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72nd Annual Summer Conference, August 7–10, 2003

Mel Hurtig Discussion Group

Summary by Adèle-Elise Prévost


Hurtig sees Paul Martin as a conservative and a continentalist – going so far as to dub him “Mulroney II”; according to him, as Prime Minister Martin will not “save Canada”, but will in fact hasten the “harmonization” process with the United States.

Hurtig also argues that, in spite if what other speakers have put forth, Mexico is actually worse off now than before NAFTA, particularly as regards disparities in income – a situation which is paralleled in Canada and the US as well.

A discussion arose on the subject of the election process, looking at voter turnout (particularly US vs Canada) and comparing these figures to the ones resulting from Australia’s compulsory vote system.

Hurtig, disenchanted with our elective process, consequently proposed a system in which, say, 50% of representation came from constituents, and 50% from the popular vote.

The controversial author, when asked about the consequences of five years under potential Paul Martin rule, expressed his opinion that “five more years of Mulroneyism will put the country quite close to the precipice” – but, ever an optimist, he maintains that even then there is hope for Canada.

Further discussion dealt with how an “average Canadian”, with only a con…???? Dollar and one vote, can make a difference in policy. Most suggestions revolved around making yourself heard to your Member of Parliament and similar tactics of popular pressure; however, Hurtig went so far as to propose the formation of a new political party, an idea which he did not elaborate upon but which seems to have gone over well with those in attendance.

Following a discussion on distinctions in policy and statistics between Canada and the United States, Hurtig listed a number of international treaties and conventions – from the International Criminal Court to the Kyoto Accord – that one American government does not support, contrary to almost 100 other countries worldwide (Canada being usually included in the latter group); observing this trend in US policy let Hurtig to propound that it isn’t Canada which will become isolated from the US as our values and priorities continue to diverge – rather, it is evident that it is the United States themselves that are becoming isolated from the community of nations.


“It’s extraordinarily essential that we do a much better job of teaching young Canadians how important it is to become involved in the political process in Canada. If you have a situation whereby, except for doing leadership conventions, only 2% of adult Canadians belong to any political party, what you’re doing is you’re abandoning democracy to the wealthy elite.

In my opinion, Canada is far too good a country to let a small, wealthy plutocracy sell out generations of egalitarian values and programs; for those Canadians who love their country, we had better take action soon, before we’ve progressed from a colony, to a nation, back to nothing more than a colony called Canada.”