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Conrad Black: Four ideas for a better Canada and a better world | Full Comment | National Post

In Canada on December 12, 2010 at 13:52

Conrad Black: Four ideas for a better Canada and a better world

  December 11, 2010 – 8:30 am

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.

National Post
cbletters@gmail.com

Posted in: Canada, Full Comment, Policy  Tags: , , ,

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IainGFoulds

8:43 AM on December 11, 2010

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… I have never read such a nonsensical statement as “one of the hallmarks… is ownership of an automobile industry.”
… Further state interference and intervention into our economy is steps backwards.
… And, flooding Quebec with Haitians…?

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AFG1

9:00 AM on December 11, 2010

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IainGFoulds wrote on 8:43 AM on December 11, 2010
… I have never read such a nonsensical statement as “one of the hallmarks… is ownership of an automobile industry.”
… Further state interference and intervention into our economy is steps backwards.
THAT’S BECAUSE YOU ARE IanGFoulds and CB is a successful businessman and visionary.
… And, flooding Quebec with Haitians…?
NO, HE MEANS FLOODING HAITI WITH CANADIANS !!

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IainGFoulds

9:00 AM on December 11, 2010

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… Black is as any on the Left, always eager to spend other people’s money… on auto companies and immigrants.
… It is amazing that those on the Left are never honest and open about their intentions. Black does not admit that he wants to essentially nationalise an industry, he advocates “opportunistic acquisition”. Temporary, of course.
… Black is a man who, understandably, is living in the past.
… I urge him to focus his gifts on rejecting the regressive principles of economic collectivism, and join us in rebuilding our nation firm on the foundations of liberty and individual rights.

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mopalot

9:01 AM on December 11, 2010

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I think tthat onrad Blacks idea of a Canadian fully owned motor industry is what Canada really needs. I kept
my fingers crossed when Mr. Stronach was negotiating to buy Opel, because I felt that he would then start
a auto manufacturing company in Canada, but that deal never materialized. However, our Canadian Government is so short sighted they cannot see the wood for the trees. It is time to give Magna a hand, they
are the people who can start car manufacturing in this country. Instead of fake lakes and trying to jmpress the world, let’s start manufacturing here in this country again and become self sufficient, which this coountry can do easily. All this global business is to a larage extent nonsense, all it does is help the multi-national
companies get richer. It is time to start building up Canada again, not just bu shoveling our resouces from the ground.

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bundude

9:09 AM on December 11, 2010

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I enjoy very much the typical delightful use of phrasing and vocabulary. But this time, the train of thought is rather reckless and meandering…

Here is Peru, as anywhere I am, it’s still a nice way to start my Saturday…

until next week then…

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timt1

10:44 AM on December 11, 2010

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I cannot agree more, why on earth does Canada not produce their own CAR?

I am not that knowledgeable about eh auto pact. I think I read somewhere that our past politicians sold out on any Canadian car for a quick buck from the Americans. Like the Avro Arrow, the big American corporations got wind of the idea that we might be smart enough to make something that would sell. I guess they paid off some families and we signed a pact with the Devil….

Yes, a country of over 30million people can make their own CAR. IF Honda can come to Ontario and set up a plant, why can’t we do the same.

Manufacturing is the best way to create jobs. Sorry I forgot. MADE IN CHINA is the mantra of Canadians today.

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Fred Z

10:49 AM on December 11, 2010

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AutoCanada? Sounds familiar. Made in Canada auto pricing? Sounds familiar. Government owned company over-pays for producing assets. Sounds familiar.

But this time I like it. Let the Eastern Bastards ™ pay through the nose for their cars. They stiffed us here in Alberta with their crummy NEP, let’s stiff them back with this lunatic NAP, National Auto Policy.

I respect Black’s travails with those crooked prosecutors, but really, he needs to go read Tim Worstall on the point of an economy, namely to get stuff with minimal work, (fewer jobs, not more) and preferably trading stuff we produce easily for stuff they produce easily.

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PowellSt

10:58 AM on December 11, 2010

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CB is an endlessly fascinating Aristotelian. Contrary to what students are taught, Aristotle sought the greater good for all the citizens of a state, and this conception was always implicit when he spoke of Justice in any context.

Wonder what “The brains behind Rob Ford” (the.star), Nick Kouvalis, thinks of Conrad Black.

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LynnH

12:16 PM on December 11, 2010

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Upon reading and rereading CB’s article, the kindest response I can think of is that I am glad that CB’s advice is directed towards *Liberals*. Libertarians might agree with the prison idea and immigration reform is long overdue but, IMO, CB is seriously out of step with the attitudes of anyone whose politics leans to the right of Margaret Atwood.

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MikeMurphy

12:52 PM on December 11, 2010

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I have always thought fraudsters like Madoff and our own special brand of Canadians could be put to use by having them use their talents to pay back those they filched. Perhaps a special institution or segregated unit could be created to house these crooks and under strict supervision would be involved in the Markets to earn money to serve as restitution.

In this way victims would be helped and these cretins could earn their way back to a position where they are less of a drain on the system.

The government could look at providing encouragement in the form of R&D or tax concessions for companies like Magna to develop a Canadian Vehicle Industry. Direct Investment may not be appropriate, particularly so close on the heels of the bail outs at GM and Chrysler. As a boy I was thrilled with the work done by A. V. Roe, in Malton, and very disappointed at the killing of the Arrow project.

Bombardier Recreation Products has developed some innovative bikes, 4 wheelers and through their Rotax subsidiary, Carts. Could they be persuaded to move to small autos? The potential does exist in Canada to develop a nascent homegrown auto Industry.

