Economic, Politics, War, and Cold War
In the national policy-making rooms of Canada, A.J.M. Smith’s 1943 anthology of Canadian poetry did not register – though its general tendency was not wholly absent perhaps.That is because the opening months of the Second World War (1939) threw Canada and the United States into close discussion about the war in Europe and the threats to their own territories. A tendency to genuflect to the U.S.A. may have been present because the superiority of the U.S. – at least in power – was thrust before Canadians daily. What the U.S. did about going to war, and in the war, was of importance to every Canadian … and to all Europeans. The U.S. profile in Canada had to be, and was, very high.
As happens repeatedly in Canada the hugeness of U.S. presence in Canadian life and media affected public opinion during the war. In 1943, the year in which the turn in fortune of the allies seemed to assure an eventual victory against the enemy, The Canadian Institute of Public Opinion poll found “that 49 percent wanted Canada to stay part of the Commonwealth after the war, twenty-one percent to join the United States, and twenty-four percent to become totally independent.”
The power and populousness of the U.S.A. – always in history possessing ten times the population of Canada – and the U.S. determination to imperialize the world have always attracted loyalty from some Canadians. They become the A.J.M. Smiths of our history, preaching to fellow Canadians the innate inferiority of Canada and Canadians and the need to mimic foreign cultures, especially that of the U.S.A. Or they become the Goldwin Smiths of the country, advocating outright annexation.
Looking backward, it seems impossible that both the U.S. and Canada could have seriously considered the events in Europe a threat to themselves. But the Nazi forces sped across Europe, and when France fell to the invasion in June of 1940, Britain began the time it stood alone – all Europe that mattered having been conquered … and with such rapidity the heads of leaders everywhere were set spinning. Nor was their fear a mere fantasy. President Roosevelt of the U.S.A. thought about Britain being invaded and surrendering – a not impossible future. What would happen to the British navy? Would it fall into the hands of the Nazis – and then be used with Germany’s might against the North American continent? Roosevelt wanted the British fleet to sail to North America rather than to be surrendered, and he asked Canadian prime minister Mackenzie King to sound out the British. Very soon Churchill spoke to the British parliament, assuring it that “our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle … ”
He admitted in a private note to King that he couldn’t know or control what a successor government set up by the Nazis might do. In all likelihood Churchill would not face the possibility before him, would not give it even planning legitimacy. He could have set to work instructing the Admiralty about the disposition of the fleet in such an eventuality. Perhaps he did. But always a British imperialist, Churchill probably couldn’t bring himself to think about the biggest gem in the Crown of British power – the fleet – sailing off to the U.S.A., the country he had recognized for some years was Britain’s imperial competitor for dominant power in the world.
It was in that aura of threatening calamity that Canadian government had to think about the unthinkable … unthinkable until that time: the idea of what would in fact be a military alliance with the U.S.A. to ride out the war years. The idea couldn’t be dismissed – and the U.S.A. – wanting perennially to control Canada’s wealth by physical absorption of the country or by strangling treaties, contacted (through its president Franklin Delano Roosevelt) Canada’s MacKenzie King in August of 1940 to suggest a meeting the next day in the little town of Ogdensburg just across the Canadian line in the U.S.
For some years leading to the Ogdensburg meeting Roosevelt had been concerned about the apparent failure of Canada to have built defenses against possible attack on the West and East coasts. He had travelled both coasts and had brought the matter up with King. Canada responded mildly to what the U.S. felt were needs to protect its territory – too mildly, evoking comments of warm friendship from Roosevelt and his determination to defend Canada if need be.
Out of their meeting came a Joint Board on Defence, and at the instancing of the U.S. president it was to be a Permanent Joint Board on Defence. Permanent? Who can say what grand designs president Roosevelt had? Certainly Britain’s prime minister Winston Churchill didn’t like what he saw. What he saw was Canada falling, not slipping, into the orbit of the growing U.S. Empire. Churchill may have been distressed at the loss of influence over Canada by the British Empire – which was a sacred entity to him. To Canadians the matter is very much more simple. Moving toward genuine independence over long centuries, Canada achieved its goal – by holding off U.S. expansionist ambitions and actions, and by slow negotiation with the British. That full, formal independence came only eight years before the outbreak of the Second World War.
