Don’t Give Up

(a message by Mark Parent)
(delivered at the Canning Lion Hall)
(Remembrance Day Service 2013)

Last year, as a few of you know, I took a sabbatical and traipsed up and down the Eastern seaboard of the United States, across to the Bahamas and back on a sailboat. If you have ever been on a sailboat for a long trip you know you have a lot of time to think and so I did a lot of thinking regarding the coming challenges we will and are already facing in Canada and globally as well.

These challenges are due to the fact that in our day we are coming up against global limits. Indeed, many people, such as analysts at the Club of Rome, say that we have already surpassed the carrying capabilities of our world, having reached that point in the late 1970s.

Back in the 1970s, when the Club of Rome raised their concern, the focus was on the increase in the world’s population. Currently, the main concern seems to be more focused on the depletion of fossil fuel resources.

We don’t normally think about it but the economic growth of the Western world and the world, in general, is directly tied to the use of cheap, efficient, and portable energy, of which the prime example is oil.

Oil is everywhere, fueling our cars, heating our buildings, fertilizing our food, making many of the products we enjoy. And yet oil, as well as other fossil fuels, is a limited resource with many people saying we have reached the peak extraction and production of oil and are on the downward slope. This does not mean that oil will run out. In the oil sands of Alberta alone there is a vast reserve of oil. What it means is that the oil we use now is expensive to get at. It is in bitumen deposits such as the oil sands or deep underwater in the ocean and environmentally sensitive to extract.

What will this expensive oil mean to a society whose economic well-being depends on cheap oil? That is the question many people are asking.

And then, add to oil, water shortages which are becoming common around the world. We don’t worry about water too much in Canada but I sat for years on the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy which focused a lot of attention on water. Much of Canada’s water is up north and inaccessible to use while the majority of Canada’s industries are in the south and because they are commodity industries, depend on cheap and abundant water in order to be profitable, a worrisome scenario.

Or think of what is happening to the minerals we use to make the products we enjoy.  We’ve all heard of rare earth elements. There are 17 rare earth elements (REEs) which are critical to a variety of high-tech products including catalytic converters, color TV and flat panel displays, permanent magnets, batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles, and medical devices; to manufacturing processes like petroleum refining; and to various defense systems like missiles, jet engines, and satellite components. REEs are even used in making the giant electromagnets in modern wind turbines. But rare earth mines are failing to keep up with demand. China produces 97 percent of the world’s REEs, and has issued a series of contradictory public statements about whether, and in what amounts, it intends to continue exporting these elements because of their growing scarcity.

Add to these growing scarcities and limits, the damage done to our environment due to the extraction and use of fossil fuels and various minerals and metals. Air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution all take their toil and this is not even to mention climate change which I witnessed first-hand as I was snorkeling down in the Bahamas. Reefs, which guide books said once were alive with fish, now bleached out and almost empty.

Other analysts, concerned about the future, focus not so much on environmental scarcity as on growing financial debt. The debt of Nova Scotia alone has expanded to 14 billion dollars. Add to this the federal debt and the total debt load in 2010 was around 1,117 billion dollars, about $32, 829 per man, woman and child and this does not even factor in household debt, that is the debt you and I owe for cars, houses, and other purchases we have made.

Now debt per se is not bad if you can continue to service that debt and keep it from growing. But the only way you can do that is if your income is growing faster than your debt and this has not been happening due to a variety of factors not least of which are the environmental limits which I already mentioned.  What this means is that, in almost every province in Canada, the second largest government expenditure is servicing the debt. More of your tax money goes to servicing (not paying down mind you, just servicing) the debt than anything else except for health care.

What make this worse is that on a global scale, Canada is fairly well off compared to other countries. In Greece and in Spain, there have been violent riots as people’s pensions and savings were reduced and as unemployment rose. In Cyprus, anyone who had savings of over $100,000 saw them halved and the same law that allowed banks to do this in Cyprus is on the books here in Canada as well.

And then on top of all this is the financial market which in 2008 almost collapsed and was only rescued by taxpayer dollars in the United States, dollars which because they are no longer tied to the gold standard simply means the United States printed more paper money and added to the national debt.

As a consequence of these economic and environmental problems, people have lost faith in institutions such as government, business and academia. Such institutions promise solutions and provide answers but these solutions and answers do not seem to work. And so, in reaction, many people have withdrawn and become apathetic. And this is a very natural and understandable reaction. When hope crumples people turn inward, some to the virtual world of the internet, others to drugs and alcohol, many to the unreal world of television.