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12:56 PM on December 11, 2010

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Griz46

1:00 PM on December 11, 2010

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Entertaining as always, though it can be puzzling that someone with Black’s command of history often seems to have a somewhat tenuous relationship with modern realities. As a practical matter, I can’t see why we’d want to invest heavily in the auto industry when Asia supplies vehicles so cheaply and efficiently. I’d much rather see us invest in more sustainable technologies. How about a line of domestic appliances that can be easily and reliably serviced, instead of junk that has to be sent to the landfill by the hundredweight every ten years?

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Steve_

1:08 PM on December 11, 2010

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I agree that Haiti is so far gone it needs some sort of protectorate status, but the way to do it is either via the UN or by temporarily making it a US territory; I can’t see why having the UK involved directly would help.

As far as immigration goes Canada doesn’t need to encourage Americans to immigrate, what is needed is to expand NAFTA to allow for free movement of labour (NAFTA does provide for freer movement of labour but it’s a long way short of where the EU is). Years ago the Americans would have feared a lot of Canadians coming in and years ago Canada would have feared a brain drain. I think those fears have subsided now. We don’t need Americans to move here permanently really, but we do need to remove all the cross-border constraints that we can.

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ZeeBC.

1:50 PM on December 11, 2010

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If we can’t get enough French speakers from Haiti then maybe Rwanda would like to become a Province?

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ZeeBC.

1:58 PM on December 11, 2010

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“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. ………”
>> Dumping bilingualism would save twice that amount. Dumping phony Kyoto carbon handouts would have done likewise.

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Roboboy

2:03 PM on December 11, 2010

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Like him or not, Conrad Black has a gift for putting ideas into words that are pleasurable to read, incredibly well researched, and often make really good sense. I may not agree with everything he writes, but I sure recognize a greater mind than mine when I read one – not that he needs to hear it, lol.

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Sabot

8:18 PM on December 11, 2010

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I was surprised at Lord Black’s statements about Haiti given his usual cautious assessment of complex problems. The destruction of Haiti’s environment does not really rest with long ago pirates, it was and is caused by a terrible land tenure system and the making of charcoal from timber growing on stolen or unprotected communal property by poverty stricken peasants among others, who seek cash.by selling it as fuel for city dwellers.

The American auto industry destroyed itself over decades while being run by bureaucrats and had lots of help from the American government every step of the way. The success of non-union parts suppliers to the big three relied more on the greedy final assembly line workers taking big raises and looking the other way while being assured by their union bosses that unionizing those plants was a priority.

Ferrari is an example of a real car company. It subs out almost all the tin bending and component production to trusted suppliers. It designs, it engineers, it assembles engines, it does final assembly, it thoroughly tests every car, it works with customers.

The more I think about it the more I think our legs are being pulled. M. Attwood plus half a cow, man.

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Steve_YYZ

7:32 AM on December 12, 2010

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Well of course Black doesn’t want the present Government to spend money on more prisons. He might very well end up in one of them!!!

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Hand-some-Here

9:03 AM on December 12, 2010

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Thank you for showing us all exactly where you stand, Mr. Black.
My opinion of you has now gotten worse, instead of better. This is a bunch of hogwash.

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PeaceRiver

9:25 AM on December 12, 2010

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re: Haiti – Rational people can agree that that society is completely dysfunctional. I do not agree with your suggestion Mr. Black about allowing capitalist nations to take over management. Haitians would better benefit from the Castro Cuba model as it is predicated on insisting on a literate workforce and that all people are protected in terms of health care. The lack of literacy there, overpopulation and deforestation has contributed to the social disaster. Capitalism would only foster more disparity and won’t get the population up to speed fast enough.

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Fiscal Conservative

9:44 AM on December 12, 2010

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Conrad – prison cows …. you sound like a lost Conservative. I’m with you (though I don’t own a cow)and I’m finding myself having to support the Liberals.

Yes, between prison cows, sole-sourced jets that don’t work well in Canada, Billion dollar G20 parties, increasing prisons when we have less crime, Harper and the present Conservateive Party has made myself and like fiscal conservatives extremely uncomfortable.

The status quo has to change, and electing Mr. Ignatieff to a minority position has become the fiscally responsible thing to do – unfortunately.

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Ivanhoe5

11:07 AM on December 12, 2010

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Dear Mr. Black, I normally enjoy your articles as I find them intelligent and thought provoking. After making my way through the first half of this, I started to question why Jean Chretien did his best to destroy what you worked so hard for, your lordship and your citizenship. I thought that with the Federal Liberal party out of power, Canadians had stated that we have had enough social engineering in our life time. No major Canadian City is recognizable from what it was just a short 30 years ago due to the massive social engineering program that we have gone through. I must also point out Lord Black, for most of us “real” Canadians life has not improved over that same period

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Ivanhoe5

11:08 AM on December 12, 2010

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. In fact we are becoming just hewers of wood and drawers of water again, as our manufacturing to a large extent has been moved overseas so as to provide lager profits to those enlightened chief executive officers that are receiving massive bonuses while young real “Canadians” find themselves in competition for entry level jobs with graduate students from around the world. Let’s face it, as the “ruling classes” do not value their fellow citizens whose labour and sacrifices have paved the way for the privilege that you have enjoyed.

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WCF

11:17 AM on December 12, 2010

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Conrad, Trudeau was a distroyer of Canada, not some hero as you make him out to be. Stop lying to the people. Anything that animal touched has turned to crap. The justice system. indian affairs. Immigration. All are total failures. I can’t imagine having a auto industry here he created. Talk about a bad investment.

One other thing. Longer sentences means less chances of having to deal with scumbags. I support building more prisons but I’d build them all in the Arctic and if someone wants to run, let them freeze. We would require less oversight and gaurds. Prisons aren’t supposed to be nice places. The harsher the environment, the less likely anyone would want to return. Assuming they survive the sentence. No big deal to me. I follow the law…But look who I’m talking to….

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