Four ideas for a better Canada and a better world

NationalPost.com – FullComment
December 11, 2010.   Conrad Black

Here are some more suggestions that follow on last week’s discussion in this column of policies that could revive the federal Liberal party, though they would be equally becoming to the government.

One of the hallmarks of an advanced national economy is ownership of an automobile industry. Canada produces approximately 1.5 million cars and trucks annually, the world’s 11th highest national total, but all in branch plants. This is why I urged the Trudeau government to follow the advice of the prime minister’s chief of staff, Jim Coutts, nearly 30 years ago, and buy control of Chrysler Corporation (a better bet than PetroCanada or Texas Gulf), and urged the present government to join a control group with the Agnelli family in the ownership of Fiat and Chrysler.

The ideologically motivated nationalization of what Marxists call the commanding heights of industry is nonsense. But the opportunistic acquisition, as temporary trustee for the private sector of the country, of a non-management position of influence in a strategic and under-valued company, can be justified. C.D. Howe and R.B. Bennett would have taken this step, and whichever of them was in opposition would have commended the other for doing so. It is not too late. At the very least, Frank Stronach, one of Canada’s outstanding industrialists, should be tangibly but not wastefully encouraged in his exploration of hybrid and electric automobile design and production.

Given its need for a growing population, and its prosperity, relatively high levels of social services, tolerance and adaptability, Canada should take advantage of the current recession and the comparative political mismanagement of most other countries to redouble efforts to induce desirable immigration, and especially relatively assimilable immigration.

This is not to endorse discrimination against those candidates less likely to enter effortlessly into Canada’s founding cultures. But a large number of current immigrants leave again within 20 years. This cannot be stopped and all must be free to leave the country, of course, and there is nothing morally wrong about someone coming to Canada from a poorer country with the idea of returning to his original home with a personal nest egg and heightened job skills — indeed it could be considered a form of development aid. But I believe Canada could now, for the first time, attract a large number of Americans, and for the first time in decades, Eastern Europeans, while remaining candidates from under-developed countries continue to be admitted in as large numbers as is practical.

Last week, I suggested a joint protectorate over Haiti, with the United States, Brazil, France and, if it would contribute, the U.K., to address the latest disaster in United Nations-administered aid relief. This protectorate could set about resurrecting a raison d’être for that cruelly castaway country, which has been grossly misgoverned since it was a pirate lair — by which I refer to real buccaneers, not just the 10 generations of political crooks who have succeeded the sea-borne freebooters who denuded Haiti of forests to build and refit their pirate ships. A properly planned tourist industry could siphon off business from sandy and strip-mall-strewn Florida, and from the Stalinist sex-slave emporium of Cuba.

French Canada is ever-concerned with demography, having abandoned the high birthrate that was, with the Catholic Church provision of schools, hospitals and higher learning — along with the comparative decency of English-Canadians — all that kept the French fact alive and autonomous in Canada for 200 years after the eviction of the metropolitan French. Canada’s French population could be reinforced by a program of providing Canadian citizenship to qualified Haitians. Of course, Quebec nationalists would prefer less ambivalent francophones; but to achieve that, they will have to become more fecund again. This proposal would keep Quebec as happy as its desire to eat its national cake without the inconvenience of swallowing it will allow.

Having recently inexplicably spent 29 months in one of the kindest and gentlest of American federal prisons, I must emphasize that imprisonment is an insane, archaic and self-defeating treatment of non-violent offenders (especially when many other convicted people are in fact, by the nature of the system, as innocent as I). Apart from those with a propensity to violence, and those who have committed other crimes on a Madoff-scale, felons should receive a government insurance bond for their employers, and contribute work to society pro bono but with, where their circumstances require it, basic non-custodial shelter and meal vouchers, and treatment for substance abuse. Recidivists would have to be confined, but in prison or workshop facilities. Disused prison facilities could then be spruced up and reconfigured as housing for the indigent.

This program would save Canada about $1-billion a year, and increase the productivity of the workforce by about a full half of one percent. (The United States, with its grotesquely bloated prison population, would save $60-billion annually, and increase productivity by over one full per cent.)

I am now the co-owner, with my distinguished friend Margaret Atwood, of a cow from the penitentiary herd of Kingston, Ont., which has been dispersed to make way for the vast prison expansion the Canadian government is planning, to deal with the sharply declining crime rate. I will donate my half-cow back, if the government will stop this idiocy and use the money it would not then spend to reduce the deficit or rebate taxes to the lowest bracket of taxpayers.

Because of my seven-year climacteric in the wonderland of American justice and the gulag at the end of its folklorically Happy Trail, I have not been in Canada for nearly four years, so I mistrust my sense of the popular mood. I am privileged to have a large number of visitors to my home in the country to whose justice system I remain a hostage, and a very heavy email correspondence, including with Canadians of both official languages and in every province. Many tell me that Canada is comfortable, aware of its strengths and advantages, and has no interest in impressing and being acclaimed by the world as a pioneer of humane and intelligent public policy innovation.

I believe that, but I don’t believe that Canadians do not wish to make their country greater, better, more illustrative of what prosperity and freedom and tolerance can achieve in a nation, nor that they would be averse to some international recognition for it. Though paying our way in blood and treasure through 140 years of being at the side of the British and Americans through some of history’s greatest and most trying times is a very honourable matter of earned pride, more ambitious destinies await. I do not accept that Canadians would not respond to the prospect, which comes to few nationalities and beckons now. A government of either major party could reply to this uplifting challenge.

Numerous alert readers noted that in my column last week, the 1957 federal election was misstated as 1958, and the Liberal leader between Alexander Mackenzie and Wilfrid Laurier was stated to be William Blake, as in the famous poet whose sword would not sleep in his hand, rather than Edward Blake. The proposed parliamentary redistribution bill was supposed to yield 12 more Conservative than opposition MPs, not just 12 MPs. I am not solely responsible for these howlers, but I am chastened by these errors and apologize for them.

< http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/12/11/conrad-black-four-ideas-for-a-better-canada-and-a-better-world/ >

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *