Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to the Canadian Parliament

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Ottawa
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1100-1200.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2831
Themes: Agriculture, Civil liberties, Conservatism, Defence (general), Economic policy - theory and process, Trade, European Union (general), European Union Single Market, Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Mr. Speaker of the Senate, Mr. Speaker, Brian MulroneyPrime Minister, Honourable Members of the Senate, Members of the House of Commons: (Translation by Interpreter of French):

May I first thank you for according me the great privilege and distinction of being invited to address you for a second time. There is a lot to be said for longevity! (applause) May I also take this occasion to thank you and the Canadian people for the outstanding hospitality which you have shown to me and to your many visitors from abroad during the past twelve months. [end p1]

It has been indeed an extraordinary year, in which world leaders, sportsmen, businessmen and many others have flocked to Canada: the Francophone Summit, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the Economic Summit and the Winter Olympics. Mr. Speaker, the British team may not have returned with any gold medals, but I think we can claim to have been represented by the most famous Eddie Edwardscompetitor! (applause). All of this is a tribute to Canada's success and to the high regard in which your country is held worldwide and most especially within the Commonwealth.

A Canadian Prime Minister, at the turn of the century, predicted that “the 20th century will be the century of Canada.” The last twelve months have certainly shown his prophecy to be true. (applause) and I should like to pay a particular tribute to the skilful and creative chairmanship of those meetings by your Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, most recently at the highly successful Economic Summit. (applause) Few have the privilege of feeling that they have moved the world's fortune a step forward. He has done so and deserves our thanks and congratulations. (applause) [end p2]

Mr. Speaker, our two countries are metaphorically and often literally members of the same family. Like a family, we have experiences in common that go back to our beginnings. A Canadian rode at Balaclava in the Charge of the Light Brigade; Canadian boatmen ferried British soldiers down the Nile in the attempt to rescue General Gordon at Khartoun a century ago; it was an engineer from Quebec, Sir Percy Girouard, who built the railway that was so valuable in opening up the Sudan; and above all, we remember together our War dead by wearing poppies every November, because a Canadian soldier, Major John MacRae, wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields” in the early morning of 3 May 1915, while the first battle of Ypree was raging.

Forty-three days after VE-day, we honour the valour and sacrifice of Canadian fighting men in two World Wars. That is something which we in Britain will never forget—a debt that can never be repaid. So too is the enormously generous help which you gave Britain in the post-war years. [end p3]

Four Canadian prime ministers, including Sir John MacDonald, were born in Britain, and the only Andrew Bonar LawBritish prime minister born overseas came from New Brunswick.

We are delighted that today Canada's involvement in our national life is as strong as ever. There are no less than 160 Canadian firms active in the United Kingdom, with nine banks and thirteen security houses. Individual Canadians—Paul Reichmann, Conrad Black, Graham Day—are making a great contribution, and most exciting of all is the major Canadian investment in Canary Wharf, the remarkable architectural and commercial renaissance of London's docklands. Last month, I opened the construction phase myself by sinking the first concrete pile (laughter) with a little help from a pile-driver! When it is complete, it will be the largest commercial development in Europe. We welcome the confidence and the commitment on the part of Canadian enterprise which it represents. [end p4]

Mr. Speaker, one of the advantage of being among family is that we can compare ailments! Some years ago, we in Britain invented a disease. Its symptoms were a combination of stagnation, inflation, financial problems, labour troubles and loss of confidence. They called it “British disease” . A Canadian commentator, Goldwin Smith, provided an excellent clinical definition of the malady nearly a hundred years ago. He spoke of countries that were “rich by nature and poor by policy.”

Today, many of us in the developed world realise that in varying degrees we have quite needlessly been poor by policy, but we have come a long way since the days when people thought that you could spend and borrow your way to prosperity, that you needed a budget deficit and a bit of inflation to get economic growth. Now, it is understood that the government's role is to keep downward pressure on inflation and to create a sound financial and legal framework in which enterprise can flourish (applause) and we have learned that it is not governments which create wealth but people, provided we have policies which encourage them to do it (applause). [end p5] We have also got away from the debilitating concept of the all-powerful state which takes too much from you to do too much for you, constantly substituting the politicians' view of what the people should have for the people's own view of what they want (applause).

We have had our own “perestroika” and, as a result, the economy has been growing steadily for seven years—soon to be eight. There are more resources available for the community's needs and we have a budget surplus with which to repay debt (applause).