When negotiations, after the Ogdensburg meeting, were underway to flesh out forms of co-operation in a Basic Defence Plan, the U.S. wanted de facto control of Canadian forces if the British were defeated. And to its shame, Canada agreed. A year later the U.S. asked that parts of Canada simply be placed under U.S. command in emergency. Canada refused, recoiling from the incursions upon its sovereignty. But Canada did allow the U.S. in to build the Alaska Highway through Canadian territory under the pretext of defence needs when Japan entered the war on the side of Nazi Germany. The U.S. moved into Canada to build airstrips, weather stations, and an oil pipeline as well – and almost always with hardly a sense they were in a foreign country.
It took the new British High Commissioner to Canada on a tour of the North to report to Ottawa that the U.S. people working there were more than careless with their status as guests in the country. Malcolm MacDonald was visibly alarmed – and conveyed his alarm to Canadian authorities. Donald Creighton, one of Canada’s distinguished historians, has called it “an armed occupation of the Canadian North by American forces, virtually uncontrolled by the Canadian government.” The result was that a Canadian general was appointed to be present in the North and to remind the U.S. visitors that they were not in part of the U.S.A.
All those facts piled on one another don’t reveal the new movement of economic exchange that grew naturally through the war. With Britain trading almost nothing, with Europe in tatters, trade between Canada and the U.S. had to grow – especially since they made agreements about sharing in weapons production and were adding production because of the condition of Europe. When, after the war, in 1952, the U.S. Senate examined that country’s needs into the future to maintain U.S. power, it found a number of key materials necessary to its operation were in Canada. As Erastus Wiman, major public advocate for Commercial Union in the 1880s, said in his address to the Canadian Club of New York in 1886: “in a certain sense, Canada is a treasure-house from which can be drawn the commodities the United States need most, and which can be made in the highest degree contributory to her progress.”
Through all the negotiations about and with Britain, and with Canada – in everything that involved the Second World War – the U.S. was quietly and calmly moving itself into the position of the dominant imperial power in the world. To maintain that position, the U.S. needed and needs – now more than ever – the natural resource wealth of Canada.
President Roosevelt’s desire for a “Permanent” Joint Board on Defence expanded over the years – and well after the war. The creation of the Soviet Union into a monster and bugbear was made to order for the U.S. – the expanding imperial power of “the free world.” It is probably impossible for any Canadian to view the Soviet Union with any kind of reasonable perspective. Propaganda was and is still so consistently derogatory that brainwash has succeeded. In that regard a single fact must be faced. Whatever brutalities either power – the USSR and the USA – engaged in, whatever great and noble actions they undertook, they could not make genuine peace between them.
Since the U.S. won the competition between the two, the explanation can be put in the perspective of the U.S. victory. Capitalism is ruthless – and more ruthless the less it is regulated and supervised, as the financial meltdown of 2008 and following reveals. As supervision and regulation were stripped from U.S. private corporations and financial institutions, they moved quickly into community destroying activities which are morally criminal even if they have not been named criminal by court actions taken against the perpetrators.
U.S. capitalism, the major upholder of the market economy, of unregulated private Corporate activity, and State/Corporate integration – neo-liberalism – could not rest with a major Socialist, command-economy operating in the world, even one run by a dictator who had probably lost his sanity…even after Stalin was gone. One or other system had to be destroyed – as far as the U.S. powers saw history. Capitalism could not rest until it was the only economic system operating in the world. The Cold War was not conducted as a result of the brutality of the Soviet system or because the Soviet Union wanted to conquer the world. It was conducted because even the existence of a relatively unsuccessful so-called Socialist system in the world was a living criticism of the failings, the manipulations, the injustices, the criminalities of the Capitalist system – of neo-liberal economic functioning, however immature and whatever name was given to the functioning at the time.
When the Soviet Union was destroyed, Capitalism became more ruthless and conscienceless because its major ideological critic and antagonist was wiped out. Prince Charles was insightful enough to say at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union that he regretted the change, believing the two forces formed a useful balance. Whatever political philosophy, whatever political loyalties one holds, there can be no doubt that the Second World War, followed immediately by The Cold War, concentrated such attention on and gave such centrality and power to the U.S.A. – to its wants, its (apparent) needs, its aspirations – that Canada would have had to fight very hard to hold off the incursions – on every level – of U.S. interests.
