are caricatures, but there is some truth to them, as with all good caricatures. Ultimately, Canada's battle is not for the hearts and minds of the British or the Americans or anyone — except themselves, and this is where the problem lies.
Canada was still dissatisfied with its status at the start of the twentieth century, and to a lesser but perceptible degree it remains so, essentially for the same reason of indistinctness in the perceptions of others and of Canadians themselves. In the fifty years from the end of the U.S. Civil War to World War I, the United States almost tripled in population, and although it was already one of the largest national economies in the world at the start of that period, it put up astonishing growth rates throughout this time and became overwhelmingly the financial, commercial, and raw materials superpower of the world.
Where Macdonald had had to set up and launch the new country, Laurier's implacable task was to keep pace with that great American surge, and he did so. He and his minister for immigration, Clifford Sifton, advertised throughout the British Isles and Central and Eastern Europe for immigration, promising free passage to the west of Canada and grants of 180 acres of land for the purposes of productive agriculture. They took the land from the original grant to the Canadian Pacific Railway and used the steamship lines that Canadian Pacific had established from Quebec and Vancouver to Europe and Japan to bring the converts to Canada. Posters of vast wheat fields with towering mountains in the distance, and of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence and other manifestations of the physical grandeur of Canada attracted British and Germans and were very compelling to the oppressed peasants of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and to the south Slavs, as well as to the lower-income people of Greece and Italy.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Canadian Manifesto"
Copyright © 2018 Conrad Black.
Excerpted by permission of Sutherland House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: The Problem,
Part 1: The Past Reveals the Future,
Part 2: The Opportunity,
Part 3: Prescriptions,
Conclusion: Greatness at Last,