The problem is that for evil to prosper all it takes is for good people to do nothing. And that is what seems to be happening to a large degree.

But even more troubling are not those who simply withdraw but those who begin to despair because despair is self-fulfilling. It leads to that which it fears. It makes the problem worse, much worse.

Today is Remembrance Day and in communities across this country of ours many will read that lovely poem “In Flanders Fields.” You know the poem well:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It is a favourite of mine as I am sure it is yours as well. But one line in that poem haunts me whenever I hear it. The line is this – To you, from failing hands, we throw the torch: be yours to hold it high.

What does it mean, I ask myself whenever I hear or read that poem to hold the torch high? What does it mean?

Certainly, it means to remember, as we are doing this morning, those who gave their lives in countries such as Afghanistan, in the Korean conflict, in World Wars I and II and in countless peace missions throughout the world.

But it also means more than that doesn’t it? Much more.

You see, those who died, gave their lives, not that we might give up hope when we are faced with our own challenges; challenges which I have just outlined. Not that we might withdraw and despair. But that we might have:

  • the freedom to work together to create a better society;
  • the freedom to create a fairer society;
  • the freedom to create a more sustainable society;
  • the freedom to create a society where wealth is not so unevenly distributed, where children do not go hungry, where need and not greed determines how we allocate the world’s resources.

And so today, this morning, we are called not just to remember, as important as that it is, but to let the memory of the sacrifices of the past stir us to action in the present. To let the memory of the sacrifices of the past inspire us to work together in order to meet the challenges of our own day, of our own communities and so provide a better world for those who follow after us.

To you, from failing hands, we throw the torch: be yours to hold it high.

Will you hold the torch high or is this day just a one-off, a thing you do every year but which doesn’t change your life one little bit?

You and I are the only ones who can determine the answer to that question. For future generations, let us hope we answer well.

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Zimmerman Case

I don’t know why but once the George Zimmerman case went to trial, I have followed it closely. What surprises me is that in all the discussion, and there has been much, no one has pointed out that if people were not allowed to carry pistols, concealed or otherwise, Trayvon Martin would not be dead.

I guess the gun culture in the United States is so ingrained that it has become invisible.

In Canada, Martin would not be dead. It is as simple as that.

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Essential Services Legislation

Regarding the current showdown between the Paramedic Union EHS, I find myself wonder­ing if Premier Darrell Dexter has changed his mind concerning the es­sential services legislation which I brought forward on behalf of the gov­ernment in 2007.

While giving it my best shot, both the NDP and the Liberal party voted against such legislation. I remember current Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald fulminating at this draconian abuse of union powers, even though I quoted the International Labour Organization’s openness to the banning of strikes in areas such as health care, as long as a fair way of negotiating wage settlements was sub­stituted in its place. Bill 1 did this, with reference to neutral third-party arbitra­tion.

The reality is that in our modern health care system, a strike or even a threat of a strike places undue burden on those who are in a very vulnerable position.

I would suggest it is time that the premier dusted off Bill 1 to see how fair and progressive it was, and is.

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NDP Party of Nova Scotia and Promised Change

I listened to the Spinbusters on CBC this Wednesday, a panel which I used to be on but was not invited to join this time for some unknown reasons. In particular, I listened closely to the NDP spokesperson who had obviously been couched well. However, when you dissected her comments it came down to the fact that Darryl Dexter had accomplished his goal of change which was to prove that the Nova Scotia NDP were no different that the other two mainline parties.

If this was Darryl’s intention, he certainly accomplished his goal. The problem is that Nova Scotian’s didn’t want another party like the other two but really wanted change. Change in how the the Legislature was run internally and, externally, change in how the economy of the province was run. This they did not receive. Internally and externally, the NDP have resorted to the same tactics the other parties used before, promising one thing and doing another and treating provincial coffers as their own private piggy bank to achieve political rather than economic goals. As a result, we have fewer jobs than in the past and a growing debt. We are, in short, unsustainable as a province and that is not what Nova Scotians voted for!


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Robert Stanfield’s Conservative Vision

[A paper written by Robert Stanfield when he was head of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. You can judge how different the Harper Conservatives are from the Progressive Conservatives]

Some Comments on Conservative Principles and Philosophy

We must start with some fundamentals. This may seem rather remote from present day politics and it may very well involve us in more than one such session of discussion, but this kind of beginning is essential if we are to consider principles as opposed to political tactics for the short term. I have put down a few points for your consideration. Please excuse the
rough edges.