The reason Canada didn’t fight as hard as it could have done might be put down to what we could call “the Goldwin Smith factor” in Canada. That is the tendency to sell-out Canada by a self-appointed, usually wealthy elite. That self-appointed elite may desire the outright annexation of Canada by the U.S.A., as Goldwin Smith did. It may desire only economic integration from which the elite can profit. Whatever the intensity of its alienation from Canada, the elite acts through research institutes, grants to universities, unending media propaganda, purchase of political parties, the continentalization of sports and culture – all – in order to condition the Canadian population not only to accept U.S. culture and interests, but also – willingly – to give away Canadian riches and to assure that the population of Canada will be poorer in the short and long terms and will be unable to work in the world for greater general peace and security.
Almost no one talks about the fact that when the U.S. made the atomic bomb, it kept everything about it secret from its wartime ally the USSR. Nor does anyone writing for Canadians talk about the even more astounding fact that when the British broke the unbreakable Nazi “Enigma” military code, it was slowly released to the U.S. ally but was never given to the Russians. As a result Russian soldiers and civilians went to their deaths in untold numbers because information about Nazi movements in Russia, known by the other allies, was not given to the Russians.
What is talked about by the media, historians, and literate commentators elsewhere is that in September of 1945 a cipher clerk from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa defected and reported that Russia was running spy rings in Canada. That more or less normal fact – doubtless paralleled by many other countries and especially by the U.S.A. worldwide – was treated as the most dirtiest of betrayals by a so-called ally. The Soviet Union clearly wanted to become master of the world. Drums were beaten. Loudly, public investigations ensued. And in 1946 in the little town of Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill – the master orator – declared “the United States stands at the pinnacle of world power … ” Churchill went on: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.” He said a little later in his speech: “Except in the British Commonwealth and in the United States where Communism is in its infancy, the Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization.”
As part of the necessity to stand together against the new terror facing “Christian civilization” Churchill cited Canada’s relation with the U.S.A. A few years earlier he expressed fear that Canada was falling into the U.S. hands, but on the Missouri occasion he chose to praise the fact that the “United States has already a Permanent Defense Agreement with the Dominion of Canada …"
Churchill’s speech in the little town of Fulton, Missouri has been taken by the world to be the announcement of The Cold War – the more than forty years of tense contest between the United States and the Soviet Union for global supremacy. The result was that an even more pressing need had, apparently, emerged for all of the “free world” to support the policies and ideas of the United States. And for Canada, especially – lying between the U.S. and Russia – there was a pressing need for it to open itself to any request made by the U.S. for economic sharing, for military cooperation, for unbroken solidarity in propaganda about the threat the Red Menace posed to freedom-loving people everywhere on the globe. As the confrontations of the Cold War proceeded, Canada, incidentally, was absorbed more and more into rule by the U.S.A. The confrontations of the Cold War lasted from 1946 until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.
The Diefenbaker Quandary. Liberal Dissension, Culture. Economics. Colonialism
The centennial anniversary of Confederation and the Centennial Celebrations in Canada ignited an enthusiasm for the country among a very large part of the population. Those events seemed to ignite, as well, a determination by a wide number to gain or retrieve independence that had been lost to, or blocked by colonialist forces. The idea that Canada had gone from colony (of Britain) … to colony (of the U.S.A) was widespread. Younger Canadians became more and more determined to gain real independence for the country.
Until 1967 things had continued as before. Having built the Alaska Highway through Canada, the U.S. – beating the drums of the Cold War – wanted Canada to lodge Bomarc anti-aircraft missiles on its soil, apparently as a part of the (often contested) North American Air Defence agreement of 1957. Fifty-six of the missiles were being prepared for at North Bay, Ontario and La Macaza, Quebec by 1962. When Canadians realized the missiles were to be fitted with nuclear warheads and their use was to be determined by the commander-in-chief of NORAD – never a Canadian – a public dispute arose, and the Diefenbaker government delayed the decision to install nuclear-armed missiles. There was additional good reason – with the on-coming development of intercontinental ballistic missiles – to delay and perhaps end the idea of using the Bomarcs at all.
