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History Table of Contents
1994 Summer Conference
Summer Conference 1994
Globalism and Tribalism: The New World Disorder?

The Canadian Response

The HON. MARCEL MASSE, President, Queen's Privy Council; Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister Responsible for Public Service Renewal

About 10 years ago I came to Couchiching to talk about international development. At the time, I thought I would end my career as President of CIDA. I felt very comfoirtable there.

I didn't see too many changes coming in the public service or Canada. The Constitution had been patriated and it seemed like a quiet period ahead, where I could enjoy my work and eventually go, like most people, to a happy retirement.

I come to the concept of globalization with exactly the same feeling that I had in 1984, but with a dynamic notion in it, rather than the kind of static notion that I had 10 years ago. During these 10 years, what we have seen is a series of revolutions and we even have symbols to mark them for us.

In November, 1989, the Berlin Wall was destroyed.

I remember at the beginning of the 1980s we were doing in CIDA some futurist reviews and we'd invited a number of experts from all over the world. One of them was supposed to be a specialist on Europe. He told us that we should expect the reunification of Germany within the next 20 years.

Of everything affirmed at that seminar, that was the item where there was the least agreement. Everybody thought that was foolish, that it would not happen that way, that the world was not changing in that direction and that it was impossible to forecast that Germany could be united within 20 years.

What is it that has changed so much during that period?

I think the first point about globalization is that this is a long term process. It is not something that has happened in the last few years suddenly and has surprised us all. Like all major revolutions it had its roots in the past and it was taking place before our very eyes before we even understood the causes of the change and the change itself.

But globalization is now a fact. When you see the war in Iraq on CNN, what you are seeing is history being made in front of your very eyes.

What has crystallized globalization is three types of revolutions.

The first one is about education and information.

Sometime during the 1980s, probably in 1987, for the first time in the history of the world you had on earth more people who knew how to read and write than people who didn't.

This revolution in world-wide education is something that we've taken for granted, but it has changed the way in which the world works. It has changed our minds and, therefore, it has changed how we make sense of the world, how we behave in it and it has changed the world itself.

What education gives of course, is the ability to make sense of the large amount of information that other wise is useless. If you can't create a pattern within your information, if you can't make a relationship between cause and effect, then you cannot modify behaviour including your own.

What happened in the information revolution was that information became available immediately everywhere in huge quantities.

So, the first revolution that crystallized globalization was the revolution in education and information.

The second revolution, was partly due to that, because as people become better trained, as information become more easily available, as they see what's happening in the rest of the world, as they acquire power because they understand how things work and are then able to change them, they do not agree any more to have decisions made for them by small groups of people in secret.

The democratic revolution that is symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall has its roots in the first revolution about information and education.

The fact that in Romania the first building that was taken over by the rebels was the television building is not a coincidence. It is because whoever now control the means of communications has the greatest chances of being able to get their story told and has the greatest chances in the end of making their story succeed.

The political revolution has in fact created a democratic wave across the world. Eastern Europe and the old USSR are an example of that. But they are not the only example.

Just two years ago when I was in CIDA we started having democratic projects in Africa. Within six months we had 11 projects working in various countries, because it had become clear to African rulers that they could not anymore control their population without sharing the power of decision making with them.

This has happened in Africa in Asia, in Latin America and I think it is now recognized by almost all governments in the world that you cannot now control the decision-making process without the participation of the people involved.

Like all revolutions by the way, this revolution is not universal. It will have set backs. Probably in Eastern Europe and the USSR you will have returns to stronger central government, but the pattern, I think, is irreversible.

The third revolution in my view follow the other two and that's the economic revolution.

What you have seen in the last 15 years in the world is what could be called the triumph of economic liberalism, or the triumph of markets if you wish.

A number of people have asked me recently what I thought would happen to Hong Kong in 1997. I was in China a number of times over the last few years, because I was the vice- president of the China Council on Environment and Development.

I visited the South of China a number of times and I can tell you nothing will happen to Hong Kong because Hong Kong has already taken over China, not the reverse.

What I mean is that the economic system that has permitted Hong Kong to become prosperous is now the economic system that is accepted and being put into place in Southern China. It is now the politically accepted system for the economic structuring of the Chinese economy by the Chinese leaders themselves.

This economic revolution is taken place because it has become clear that centrally-controlled economies could not give to their people the goods and services that they were seeing everyday on television as being available in other countries.

I think that revolution also is irreversible.

What we will have to deal with is the effects of the triumph of economic liberalism in terms of the losers in the system, because there will always be losers in whatever economic system you have, and at some point we have to intervene in any economic system in order to redress the consequences of that system for the vulnerable members of society.

What you have now is a world in which the same type of information is available basically everywhere at the same time, where levels of education are increasing all the time and, therefore are permitting more and more people to analyze that information and translate it into action.

You have systems where individuals have gotten more and more power over the governments that govern them, and you have economic systems where the preferences of individuals as expressed through the market system are dictating most economic decisions.

