There is little doubt that the present period in our history is one of the most critical that the Canadian nation has ever lived through. Dominating public attention is of course the challenge to the very existence of Canada that the election of the Parti Quebecois has posed. But equally important are the twin economic dilemmas of inflation and unemployment, which have called into question the viability of the free enterprise system as we know it, and the whole range of social stresses and problems that are tearing at the very fabric of Canadian society.
During these troubled times, fraught with peril, the tiller of the Canadian ship of state rests firmly in the hands of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Prime Minister since 1968, who then as now dominates the clouded horizons of national politics. For a time, it appeared that the Trudeau administration might be in some difficulty, but in the course of the last year, it has become increasingly apparent that there is no other figure in our national life who has the stature to challenge the Prime Minister. There are currently no credible contenders for leadership within the Liberal Party, and it is clear that Tory Leader Joe Clark is unable to lead his own party, let alone a country.
So for better or worse, Pierre Trudeau is the captain of our national destiny as we sail into an uncharted future. What are the views of this often enigmatic man? How does he see the future of Canada unfolding?
We are fortunate in having obtained the transcript of a previously unreleased interview that the Prime Minister granted to free-lance interviewer Will Basically last month. It appears that the interview was mysteriously "killed" for "national security" reasons after it was recorded. This magazine, however, obtained a copy of the interview through a government source. After confirming its authenticity, we have decided to publish it here in the public interest. The picture of the Prime Minister and his views that emerges here is perhaps the frankest statement that has been made available to the Canadian public to this time. It should be of vital interest to all Canadians.
Will Basically: Prime Minister, you said that the free market society was passe and that we must move to a society with greater government intervention. Now you are saying that we have to rely on the market. How do you resolve that difference in your two positions?
Prime Minister: I did say that free enterprise is gone if indeed we ever had such a thing in the first place. Galbraith makes this point and I basically agree with him when he says that instead of many competing firms and a government as umpire so to speak, we've got Big Business, Big Labour and increasingly Big Government. What we need is a society where these groups can sit together and work out problems sensibly. Now this will be a society based on different values than the ones we have now. As Rousseau would say le volonte generale ... uh, the general will ... the good of all must prevail over the particular will. Now there are problems because a lot of people don't see it that way and they need a reminder and the free market society will tend to keep them in line.
WB: How would things be different in the "new society".
PM: Well take unemployment for example ... please! We face a real problem here. Basically people are suffering from a surplus manpower situation in as much as forseeable demand for increments to the stock of labour supply is increasing at a slower rate than entry into the job market. And this is tough for a lot of people.
Now some of these people are students coming into the job market for the first time and they are saying -- give us a high paying job or Unemployment Insurance. Well, instead of rushing in with a make-work scheme or welfare the government is saying -- if you can't find work here go somewhere else -- travel. But don't come begging for hand-outs.
WB: But what about people who can't afford to travel.
PM: Well, that is a problem and clearly something has to be done. But the situation is different now. We don't simply have a temporary slump which we can get out of by Keynsian pump-priming. We have a long-term moderate growth prospect with inflationary pressures -- we can't just pour in more money and hope for the best. What we are thinking of is something like this. We loan people money to look for work abroad and let them pay us back. We take this money and invest in transportation out of the country thus employing some of our surplus manpower. Eventually we can cut employment down to virtually nil. Now of course some countries may not want our surplus manpower.
WB: What do we do about that?
PM: Well if labour can't be sold it's because too much is charged or there's a glut on the market. The same situation applies to farm products like eggs or wheat or livestock. So that parallel between the two markets with their chronic over-supply problems made me think that the same solution applied to farm products could be used for surplus manpower. We could have a marketing board.
WB: You mean sell manpower just like wheat?