John Diefenbaker, who became Canada’s prime minister in 1957, formed excellent relations with U.S. president Eisenhower, and was not willing to be pushed by the new flashy president, John F. Kennedy, into accepting that nuclear weaponry would be used by Canada. Their differences over that issue and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 led in 1963 to Lester B. Pearson changing the Liberal position on nuclear weapons and to embracing the U.S. wishes. In addition, it led to General Norstad, retiring head of NATO, coming to Ottawa and interfering on behalf of the wishes of the U.S. – offered as what NATO wanted done. The negotiations about the Bomarc were NORAD negotiations, but the head of NATO felt perfectly at ease speaking in Ottawa on behalf of the U.S. In the midst of the Bomarc tangle, the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted in October, 1962. Quite simply, the Russians were intending to place ballistic missiles in Cuba. The U.S. had not only placed air bases in countries bordering on Russia. It had also, as early has 1958, placed missiles in England, Italy, and Turkey – all in range of Moscow. When the U.S. discovered the intention of Cuba and Russia, they announced a naval blockade of the island … and perhaps more. They considered their own heavily armed air forces placed near Russia and their missiles in range of its capital perfectly reasonable, but the idea of Russian missiles in a country bordering on the U.S.A. was an outrage. The U.S. went on high alert and asked the Canadian government to move its military forces to high alert status. Diefenbaker hesitated.
He did so because he wasn’t sure the politics being played out by John F. Kennedy were the correct ones. But he also did so because he had been led by the chair of the military Chiefs of Staff committee General Charles Foulkes – working with his friend and old colleague George Pearkes – to sign the NORAD agreement almost upon taking office in 1957 without being fully informed of its implications. Foulkes had apparently promised Washington he would get the agreement approved in Canada before the election that placed John G. Diefenbaker in power. An advocate of close military relations between Canada and the United States, Foulkes wanted the NORAD agreement to be ratified. We will probably never know if Diefenbaker was purposefully misled.
When the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted, the NORAD agreement, apparently, provided for the high alert process. That process was tantamount to the Canadian military receiving its orders from the U.S.A. Diefenbaker, naturally, bridled at the idea. That he was proved correct in arguing that the U.S./Russian disagreement would not come to conflict has never been properly acknowledged. When he bridled, Diefenbaker delayed. That infuriated his minister of defence, Douglas Harkness. In cabinet it was argued that to do as the U.S. asked would be to declare Canada’s subservience forever. Diefenbaker reiterated his belief in waiting. And so no decision was made. He had assured the U.S. ambassador that Canada would honour all its obligations if an attack on the U.S. was made. As we know now it never was made. Douglas Harkness, Canada’s minister of defence, went behind the backs of cabinet and ordered the Canadian military to adopt the level of alert the U.S. wanted, an act for which he was never punished. It could fairly be described as an act of treason.
Harkness was not alone. According to Norman Hillmer and J.L. Granatstein in their book Empire to Umpire, Admiral Kenneth Dyer, without political direction, cancelled leave of seaman on the East Coast “and put all … ships to sea … Dyer acted on his own initiative.” Hillmer and Granatstein continue:
In countless NATO exercises over the years he had formed a relationship with his U.S. commanders that was so close and so trusting, and his assessment of the Soviet threat was so fearful, that he felt compelled to put to sea to assist an ally.
Admiral Kenneth Dyer’s actions could also be described fairly as treason. To enter a condition of urgent preparedness for war on behalf of another country without an order from the elected government of his own country is, almost without question, a treasonable act – especially on the part of one of the country’s highest military officers. But in a country cursed with a colonial mentality, actions on behalf of the Imperial Master are often valued more highly than actions revealing loyalty to one’s own country – the subservient colonial land. If loyalty to the Foreign Master is greater than loyalty to one’s own people, where can be the treason? The Honourable Douglas Harkness and Admiral Kenneth Dyer would probably ask that question if they were on earth to ask it.