Mr. Speaker, you can never do that except by first restoring the spirit of the people. The great economists of the past know this. Adam Smith was not a professor of economics—he was a professor of moral philosophy. He understood how to work with the grain of human nature. He knew the heights which it could reach, which is why his policies for creating the wealth of nations will endure throughout the years, and today you can feel the pride and confidence both in Britain and in Canada. Both our countries have learned that lesson. As a result, we have achieved remarkable economic success and today we jostle for the top place in the OECD's growth stakes. [end p6]

Among the Economic Summit Seven countries, sound money, lower taxes, freedom for enterprise, are now common form. It was not always so, but every year since the second cycle of Summits started in 1982 the heads of government have committed themselves to those policies as the best basis for stable and long-term growth. We have put behind us the financial irresponsibility which made the 1970s a decade of missed opportunity.

I do not believe that the world could have withstood the shock of last autumn's fall in stock prices so well if our policies had not been built on sure foundations. We have established a new orthodoxy.

But low inflation and prudent financial policies need to be supported by open markets and flourishing world trade. Here too, the Toronto Summit took important steps forward. We committed ourselves to the success of the GATT Round Table negotiations and encouraged measures to free-up world trade. [end p7]

Mr. Speaker, by 1992 every firm in Europe, whether engaged in manufacturing or in services, will have a single market of 320 million people. What a dramatic development that is going to be! To add to it, the Channel Tunnel will give Britain, for the first time in our history, a land border with Europe. There will be new opportunities of every kind, not just for member countries of the European Community themselves, but for those countries which trade with the Community, and let me reassure you it is not Britain's intention when removing barriers within Europe to see them raised against our other trading partners outside Europe. But Canada and the United States are pointing the way with the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement which the Economic Summit warmly endorsed (applause). I understand that it may be a controversial matter in this chamber! (applause) and I will only say that I do not underestimate Canada's courage in taking this step in partnership with its giant neighbour, but on the basis of Britain's experience of joining the European Community, you need have no fear that Canada's national personality will be in any way diminished (applause). Fifteen years of European Community membership have left our people no less British and no less proud of their history and independence (applause). Moreover, protectionism is not a life-belt which keeps an economy afloat—it is a millstone that drags you down and penalises consumers and workforce alike (applause) Subsidise [end p8] the inefficient and soon that is all you have. You lose the competitive edge to exports abroad and keep prices down at home.

There is another major world problems which we committed ourselves to deal with at the Summit. Agriculture will have to bring supply and demand more into balance and until we do that farmers will not feel secure in their future. But look at the situation now. Countries compete with each other to give bigger and bigger subsidies. Farmers in Japan are being paid eight times the world price for rice. In the United States in 1986, one single state received more loans and other aid from Washington than all the nations in Africa got from the World Bank. In Europe, the subsidy per cow is greater than the personal income of half the world's people and even Canada is not a model of absolute virtue (laughter), though may I take this opportunity to express my sympathy for the plight of your farmers who are suffering so badly from drought. [end p9]

Abba Eban once said: “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives!” Well, with agriculture, we have exhausted all other alternatives. In Europe, we have made a start in cutting back surpluses and reducing stockpiles, in some cases with dramatic results.

At Toronto, we all recognised that setting realistic goals for reducing subsidies on a fair basis in all our countries offered a way forward, a way forward which will offer a surer future for our farmers, a better deal for our consumers and hope for the Third World countries whose markets are unfairly saturated by the sale of our subsidised surpluses.

Mr. Speaker, here in this Chamber, we are all privileged to be active in government and politics at a time of unprecedented hope and opportunity in relations between East and West. President Reagan 's recent Summit meeting in Moscow with Mr. Gorbachev was an historic success. A new chapter in East-West relations has been [end p10] opened. We owe that to President Reagan, because of his firmness, the way he has stuck resolutely to his convictions and beliefs. We owe it also to Mr. Gorbachev who, with a rare insight, has seen that communism has not been able to deliver the standard of living, the social services, technological advance which its originators promised, and he has had the vision and resolve to embark on a course which by mobilising greater personal responsibility and initiative will bring greater benefits.

It is not going to be an easy path for the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe. Those who engage in great endeavours never find the going easy, but it is in our interests as well as those of the Soviet people that he reach his goal (applause). Every enlargement of liberty serves the interests of all mankind.