PM: Yeah, why not? We could project demand and issue positive and negative incentives for families to produce manpower units as the market for them rose and fell. I know it seems like a totally new idea but in a way it's been tried before. In many African countries government sold surplus manpower and it seemed to work pretty well. We could do the same and receive cash. Manpower could be provided at competitive rates and this would benefit the buyer. And owners of manpower would get badly needed food, clothing and shelter without the stigma of being a burden to society. Everybody would benefit. With the extra revenue we could cut taxes and thus stimulate the economy without having to resort to inflationary methods. If we ever ran short of manpower we could always buy some back -- but we'd only buy it when we needed it. Now of course even then we might find that the market for manpower units is glutted and so we would have to find other uses. Now we all know that one present cause of inflation is the high cost of food and we could use some of our surplus manpower units to help solve that problem. My thinking is along the lines of a transformation of manpower units into basic nourishment material. Many of our surplus population are relatively well-fed and tender especially students and others who come from middle class families. Many others would be better employed as fertilizer because the toughness of their flesh makes them unsuitable as food. They could however find real satisfaction however in returning to life, so to speak, as food for a happier and healthier nation. They would provide a cheap source of fertilizer for farmers and thus cancel out the decline in revenue resulting from lowered meat prices due to the entry of former manpower units on the market. And of course the money spent on welfare for these people could be used to reduce taxes for food processors and distributors thus cutting food costs. The government could help further by publishing recipes for the preparation of former manpower units as food and by advising how full nutritional value could be extracted from this exiting new food source.
WB: A lot of people will probably criticize this measure as an unwarranted interference by the gov-ernment in free enterprise.
PM: Yeah, well what are their solutions? I don't hear any useful suggestions from Broadbent or uh ... the frizzy haired kid who does the Diefenbaker imitations.
WB: Turning to Quebec ... what are your opinions on current developments there?
PM: Well, I think that the wish to go it alone is only held by a small minority. After all, this nationalism is really a regressive desire to return to the stone ages when savages huddled around fires in their own separate caves grunting curses at anyone who tried to join them. To be fair, I am not saying that this is what Levesque is actually proposing but it is implicit in his policy.
WB: What can we as ordinary Canadians do to counteract this trend?
PM: Well, I think that we need a change in our attitude to the nation. Confederation is not a dry legal document but a nation united by two languages which anybody can speak at least one of and sometimes more.
WB: And bilingualism is obviously the key to keeping this nation together.
PM: Right! Because this government has shown such determination to increase the number of posts in the civil service requiring the use of both languages it is now possible for French Canada to have more power than ever before -- certainly more than would exist in the banana republic Levesque wants to create. And now it is possible for any French Canadian boy or girl to grow up to become Prime Minister or at least understand him part of the time when he speaks on television.
It is also possible for French Canadians to travel across this country and still be able to use their native language when they travel on the federal transportation system. And when they buy their food at the supermarket they can read in French what it is and contains whether Post Toasties, Pop Tarts, Whip'n' Chill or whatever. Because of the Governments' firmness and decisiveness bilingualism has been made a reality for Canadians all across this country. The first thing they see when they wake up is their morning breakfast cereal with its contents described in both languages. Even very little children can learn that "Cric, Crac, Croc" is French for "Snap, Crackle, Pop". This is a very real way the struggle for the hearts and minds of the nation is being won on its cereal boxes. And lest I forget there are French language TV stations financed by the federal government. There movies originally produced in English are shown with French dubbing. When you have heard John Wayne speak French you have gained some idea of what bilingualism can mean.
Inspired by such a policy Canadians from all walks of life can unite behind a vigorous national policy of keeping things pretty much as they are right now. Let our slogan from Sea to Sea (or at least from Sea to the Ottawa River) be "Business as Usual".
WB: Do you think that the entry of Jack Horner into your government will help the cause of Confederation?
PM: Definitely. Quebecois will see that English Canadians no matter how bigoted, narrow-minded, parochial, and stupid can still appreciate and accept this government's policies as long as the rewards to them are carefully spelled out.
WB: Pursuing that last topic how do you see Mr. Horner's role in your cabinet?
PM: Well, first off we will have to provide him a place to sit. While Mr. Horner has not complained I think he feels a bit left out standing outside the Cabinet Chambers during meetings. As to his duties -- well, I think that he could play a strong role in Transportation and Energy policy. Specifically he could pack and carry Otto Lang's baggage for him when he makes one of his many airplane trips and he could turn out the lights in the Parliament Building when we have left thus emphasizing how greatly the government is concerned about energy conservation.
WB: Thank you Prime Minister for an interesting and instructive interview.