Following upon the Bomarc arguments and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Canada went to election in 1963. All the colonialist forces were against the Diefenbaker government, and the Liberals had reversed their position on nuclear weapons in Canada to isolate the Progressive Conservatives even more. To assist the Liberals in the election, the U.S. State Department issued a press release which was, in effect, an attack on Diefenbaker, and it made public other information to undercut his position. Realizing his straits, Diefenbaker conducted an election campaign rarely seen in Canada. In the face of the combined forces of the U.S.A., the corporate class, the Liberal Party of Canada, and the New Democratic Party, which joined in the motion of non-confidence that brought the country to election, Diefenbaker won ninety-five seats. Joined with the minority parties’ forty-one seat showing, the Pearson Liberals were denied a majority.
Nonetheless, U.S. Ambassador Butterworth in Ottawa wrote a private letter – which in the light of events that have followed in Canada is fraught with implication. In the letter he said, as reported in For Better or Worse, that
Canada’s place in the world and on the continent were at the core of the election, and that place has been resolved for the present and the immediate future. ‘At any rate [Butterworth wrote] the outcome holds salutary lessons which will not be overlooked by future aspirants to political office in Canada.’
Ambassador Butterworth was saying that Canadians should know now that none of them can gain public office in Canada if disapproved of by the U.S.A. That is the statement of an imperialist who believes his country controls everything of importance in the colony.
Because, however, of the unpredictability of life in colonies, the accession to power of the Pearson Liberals in 1963 provided some surprises. Walter Gordon, and others, suggest that Lester B. Pearson may have received “encouragement” when in New York in 1963 to change, unilaterally, the Liberal Party’s stand on nuclear weapons. Pearson did so a few days later in a speech in Canada. The Liberals had chummed up to the Kennedy administration and had been supported openly by U.S. people in the 1963 election. But very soon after the election an attempt was made to rein in U.S. influence.
A first major surprise was the work of Walter Gordon, finance minister in 1963, who held on doggedly until his death in the 1980s with work to fashion greater independence for Canada. In his first budget he may have provided the explosion that began the concerted effort, over the next twenty-five years, to gain real independence for Canada and Canadians. His budget, specifically aimed at increasing Canadian ownership and control of the Canadian economy, was attacked, scorned, and threatened into being re-written.
But we must go back – back to the early post-Second World War years when the see-saw of those wanting Canada in U.S. hands and those fighting against that situation was in full play. In 1951 The Massey Report, as it was called, was made public. The Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences was struck in 1949 by prime minister Louis St. Laurent. There were five commissioners headed by the man who would become Canada’s first Canadian-born governor general, Vincent Massey.
Whatever may be the final judgement of the Report, it was significant in the creation of the Canada Council, of the National Library of Canada, of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [CBC] Television, and of a host of other developments. One of the most important was the program of granting in the Arts which increased Canadian publishing, encouraged Canadian research, and gave a measure of financial freedom to creative people in a degree never before realized. Basing its argument on Canada’s small population at that time, the vast distances of the country, and the huge influx of U.S. cultural influence, the commissioners advocated State funding of the Arts – as was already common practice across Europe and in Great Britain.
Much has been made by the enemies of the Massey Report that it wanted to keep out U.S. “popular culture” and represented an elite group that only wanted “high culture” to be granted room in the country. Significantly, the commissioners recognized that almost all public, travelling, classical music and concertizing artists appearing in Canada came from the U.S.A. They wanted changes made so that Canadians working in those areas could develop and live successful lives in their own country.
In addition, U.S. popular culture, too, dominated Canadian life. Indeed, it was not until the early 1970s that the Pierre Juneau Canadian Radio and Television Commission [CRTC] rulings demanded quota radio-time broadcast of Canadian musicians as well as Canadian content in TV broadcasting. The result has been that Canadian popular musicians have not only succeeded in Canada. A significant number have become major international artists for the first time.
As might be expected attacks began on the Massey Report with its publication. One of the first out of the gate was a well-known controversialist liberal, Frank Underhill. Wikipedia describes him as “a liberal continentalist”, Quebec History describes him as “an admirer of American civilization and an ardent cold warrior.” Underhill scoffed at the goals of the commissioners, saying that Canada couldn’t get enough of U.S. influence. Over the decades, little Frank Underhills have proliferated. Their tack has been to call Vincent Massey an elitist who disliked ordinary people. Hundreds of submissions were made to the Massey Commission from ordinary people and their organizations – eager to have many of the things the Commission was to recommend. Almost all of the submissions were considered in meetings across Canada. In the face of those facts, a teacher of Canadian Studies at the University of Calgary reports in his computer course outline that the commissioners travelled across Canada “trying to generate public interest in the arts.” Robert Fulford, for decades a reactionary journalist in Canada, criticized the (inevitable) focus on U.S. cultural expansionism.