We are not now discussing the platform of the party. This program should be consistent with our principles, but it is a set of proposals designed to deal with the problems and issues of the moment, rather than a statement of principles. And of course, it is also intended to gain support in a given situation.

I must emphasize, too, that we are not now discussing the extent to which we in our party should be positive with regard to issues and problems of the day, as opposed to being
critical of government policies on these issues and problems. This question is an important question but it is a matter of tactics, rather than a matter of party principles.

We are therefore discussing principles: what we do or should stand for through the years.

First I would like to make a few comments on the role of  political parties such as ours in Canada. Not only is it  unnecessary for political parties to disagree about everything
but some acceptance of common ground among the major parties is essential to an effective and stable democracy. For example, it is important to stability. that all major parties
agree on such matters as parliamentary responsible government and major aspects of our constitution.

I would like to emphasize too, that in the British tradition, political parties are not doctrinaire. Walter Bagehot, who wrote a famous book on the British Constitution in the 19th Century, set out to explain in an essay why France had unstable government and Britain has stable government. He joked about this, suggesting that it was simply a matter of French being more intelligent. Every self-respecting Frenchman, Bagehot said, developed his own personal philosophy, and if he found three or four others who agreed
with him he formed a political party; whereas in Britain a Conservative was quite content to support his party as long as the Earl of Derby (who was then the leader of the party)
attended the annual picnic, and a liberal was quite content as long as Mr. Gladstone attended the annual picnic.

Bagehot made the point that because French political parties were based upon doctrine they tended to divide the country and found it very difficult to work together. Consequently, government in France was likely to be unstable. in Britain, on the other hand, doctrine was relatively unimportant to political parties, and because of the tradition of consensus and compromise in Britain, stable government was the rule.

It seems to me that Bagehot, while exaggerating to make his point, had an important point to make. In our parliamentary tradition, which is substantially the British tradition,
parties have a unifying roles to play. For example, the British Conservative Party has always tried to appeal to Britons in all walks of life because it felt that It represented Britons in all walks of life. There are, of course, time when stands must be taken which will seriously divide the country. However, a truly national political party has a continuing role to try to pull things together: achieve a consensus, resolve conflicts, strengthen the fabric of society and work towards a feeling of harmony in the country. Success in this role is, I suggest, essential if a party is to maintain a strong position in this country. This role of a
national political party, and success in this role, are particularly important in countries as vast and diverse as Canada and the United States.

It is partly because of this that I do not favour the Manning thesis which urges polarization of political view points in this country. In Canada a party such as ours has a harmonizing role to play, both horizontally in terms of resolving conflicts between regions, and vertically in terms of resolving conflicts between Canadians in different walks of life. It is not a matter of a national party being all things to all people — this would never work. But a national party should appeal to all parts of the country and to Canadians in all walks of life, if it is to serve this essential role, and if it is to remain strong.

Turning now to the consideration of the Conservative Party as such, I would not wish to exaggerate the concern of British Conservatives through the years with principles or theory. After all, they were practising politicians for the most part, pragmatists dealing with problems, and of course, politicians seeking success. There are, however, some threads we can follow through the years. I am, of course, not suggesting that we in Canada should follow British principles or practices slavishly. Nor would I argue that our party in Canada has followed a consistent pattern. I believe it has frequently wandered far from the conservative tradition that I believe to be valuable, and conservative principles I accept.

British Conservative thinkers traditionally stressed the importance of order, not merely “law and order”, but social order. Thin does not mean that they were opposed to freedom
for the individual; far from it. They believe that a decent civilized life requires a framework of order.

Conservatives did not take that kind of order for granted. It seemed to them quite rare in the world and therefore quite precious. This is still the case. Conservatives attached
importance to the economy and to enterprise and to property, but private enterprise was not the central principle of traditional British conservatism. Indeed the supreme
importance of private enterprise and the undesirability of government initiative and interference was Liberal 19th Century doctrine. It was inherited from Adam Smith and was given its boldest political statement by such Liberals as Cobden and Bright. It was they who preached the doctrine of the unseen hand with practically no reservation.

The conservative concept of order encouraged conservative governments to impose restrictions on private enterprise where this was considered desirable. We all studied William Wilberforce and his factory legislation when we were in school. These were logical measures for Conservatives to adopt; to protect the weak against the excesses of private
enterprise and greed. That is good traditional conservatism, fully consistent with traditional conservative principles. It is also good Conservatism not to push regulation too far to undermine self-reliance.

Because of the central importance Conservatives attached to the concept of order they naturally favoured strong and effective government, but on the other had they saw a limited or restricted role for government for several reasons: because a highly centralized government is quite susceptible to arbitrary exercise of power and also to attack and
revolution. Conservatives instinctively favoured a decentralization of power. National government had to be able to act in the national interest, but there had to be countervailing centres of power and influence. in the past, these might consist of church or the A landed gentry or some other institution. Today in Canada, the provinces, trade
unions, farm organizations, trade associations and the press would serve as examples.

In the middle of the last century a very able Frenchman named de Toqueville explained why France had had a succession of revolutions following 1789, whereas the United States had had stable government and had been free of revolutions for many years. De Toqueville’s explanation was the decentralization of government in the United States as compared to the highly centralized government of France. All one had to do to gain
complete power in France was to capture the central government at Versailles, whereas in the United States the power of Washington was limited by the decentralization of power and authority. Consequently, there was no easy target for revolution in the United States.

Another reason why Conservatives traditionally saw a limited role for government was because Conservatives were far from being Utopians. They adopted basically a Judeo-Christian view of the world. It might be an exaggeration to say that they saw the world as a vale of tears. They certainly saw the world as a very imperfect place, capable of only limited improvement; and man as an imperfect being. They saw evil as an on-going force that would always be present in changing form. It would therefore not have surprised Edmund Burke that economic growth, and government policies associated with
it, have created problems almost as severe as those that economic growth and government policies were supposed to overcome.

A third reason for Conservatives taking a limited view of the role of government was that men such as Edmund Burke regarded man’s intelligence as quite limited. Burke was very much impressed by how little man understood what was going on around him. He pushed this thought very far — surely much too far — in his famous protest against the French
revolution, when he argued against any fundamental constitutional change on the grounds that constitutions such as the British and French constitutions had been developed
through the ages, incorporating the wisdom and the experience of the race. Burke questioned whether any one generation really had the intelligence to understand fully the reasons for existing institutions or to pass judgment on those institutions which were the product of the ages. Burke pushed this idea much too far, but Conservatives have traditionally recognized how limited human intelligence really is, and consequently have recognized that success in planning the lives of other people or the life of the nation is likely to be limited. Neither government nor its bureaucracy are as wise as they are apt to believe. Humility is a valuable strain in Conservatism, provided it does not become an excuse for resisting change, accepting injustice or supporting vested interests.

I have emphasized the stress British Conservatism placed through the years on the importance of order and stability, and some of the implications of this: active and effective
government, but government with a limited role; and a significant decentralization of power in the country. Another aspect of traditional Conservatism that I have mentioned is
the inherent belief that while effective government is vitally important, and government initiative and regulation necessary, politicians should recognize their limitations.

There is another important strain to traditional Conservatism. Conservatism is national in scope and purpose. This implies a strong feeling for the country, its institutions and its symbols; but also a feeling for all the country and for all the people in the country. The
Conservative Party serves the whole country and all the people, not simply part of the country and certain categories of people.

In past days when there was a rigid class structure this might well have involved each, one keeping his place in society, but nevertheless government was for all the people according to the lights of the time.

Social conditions have changed, but the national scope of Conservatism (both vertical and horizontal) is still an essential aspect of Conservative philosophy. Economic policy was and is subservient to national objectives in this full sense of the word national. Liberalism traditionally emphasized the individual and opposed the subservience of the economy to national political objectives and purposes.

I suggest that it is in the Conservative tradition to expand the concept of order and give it a fully contemporary meaning. The concept of order always included some concept of security for the unfortunate, although the actual program may have been quite inadequate by our present day standards.

The concept of order certainly includes the preservation of our environment. And the concept of order, linked to Conservative concern for the country as a whole, certainly
includes concern about poverty.

For a Conservative in the Conservative tradition which I have described, there is much mote to national life than simply increasing the size of the Gross National Product. A
Conservative naturally regards a healthy economy as of great importance, but increasing the size of the Gross National Product is not in itself a sufficient goal for a civilized nation, according to a Conservative. A health economy is obviously important, but a Conservative will be concerned about the effects of economic growth — what this does to our environment; what kind of living conditions it creates; what is its effect on the countryside, what is its effect on our cities; whether all parts of the nation benefit or only some parts of the nation, and whether a greater feeling of justice and fairness and self-fulfillment results from this thereby strengthening the social order and improving the quality of national life.

