Trade protectionism limits our futures

This article was developed as a case for free trade during the first Mulroney administration and published in The Gazette, Montreal, Tuesday, February 9, 1988.

As the final debate on free trade rages in Parliament and the nation, Canadians continue to be confronted by conflicting statistical forecasts about the future of our economy.

Some reports present attractive prospects for growth under a free trade agreement. Others paint disparaging pictures of lost jobs and dying industries. The growing mosaic of political, cultural and commercial opinion has probably produced more confusion than conviction.

Given a somewhat conflicting array of “hard facts” and “information based” reports from a wide variety of interested parties, perhaps we should take a moment the general question of trade at a more philosophical level.

Regarding the free-trade proposal Canadians might begin by reflecting on some generally accepted economic principles. The case for trade is really the case for specializing in certain types of production and trading for goods in which we do not specialize. Most economists agree that living standards would be drastically reduced if we tried to replace specialization and exchange with complete self-sufficiency.

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New education bill will spin fine web of authority

This article focuses on PQ Education Minister, Camille Laurin’s proposal to weaken the mandate of locally elected school boards and transfer important decision making powers to the Quebec Minister of Education. It was published in The Gazette, Montreal, September 14, 1983 under the headline: “New education bill will spin fine web of authority” and again in the News and Chronicle, Montreal, Wednesday November 16, 1983 under the headline: Bill 40 will not develop new form of democracy.

Camille Laurin, Quebec’s education Minister, may claim to be developing a new form of democracy, but his most recent blueprint still displays a determination to create a web of authority that reaches into every corner of the province.

If Bill 40 is enacted into law it will create a new and important vehicle for a political party whose primary aim is the wholesale reconstruction of Quebec society. A new system will be developed through which all substantive elements of Quebec education can be controlled and monitored by the minister.

Laurin’s original intention to eliminate locally elected school boards was not well received by the Quebec public. As a consequence, Bill 40 has introduced some new elements in an effort to make the Minister’s original plans more palatable.

Instead of entirely abolishing locally elected school boards, the bill would simply remove their authorship to develop educational policy. A cursory examination of the responsibilities and powers being allotted to the “new boards” indicates an abrupt end to any role they have been able to play in the more formative aspects of public education.

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Reflections on Quebec’s “Regime Pedagogigue”

The following presentation was delivered to a Community Conference for Parents sponsored by the Department of Administration and Policy Studies in Education, McGill University in collaboration with the Quebec Anglophone citizens’ organization known as “Alliance Quebec.” It was first published in the editorial section of The Gazette, Montreal, March 4, 1983 under the headline: “Quebec moves to influence courses and young minds” and again in the News and Chronicle, Montreal, Wednesday, June 13, 1984 under the headline: Quebec Curriculum will promote obsolescence.

During the long struggle against former Education Minister, Camille Laurin’s plans to realign and centralize Quebec’s education systems a profound public concern developed over the question of what is to be taught in our schools.

That concern revolved around two fundamental issues which have yet to be satisfactorily resolved.

The first is a growing suspicion among Quebeckers that the role of the state in Quebec’s schools is reaching proportions beyond the requirements of our democratic pluralistic society. The second is a deep seated concern that heavily centralized mechanisms for the development of school curricula may be generating programs that are unable to satisfy the future needs of our children.

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Quebec parents about to lose their say in education

This article was published in the News and Chronicle, Montreal, Thursday, April 22, 1982 under the headline “Laurin should not call the tune on education” and again in The Gazette, Montreal, September 16, 1982 under the headline: “Quebec parents about to lose their say in education.”

Education Minister, Camille Laurin’s recent white paper entitled The Quebec School, may not make great summer reading, but his proposals should be fully understood by all Quebecers.

The Minister proposes to eliminate two strongly established elements of our education system with one stroke of his pen.

First he intends to change the present denominational alignment of Quebec’s school boards in favour of an essentially unified school system. Secondly, he aims to eliminate the democratic and truly “public” character of the school boards themselves.

By claiming to make the school the focal point of Quebec’s new educational order, Laurin’s plan will eliminate the historic recognition of two complementary yet culturally independent education systems in the province.

For all intents and purposes, the Minister proposes to create a common education system through which the provincial government will control all major functions such as the development of the school curriculum, the certification of teachers and the distribution of the budget.

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Quebec’s school system may be victim of “new democracy”

This article focuses on the P.Q. Government’s plans to restructure the provinces education system. It was published in the Calgary Herald, March 25, 1982.

The Quebec government will soon introduce legislation that would abolish locally-elected, confessional school boards and redesign Quebec’s education system around unified regional councils that would bring schools more directly under the control of the province’s Ministry of Education. The move has alarmed some Quebeckers, and in this article, William Brooks, a Montreal school commissioner, looks at the issue in the context of what he sees as; the growing centralist tendencies of the Quebec government. He believes “all Canadians should be aware of what we are facing in Quebec.”

Quebec’s scheme to realign and centralize the province’s education structures must be viewed in the context of the larger dilemma that is engulfing Quebec democracy.

The problem stems from a profound public absentmindedness about the historic role of government in our society. We once assumed that “… that government is best which governs least.”

Our constitutional democracy was based on a healthy mistrust of government and aimed to limit the conditions under which the coercion of individual citizens was possible.” Good government” simply meant a viable frame work for peace order and personal freedom.