In 1990 University of Toronto Press published University of Toronto historian Paul Rutherford’s more than 600 page book entitled When Television Was Young: Primetime Canada 1952-1967. Of the Massey Commission he writes: “The intelligentsia had taken up the task of civilizing Canada” (p. 14). The Commission was made up of Massey, he reports, and “three academics (plus one lonely engineer) – the ivory tower was in charge.” The fake populism of the Massey Report critics is amusing, since most of them – of course – were the kind of highly literate and well-placed members of the intelligentsia who might just have been appointed to such a Commission themselves.
The critics of the Massey Commission, in fact, raise every kind of false issue in order to condemn its work. Rutherford is just one example. As if he is discovering something daringly new and obviously suspect, he reports that writers, painters, musicians and others had formed national organizations! Then – slyly obviously and desiring to hoodwink parliamentarians – they appeared before a parliamentary committee and suggested government action on behalf of culture. When the Commission was formed “that leading sophisticate Vincent Massey” was made Chair. (pp. 13-14)
Perhaps it is impossible to get a straight-forward, unemotional, unprejudiced, balanced assessment of the Massey Royal Commission. That is because Canadians who think about the matter are either in favour of U.S. takeover of the culture or they disapprove of that happening. When they are among the former, their position, which is usually more or less disguised, leaks into their writing – as it does with Underhill, Fulford, Rutherford, Paul Litt and a host of others. No one, however, denies the force of the Massey Report and its effects on the possibility of cultural work in Canada.
As if in strange answer to it, just a year later, a Report was delivered to U.S. president Harry Truman called The Paley Report or Resources for Freedom. That Report identified twenty-two key natural resources the U.S. required from foreign nations in order to maintain its imperial dominance in the world. Thirteen of the twenty-two – more than half the number – were named to be in Canada: aluminum, asbestos, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, natural gas, newsprint, nickel, petroleum, sulphur, titanium, and zinc. Uranium – so soon after the atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan by the U.S. – was listed as a possible strategic staple, available in Canada. The discussion in the Paley Report about how the natural resources would be made available to the U.S. moved toward a preference for free trade. In all the negotiations three decades later – and after – about free trade between Canada and the U.S., the primary U.S. goal has been to get access to Canadian natural resources without limit and without Canada being able – at any time – to cut off U.S. access, or to limit it. A goal almost as urgent for the U.S. has been to treat Canadian culture in such a way as to make it erasable on behalf of U.S. profit-seeking and propaganda for U.S. dominance.
Culture has been fought over as vehemently as any other aspect of Canada/U.S. free trade. Where – the question is still asked – does culture fit in a free trade world? The U.S. consistently pretends culture is simply another commodity for export and for profit making. It argues that U.S. culture should in no way be impeded from Canada, and Canadian culture should be in no way assisted to exist and to give expression to Canadian ideas, interests, concerns. Canada tries to insist (as the French of France vehemently do) that culture is something very different from a marketable commodity. All the while, Canada counts in its own ranks the Frank Underhills who are open (as he was) or disguised continentalists. They are people in the ancestral line of Goldwin Smith who believe Canada’s destiny is to be part of the U.S.A. and any moves to assure the expression of Canadians and their culture is false, forced, artificial, foolish.
Those arguments take us back even farther to the founding of the CBC in the 1930s. At that time the U.S. wanted no truly independent broadcasting system in Canada, but a spur line, so to speak, from their major railway of ideas. Already U.S. radio broadcasting was dominant in Canada, and radio was just beginning to be organized and developed for mass communication. Concerned about the possibilities of its development the W.L. Mackenzie King Liberal Canadian government set up a Commission to examine all the aspects. It recommended in 1929 what would become the CBC/Radio Canada, a national broadcaster to serve Canadian needs. The crash of 1929 intervened and it was not until 1936 that the R.B. Bennett Conservative government launched what we know now as “the CBC.”