So, globalization can be characterized by these three revolutions.

But, what it means is that the world has become a different place for most people in the world and, therefore, it has created an environment which for everyone of us has to lead to different behaviour, different attitudes and different values.

Ant here I come to the concept of tribalism.

I guess the addition I'd make is that tribalism is basically a good concept, not a bad one.

I think we have got to consider that under tribalism we put a very large number of elements, which could be defined otherwise.

The way I have defined tribalism is as a continuant, where you start with the individual, the family, the clan, the immediate society and where you define sets of values that are similar for these groups of individuals.

The fact of having sets of values that are different between one group of individuals and other groups is the reality of the world. It is not an exception.

When we use tribalism in a negative sense, we somehow refer to behaviour or sets of values that we happen not to agree with.

We should remember that most of our responses to stimuli, argue to aspects of our life that reflect the set of values that we share with our community.

Let me take one example that is not a Quebec example.

Let me take the example of the Reform Party.

The Reform Party is an excellent example of tribalism. Why? Because at some point in Canadian society a group of people have together concluded that there were a number of values in the Canadian society that were being introduced, or pushed, or given weight, that they did not agree with.

They decided there was a set of values – basically traditional values – that they agreed with and that they wanted to preserve in Canadian society.

Not only that, They wanted Canadian society to preserve that set of values.

That is a text book example of tribalism – and this is why I say tribalism is not a good or a bad term. Tribalism merely indicates that a certain group of people have got a certain set of values that they are ready to fight for because they want to preserve them for themselves and their own group.

So, when does tribalism start to create problems?

It is when the environment around that group does not conform anymore to the set of values of that group.

In other words, for that group to continue to practice that set of values in a changed environment means that they have to impose their values on others, or that they have to accept changes in their sets of values that they are not ready to accept.

Fundamentalism is the story of groups of people who have come to the conclusion that they have to go back to certain traditional sets of values and that this set of values is absolute.

Fundamentalism is not wrong in itself. Fundamentalism becomes wrong when it tries to make these values absolute and, therefore, tries to impose these values on others.

Take Canada.

It is clear that Canada is made up of groups of people who have sets of values that are in some ways qualitatively quite different.

To refuse to accept that Canada is made up of groups with different sets of values is an improper application of tribalism.

The fundamental reason why the Reform Party is wrong, is not because they hold the values that they do. It is because the values that they hold and that they would like to impose on the rest of Canadians, do not correspond to the actual structure of Canada.

The federal state that we have in Canada exists because those who put it together over a century ago came to the conclusion that they needed the strength of unity in Canada at that point against our southern neighbour. At the same time there were sets of values different enough within Canada that you had to give exclusive powers to the provinces so that they could preserve that set of values, for instance, through having exclusive jurisdiction over the system of education, whilst at the same time there would be exclusive powers to the federal government to defend values that were common.

The question of government is, basically, what is the role of the state?

In a state like Canada – which is made up of societies and groups that have qualitatively different sets of values – what should be the role of the government in a society like we have and how should we prepare for the kind of society that will emerge, partly through globalization over the next few years?

First, the role of the state in Canada over the next years is to permit the evolution of its various groupings who have different sets of values, so that together we can adapt to the ongoing globalization.

Second, the role of government is to make sure that the speed at which the transition from tribalism to globalization is going on is a speed that corresponds to the ability of people to modify their sets of values to adapt to a changed environment.

In practical terms – in three fields – what should Canada do and what are we preparing to do?

First, in the field of education and information we have to make sure that Canadians understand that Canada exists as a federation in order to permit different sets of values to coexist and to continue to coexist, because that's the essence of federalism.

Second, we have to make sure that we permit our various systems to adapt to the ongoing globalization in the economic field.

When we talk about changes in economic structures, what we mean for instance is that the enterprises that continue to exist in Canada are enterprises that can compete in a world where trade is freer and freer.

If you look at the Free Trade Agreement, at NAFTA, at the Uruguay Round, what you are seeing is markets where competition has to be done for large numbers of people and large territories and where it is essential for Canadian industry to change itself so that it is able to compete in a worldwide environment.

How do we do that?

In a number of ways. For instance, by reducing the cost of enterprises; by eliminating the various regulations that make it difficult for them to function efficiently; by reducing the cost of government; by making them better able to market in a universal setting; by being part of and working at international agreements, as we have with NAFTA, and like the Uruguay Round and like the creation of the new GATT.

But, also we have to do it by increasing the productivity of individuals and that of course has to do with education and with manpower training. And there, of course, we have to do it in a setup that is a partnership with provincial governments, because these are areas that are basically of provincial jurisdiction.

Once we have helped our economic structure adapt to a wider environment for competition, then at the political level, we have to make sure that we let the various groups, who have different sets of values in Canada, evolve towards sets of values that are more compatible with an internationalized environment, while permitting these groups and societies to protect the values that they consider essential.