I am not trying in this paper to gather together all the strands of Conservative thought or to fill in details but rather to mention some aspects of Conservative thinking which I believe are frequently overlooked or misunderstood in the day-to-day activities of our party. While I, as leader of the party, have stressed economic problems and economic issues, there is clearly a great deal more to Conservatism than particular economic policies.

We would all do Well to read deeply of the life of Sir John A. Macdonald. There we will see exemplified the principles that I have been discussing. There, incidentally, we will see these principles applied with great political success.

This paper may not help you to state ten or twelve points on which Conservatives differ from Liberals. I have emphasized that a party such as ours, if it is to do its job fully, must
attract Canadians of different walks of life. Its principles must be spacious enough to permit these Canadians of different backgrounds, interests and therefore points of view, to live together within the party, reasonably comfortably, arguing out their differences and achieving a consensus on which the party can act. Any particular economic dogma is not a
principle of our party, fond as most Conservatives may be of that particular dogma at any particular time.

At any given time our party is likely to contain those whose natural bent is reform and those whose natural bent is to stand pat or even to try to turn the clock back a bit. I think
it is fair to say that Conservative statesmen we respect most were innovators. They did not change Conservative principles, but within those principles they faced and met the challenges of their time.

Traditional Liberalism started with the individual, emphasizing liberty of the Individual and calling for a minimum of government interference with the individual. Conservatives. on the other hand, emphasized the nation, society, stability and order.

In this century, Liberals have resorted to the use of government more and more. Today big government and liberalism are synonymous in Canada. A Liberal in Canada now much more nearly than formerly approximates what is called a liberal in the United States — a “progressive,, who believes strongly in government activity to enlarge the “protection,’ and the “freedom” of the ordinary citizen.

Some Conservatives, on the other hand, want to move to the old individualistic position of 19th Century liberalism enshrining private enterprise as the most fundamental principle of our party, and condemning all government interference. The Conservative tradition has been to interfere only ..where necessary, but to interfere only where necessary to achieve social and national objectives. Conservatives favour incentives, where appropriate, rather than the big stick.

Of course, it has always been and remains important to Conservatives to encourage individual self-reliance; and certainly red tape ‘and regulation have today gone too far,
especially in the case of small business. Self-reliance and enterprise should be. encouraged, but Conservatism does not place private enterprise in a central position around which
everything else revolves.

Conservatism recognized the responsibility of government to restrain or influence individual action where this was in the interests of society. Whether a government should or should not intervene was always a question of judgment, of course, but the Conservative tradition recognized the role of government as the regulator of individual conduct in the
interests of society.

I would not assert that Conservatives always saw society as a whole and never sought to preserve a particular form of society vested interests, if you like. I do not wish to make any exaggerated claims about the virtue of Conservatives; I am speaking rather about Conservative principles in the Conservative tradition.

Nor would I suggest that Conservatives have tried or would try to build a radically different society from that which they have known. But to reform and adapt existing institutions to meet changing conditions, and to work towards a more just and therefore a truly more stable society — this I suggest is in the best Conservative tradition. Resistance to changes and the support of privilege has been a part of the behavior of Conservatives from time to time, but neither is nor ought to be Conservative principle.

The emphasis an the nation as a whole, on order, in the Conservative tradition that I have described, was surely seldom more relevant than it is today, with inflation raging and life becoming more and more a matter of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. We see increasing stresses and strains in our society, wildcat strikes, increasing distrust and mounting tension and violence.

This is a period when true Conservative principles of order and stability should be most appealing. Principles of conservation and preservation are also high in the minds of many Canadians today, and a Conservative can very legitimately and on sound historical ground –.aosociate. with these. Again I emphasize that these kind of bedrock principles are national in scope and reflect an over an overriding riding concern for society at large.

Enterprise and initiative are obviously important; but will emphasis upon individual rights solve the great problems of the day; I mean the maintenance of acceptable employment, and an acceptable distribution of income. Would we achieve these goals today by a simple reliance on the free market, if we could achieve a free market?

It would certainly be appropriate for a Conservative to suggest that we must achieve some kind of order if we are to avoid chaos; an. order which is stable, but not static; an order therefore which is reasonably acceptable and which among other things provides a framework in which enterprise can flourish. That would be in the Conservative tradition. The methods and the specific programs appropriate to achieve these goals of course lie outside the scope of this paper. 

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