During the debates and discussions about a national broadcaster and whether U.S. broadcasting should be restricted in Canada, a key phrase was created by one of the most powerful advocates of Canadian broadcasting, Graham Spry. He argued that, in broadcasting, Canadians would have “the [Canadian] State or the United States.” That has been, in fact, a major argument through Canadian history. The arguments in the 1880s for and against Commercial Union were arguments, in fact, about whether the U.S. would be granted unimpeded power over Canadian wealth.
Because of the huge territory occupied by Canadians, because of Canada’s limited population, because of its immense raw material riches – and because of the proximity of the U.S.A. – always ten times greater in population – Canada’s control of its own wealth has always been in question. The U.S. has always tended towards political, economic, and cultural expansionism … into Canada. And so one of the ways to keep Canadian wealth (of all kinds) in Canadian hands has been public ownership. That means ownership by the Canadian people rather than by a small group of private corporate entrepreneurs (which in Canada’s case are very frequently bought out by U.S. interests whenever they become profitable). Because the U.S. has been – from its beginning – a free enterprise (private enterprise) society believing in the sanctity of private corporations, it has fought Canada’s tendency to preserve Canadian ownership through public enterprise.
In 1974 – as the push for U.S. ownership of Canadian wealth was growing and as the resistance to that move had grown in power – Herschel Hardin published an important book, A Nation Unaware, in which he argued that primary and identifying characteristics of Canada are (a) the use of public enterprise and (b) interregional redistribution made possible by Canada’s federalism. Hardin’s argument has been battered and bruised by continentalists from the first hour of its publication. In 2011, on “the net” an article on the CBC appeared by someone called Max West, very probably the pseudonym of someone who didn’t want his or her real name known. The argument of “Max West” was that the subtle and dirty intention in the creation of CBC was “One Big Nation, one Big Government, and one Big Broadcaster.” West’s sloganeering is in keeping with the present arguments of the neo-liberals who pretend that any move to protect Canadian wealth by public ownership is a desire for a fascist state. And so, they argue, Canadian wealth must be placed in the hands of private owners. It is a totally false argument but it is repeated tirelessly by the neo-liberal lobby in Canada, and is supported by the Stephen Harper government in Ottawa.
The see-saw of forces fighting for Canada in the 1950s was open and public. It was not only represented by the Canadian Massey Commission and the U.S. Paley Report. In Canada the creation of the North American Air Defence Agreement (1957) and the (Walter Gordon) Royal Commission on Canada’s Economic Prospects (1955-1957) were, in fact, in direct opposition, though apparently unrelated matters – and they received loud public airing. The creation of NORAD, already referred to, placed headquarters for North American air defense in Colorado Springs, Colorado, under a chief officer who is always a U.S. officer. The arrangement is referred to, nevertheless, as a joint command. The slender control Canada has on the set-up is maintained by the rule that joint agreement must be reached before formal alerts may be called for or action may be taken. When John Diefenbaker refused to agree that the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) demanded Canadian forces place themselves immediately on highest alert under U.S. command, U.S. government was furious. But NORAD has not been discontinued; in fact, over the years it has been increasingly elaborated. That has been done – among other reasons – to assure that Canada cannot initiate any major defence policies without at least the full knowledge of the U.S.A.
The purpose of the Royal Commission on Canada’s Economic Prospects (1956, 1957) was undertaken, in fact, to examine more fully than before the state of the Canadian economy and to make recommendations to assure its independence. All such undertakings faced (and face) stock, rigid and frozen economic responses. The star-strewn list of participants in the Royal Commission’s work were stars in a single galaxy – one that was rigidly formed of classical economists who were the great grandchildren of Adam Smith and his followers. Even when they didn’t know it.
Many of the questions Walter Gordon posed to the participants were questions of real worth. “Should we do more processing of our natural resources at home? … What are the implications of large-scale foreign investment in Canada? … How far is Canadian enterprise likely to be owned and controlled by the United States and what are its implications? … What measures might be taken to reduce the dependence of Canadian industry on United States research facilities?” Before the final Report was issued, Walter Gordon issued a preliminary Report (1956) that was dogged with criticism and attack (even by the members of the Commission who said the preliminary Report didn’t mirror the work done by the commissioners). It was attacked on all sides by thoughtful dissenters and rigid neo-liberals.