The foundations of this new hope in East-West relations were not laid in recent months. They were built up over the last four decades by the resolve of the governments and peoples at the heart of the Western World—the United States, Britain and Canada pre-eminent among them—to defend liberty, justice and democracy, however heavy the burden at whatever the price. [end p11]

Now we are beginning to reap the rewards: the agreement to reduce intermediate nuclear forces and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Who would have thought, Mr. Speaker, five years ago when I last spoke in this Chamber, that either of these things would come about?

The more hopeful signs in the Soviet Union are bound to raise questions in people's minds. Can't we take a chance? Do we need to go on with the present level of spending on defence? Hasn't the time come when we can relax our guard? Mr. Speaker, nothing could be more dangerous! (applause) First, we cannot base our defence on hope—only on reality, and the reality is that Soviet military spending continues to grow and their weapons systems are being constantly modernised and up-dated in every field. Their forces are far in excess of what they need for defensive purposes alone.

And second, we do not know whether Mr. Gorbachev will succeed in his new policies. Old ways die hard, and there is still little evidence that the Soviet Union's long-term foreign policy objectives have changed. We can hope for the best, but a prudent defence must plan for the worst case. [end p12]

Third, modern weapons are so sophisticated that they take many years to plan and produce. A mistake or miscalculation now could leave us vulnerable and unprotected at a time when our potential enemies are continuing to increase their military strength.

Fourth, we are in a position to welcome the changes taking place in the Soviet Union because we know that whatever happens our defence is sure.

For nearly forty years, that remarkable organisation NATO has kept the peace. It has done so because everyone know that an attack on one member would be an attack on all and we would respond accordingly and because we have had an effective mix of nuclear and conventional weapons and kept them up to-date, and I pay particular tribute to Canada's contribution to NATO's strength and success; by the way in which she welcomes our troops to train and exercise; by the resolute manner in which she agreed to test Cruise missiles over her territory—a demonstration of resolve which was crucial at that time; and by her intention to modernise her navy by acquiring nuclear-powered submarines, we very much hope from Britain (applause) They are quite the best and Canada deserves the best! [end p13]

Mr. Speaker, wars are not caused by strength or by armaments. They happen when nations are weak in the face of others who are both ambitious and strong. Our duty is to preserve NATO's strength by constantly updating our weapons, both nuclear and conventional, by maintaining, as you do, highly professional and trained armed forces, and by demonstrating our united resolve. Peace with freedom and justice is the most precious thing we have, both for our generation and for our children. That is the trust they place in us and we must not fail them.

Mr. Speaker, we must always remember what lies at the very root of the differences between the Soviet system and the Free World. It is a fundamentally different view of the role of the individual and his rights in society. History has not equipped the Russian people with the capacity to escape easily from the incubus of state socialism. They know nothing of personal liberty, have never experienced an independent judiciary, are strangers to tolerance and the checks and balance which operate in a free society. People used to believe that dictatorships had the advantage of being more efficient and better able to act decisively than the democracies. They were wrong. Now they understand that [end p14] you cannot plan and regulate everything and that if you try, you lose the driving force of human nature and its inventiveness and creativity. In modern societies, success depends on openness, on free discussion and on easy access to information. We in the West could never have experienced the great surge of technological advance without them. Once you try to suppress and restrain them, then not only are you unable to change—you are unable to respond to change.

Mr. Speaker, the example of what freedom has achieved in the open societies of the West is a powerful incentive to the closed societies of the Western Bloc to extend it to their people and to accept restraints on the power of those who rule, but the case for freedom can never be merely a material one. It is a moral crusade.

The communist societies still see human rights as something given by the state, which can be taken away by the state. For us, they are something so fundamental that they cannot be given or taken away by any government or human agency (applause) and those who [end p15] would have us believe that speaking out about human rights runs counter to the aim of better relations play into the hands of the enemies of freedom. As President Reagan recently said in an inspired speech in London's Guildhall immediately after the Moscow Summit: “When free peoples cease telling the truth about and to their adversaries, they cease telling the truth to themselves. In matters of state, unless the truth be spoken, it ceases to exist.”

Mr. Speaker, freedom is on the offensive as never before—a peaceful offensive pursued by example and by persuasion. Its triumph is our highest ambition.

In taking his leave of you in 1962, Winston Churchill did not say goodbye. Rather, he said: “Au revoir, mes amis canadiens. C'est un avenir splendide qui vous attend demain!” ( “Farewell my Canadian friends. A marvellous future awaits you!” ). It is indeed a splendid future that awaits Canada, one filled with opportunity and pride. I know that Britain and Canada will walk that road together unswerving in our purpose, strong in our joint defence and firm in our abiding friendship (applause)