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Quebec should halt school “nationalization” plan

This article contends with the Quebec Government’s plan to dismantle the Province’s longstanding confessional school boards and replace them with a unified, so-called “neutral” school system. It was published in The Montreal Gazette on: Wednesday, November 11, 1981.

The provincial government’s plans to replace confessional school boards with regional school councils providing Protestant, Catholic and “neutral” schooling in French or English to all students in a given region. Government representatives argue that a “unified” education system such as this would eliminate waste and place more power in the hands of parents to define the character of their neighborhood schools.

Our provincial legislators are posturing as a “good government” seeking to “democratize” education and provide administrative efficiency. In so doing they are prepared to strip the last remnants of authority from Quebec’s Protestant and Catholic communities.

They intend to define our religious and linguistic rights as existing only at the level of individual schools and create the illusion that religious instruction and Quebec’s Anglophone, culture will be accommodated in a so-called “neutral” Quebec education system. In a word, the Quebec Government plans to “nationalize” our schools.

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The Need for Deregulation in Quebec

The following is a summary of an address delivered by William Brooks to the first public symposium of the St. Lawrence Institute held at the McGill University Faculty Club on Wednesday, January 28, 1981.

The history of democracy is the history of the limitation of absolute power. In the heydays of modern democracy peopled believed “that government is best which governs least.”

Liberal democracy was based on a belief in the inherent worth of individuals, a trust in people and a distrust of intrusive government. Democracy aimed to limit the coercive power of government through the “rule of law.” Adam Smith’s favorite metaphor for a good government in a liberal democratic state was that of a “night watchman.”

Political democracy grew hand in hand with free-market capitalism which in turn was developed alongside the economic principle of “laissez faire.” Leave markets alone. Political democracy combined with economic and individual freedoms became the bedrock of the classical liberal faith. By the mid-nineteenth century nations that had replaced authoritarian government and mercantilist economics with liberal principles were on their way to unprecedented productivity and prosperity.

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Reagan victory – A new American political mood

By Yarema Kelebay and William Brooks

This article was written in the wake of the 1980 presidential election in the United States. It was published by the News and Chronicle, Montreal, Thursday, November 13, 1980.

Ronald Reagan’s victory represents nothing less than the emergence of a new political disposition in America. Dazed pundits have wasted no time in coming up with a variety of poor excuses for President Carter’s defeat.

Among these are inflation, the hostage crisis, taxation, government regulation, quotas and affirmative action, defense, education, the ERA, Salt II, the intrusion of the “moral majority,” brother Billy, the “Anderson difference” and so on. One journalist even suggested it was the charming way Reagan said to the President: “There you go again” during the televised debate. Montreal’s ever-incisive press explained that it was a result of a “strong streak of nostalgia” in America.

This frenzied search for a single cause or even a combination of causes to explain the election results generally leads nowhere. In most cases it reduces the analysis either to a form of political gossip or betrays a conscience intention to demean and reduce the stature of Reagan’s victory.

No single issue buried Carter. No single event gave Reagan victory. Reagan succeeded as a result of a new “climate of opinion” in the United States.

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Referendum Reflection

By Yarema Kelebay and William Brooks

This short article was written after some 60% of Quebeckers voted no to the Parti Quebecois government’s request for a mandate to negotiate “sovereignty-association” with Canada. It was published in the News and Chronicle, Montreal, May 29, 1980.

We know from the results of last week’s referendum that supporters of Quebec independence are clearly in the minority. Ninety –three out of one hundred and ten ridings responded “non” even to the soft request for a mandate to negotiate sovereignty-association. The popular vote swung roughly sixty-forty against Premier Levesque’s “oui” option.

Nevertheless, it was clear from the Premier’s remarks to his followers immediately after the vote that he did not regard the results as definitive and final. Federalism, he said, has been given “one more chance” but remains on trial.

Among the partisan cheers in the Paul Sauve arena he clearly implied that the PQ objective of a sovereign Quebec remained legitimate in spite of its rejection by a majority of the province’s citizens.

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Serious thinking needed on the real conflict in Quebec

By Yarema Kelebay and William Brooks

This article was first published in the News and Chronicle, Montreal, Thursday, March 13, 1980 under the headline: “Serious thinking needed on the real conflict in Quebec.” It was also published in the Ottawa Citizen on Wednesday, March 26, 1980 under the headline: “Canada’s a nation divided by ideology not culture” Translated into French as: “Conflit de peuples ou d’ideolgies?” it was published on the editorial page of Le Monde, Paris, Friday, May 6, 1980. Four articles from Canada where featured in Le Monde on the eve of the forthcoming Quebec referendum. Two were for and two against the Quebec independence movement.


Over the next few months Canadians will be doing some serious thinking about what our pundits call the “French – English conflict.”

Lord Durham’s description of “two nations warring in the bosom of a single state” has been kept alive by generations of authors, poets, playwrights and politicians. On the eve of the Quebec referendum most Canadians still accept this nineteenth century image of a struggle between two adversary peoples; the English and the French.

We continue to be preoccupied with a cultural dualism expressed as “two solitudes” and fundamentally grounded in language differences. There is, however, some doubt as to whether or not this is an accurate description of our predicament.

Undeniably, there are stylistic differences between French and English Canadians. The question is: Do they amount to insurmountable barriers which justify fracturing Canada?

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