But it had effect – as most of the work Walter Gordon undertook himself or initiated always did. The whole, real question of the meaning of foreign (read U.S.) ownership and participation in the Canadian economy was opened to public consideration. The public got the message that – for some reason – government wasn’t looking after the interests of Canadians … and wouldn’t explain why. Young academics began to break away a little from the classical catechism in economics and to ask questions about national stability and independence.
In Defence, Canada was linking itself ever-closer to the U.S.A. But in the public realm and in relation to the economics of Canada questions were being raised that would not go away … ever. To add to those developments, the Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker took power in 1957. Hustled (he believed) into signing the NORAD agreement without full explanation of its implications, Diefenbaker expressed very mixed but critical feelings towards partnership with the U.S.A. His uncertain feelings, however confused, communicated to the Canadian public. His criticism of U.S. railroading has been taken as an indication of a strong anti-Americanism – probably quite falsely. When he was no longer leader and when he saw himself as a lonely fighter standing among his own party members in the House of Commons, I chatted (in the early 1970s) with his wife Olive Diefenbaker. She told me they were soon to go to the University of Texas where he was to receive an honorary degree, and she conveyed to me that both she and her husband were flattered by the honour.
Irascible, quick to show impatience, chronically unable to delegate authority, furious at U.S. treatment, John Diefenbaker was not an anti-American. He did not even reach for greater independence. He might have pushed through the end of NORAD if he had exploited the pressure by the U.S. on Canada and the almost incredible defections to the U.S.A. of Douglas Harkness and Admiral Kenneth Dyer during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Complex he was, and furious at the treatment he received at the hands of the John F. Kennedy group. But he didn’t hate the U.S., and he went happily in the early 1970s to receive an honorary degree in Texas.
The treatment of John Diefenbaker by historians, critics, and other commentators points to the successful indoctrination of Canadians. It is a commonplace – and it is one that is encouraged by almost all U.S. interests – that when someone like John Diefenbaker fights to maintain the sovereignty and independence of Canada, that person is immediately branded anti-American. And, for the people who use the term, there is almost no sin greater. One need only read the book Yankee Go Home? by the unstinting advocate for U.S. power in Canada, historian J.L. Granatstein. Calling himself, for the sake of humour, “a devout anti-American”, Granatstein, we are told on the dust-jacket, “ believes that so-called Canadian anti-Americanism is a tool of the economic and political elites bent on preserving their power.” That is a complete tipping over of the real situation. The shabbiness of such a position is immediately evident upon the most cursory examination. The implication is that Canadians don’t want independence and sovereign power over their own wealth. Canadians don’t want power to develop programs for the good of the people and policies to assure Canadian responsibility in the world. Those “wants” have to move against U.S. designs for Canada, and so are called “anti-Americanism.” The only people who want Canadian independence and sovereign power over the wealth of Canada, according to Granatstein, are “the economic and political elites” – the very people who are cooperating to establish U.S. domination of the country. His insistence on turning fact on its head at every turn makes the book an astonishing piece of propaganda for neo-liberalism in the country. “Falsehood is truth. See, I’ve said it.”
The extraordinary thing about the book is that it might (with corrections) be called On Guard For Thee. With a slight turning of the author’s attitude the book could be a serious consideration of the forces that have kept the independence spirit alive in Canada. But Granatstein is an increasingly deft manipulator of what might be called continentalist propaganda. And so in the introduction to the book he ignores, for instance, the fact that the Commercial Union movement of the 1880s carried with it the stated intention by a number of its leaders to use Commercial Union as a basis for the annexation of Canada. But what do facts matter… ?
Granatstein (making sure he refers to John A. Macdonald’s drinking habits which are totally irrelevant to his argument) denies Macdonald any of the evidence that made that prime minister’s fight a real one. Generally, Granatstein appears to set out to turn history on its head in his “Introduction.” Silly, empty, baselessly annoyed Canadians, according to him, are and have been making fools of themselves all through our history. In the face of a mostly benign and generous U.S.A. those Canadians are sick. They either fear the might of the U.S.A. or they envy it … or both (p. 4). But – whatever – they cannot have any real basis for wanting to defend Canada against the U.S.
Chapters 7-8 tomorrow
The Straight Goods
Cheers Eyes Wide Open