That is a federal system. That is a system in which local governments get special and exclusive powers and a central government has got powers of another nature to deal with problems that are on a wider scale.

Socially, governments have a major role to play in indicating to their own people that globalization is changing the situation of the country and is changing their own position as individuals and as members of society.

On the question of Quebec, I believe that the way in which the federal government should operate in Quebec is not to deny nationalism. Because nationalism is not only a fact of life, but it is a way in which you can protect sets of values that people want to keep, and they'll fight for it.

The way the federal government should proceed in Quebec is to make sure that Quebec nationalists know that the best way to keep their distinct society, with their distinct language, laws, culture, history is (to do) so within a federal set up, because otherwise there would be 7,000,000 people in a sea of over 270,000,000 Anglophones and they would have to deal in this type of economic common market, with only the Quebec state as the guardian of the specific set of values of that distinct society.

What the federal government can do for Quebec, what must be told to the Quebec nationalists is... the best way to preserve it – given the state of the world and how it is evolving – is to do it within a Canadian federation, where it is agreed that the principle of federalism is the protection of the regional groupings that have different sets of values.

For the rest of Canada, what the federal government should do, that perhaps it has not done enough, is to sell federalism, but not sell federalism as one identity that all Canadians must have, but sell federalism as a system of government where they can protect their own sets of values, where they can evolve and make that set of values evolve at a pace that makes sense to them while, at the same time, having a common denominator for the values.

In this case unity does not mean uniformity. What federalism permits, is a system where groups of citizens can be different, can continue to live in an environment that they prefer, while having the benefits of the economic union and the social union.

The benefits of the economic union are clear.

They come from the fact of having a wider market, from being able to operate as a country of 27 million people, rather than a group of 7 million, like in Quebec. They come from the ability to be able to put together systems of learning and systems of research and development that have large economies of scale.

The benefits of the social union are also clear. They mean that in difficult periods you can redistribute wealth from those who have a surplus to those who are more vulnerable.

In Canada we have the two types of systems.

The equalization payments permit you to redistribute wealth at the level of the state, so that public sector services will be basically of the same level and quality across the nation.

And the redistribution of income between people, through unemployment insurance and old age pension, so that members of our society who happen to be vulnerable in particular situation – let's say unemployment – can benefit from the better situation existing in other areas of the country.

Clearly, the only system that can make redistribution work for social programs, whether of the public sector or of a private nature, in a state like Canada is a federal government.

The conclusion is that we have gone through and continue to go through, not a process of globalism, but a process of globalization where our economic, political, and information systems have already become global.

At the same time, we must not look at our specific sets of values in a society like Canada as been outmoded by globalization.

On the contrary, these sets of values are a protection against change that is too rapid. They give a sense of community and a sense of security to the various groups and these systems of values must be permitted to evolve at the pace and in a way that will minimize social destruction.

This is what a federal state does. And in the case of Canada, my conclusion would be that the only kind of state that can give us both the sense of security and community and the preservation of our sets of values that we want and, at the same time the ability to adapt from an economic, political and social point of view through the evolution happening in the rest of the world, is an enlightened federalism of the type that we are trying to develop.


Is it possible to control government costs?

It cannot be impossible, because soon we'll have no choice. Once you've accumulated a large debt, there begins to be a clear limit as to how much you can borrow and after a while you have to live on the basis of your ongoing revenue. So, it will have to come. A number of governments in the world have done it. New Zealand and Australia had to adopt drastic measures in order to do it, but they've done it. In our case, we've already indicated that we have to reduce our deficit to the equivalent of three per cent of GNP within three years. Mr. Martin has already put into place the first budget of two – the second in February 1995 should continue what he has started to do and make sure we get down to three per cent. So, there is no doubt that we cannot continue to spend more than we earn given the level of our debt. And there is no doubt that we will have to control our costs and we've already started. We are reviewing programs and have put into place 22 task forces, one in each department, that will look at fundamental questions of government, like what is the function of government in this or that field, what is it exactly that we should be giving as a service to the taxpayers and can we afford to give that service. These fundamental questions are now being asked all over the government and I think you will see the result in the February 1995 budget.


Are we going to be forced in Canada to say to groups who want to preserve their values – and part of that is living in a particular way in a particular region – sorry, folks, this is a part of a world economy and we just cannot afford any more to have you trying to live that way in that region?

My own feeling is that the role of government is to protect the most vulnerable members of society. That's one of the fundamental reasons people got together and agreed to have a government with rules and policies and regulations that constrain them to do a number of certain things together. How do you protect your most vulnerable members? Not necessarily by giving them work where they are. In some cases, yes. That was what the whole theme of regional development was about. In some other cases, you've got to retrain them for other jobs than their traditional jobs, because their traditional jobs may have disappeared. We in Canada have always been ready to pay a premium to create these new jobs within the general area or region of the country where these people live. We will not be able to do that in all cases. I think we should continue to pay a premium to create employment in the regions where people live.