Introduction of Mr. Dalton Camp, O.C.


9 February 2000

It is a great privilege to be able to come back here, now that you have a president who is too young to have known me as a student. I thank you Dr. Riley, Mr. President, very much for your warm welcome and you ladies and gentlemen. I am glad of any opportunity to come back to St. F. X. and I’m especially pleased and honoured to have been invited for this occasion.

The two names associated with this evening’s event were among the most important political figures in Canadian politics in the second half of the twentieth century. One of those names is the Honourable Allan J. MacEachen. I believe you all know him. God knows I do! If in the past I have seemed somewhat stinted in my praise of him, it was not, as he knows, from lack of respect or even of admiration; rather it was to spare him the embarrassment of having to return the compliment. For he has a rule, a rule which he articulated succinctly in the Senate on February 2, 1996, page 2614 of the Senate debates of that date. And I quote, "A rule," Senator MacEachen said, "I have had for a long time, which was never to praise my political opponents in public. I did not mind it in private but in public it was a different matter." On that issue at least, Allan J. spoke for both of us. But enough of Allan J. He’s not going to speak tonight, at least he is not scheduled to speak and Dalton, and I will do our best not to provoke an unscheduled eruption.

About this evening’s guest lecturer, he follows Bob Rae a New Democrat, who was the speaker in 1999, and Frank McKenna, a Liberal, in 1998. I suppose it is conceivable, although the Harris Conservatives would be incredulous, that the organizing committee invited Dalton this year because they thought it was time for a Tory. On that point it has to be said that Dalton Camp was a Liberal before Allan J. was. As a young Liberal from New Brunswick, he attended the 1948 national leadership convention of the Liberal party, spoke at that convention and was warmly congratulated by Mackenzie King himself. Then things started to go wrong. Maritime Liberals had developed a strategy for the convention. Premier McNair of New Brunswick was going to place in nomination the name of Nova Scotia Premier Angus L. Macdonald. The speeches of the two premiers would provide the occasion for a declaration of Maritime rights and of Maritime needs. A series of Maritime resolutions had been prepared, some of them drafted by Dalton. Senior Liberals, when they got wind of it, derailed the plan and Dalton got his first, but by no means his last, taste of the curious and counterproductive ends to which political power can be employed. With Angus L. not on the ballot, Dalton voted for the maverick Chubby Power. Power ended up in the Senate. Dalton, after studies at the London School of Journalism and the London School of Economics, ended up in the Conservative party.

By 1952, he was in New Brunswick, directing a successful Progressive Conservative campaign in that province’s general election. After New Brunswick there followed, in the 1950s, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and two federal elections, all of them bringing Tory governments to office for the first time in the memory of many voters. Through the 1960s, 1970s and well into the 1980s, in those provinces as well as in Newfoundland and in Ontario. And nationally, many Tory campaigns bore the unmistakable imprint of his creative and strategic hand, and, let it be said, of his political philosophy also. He was a Progressive Conservative and it showed in the policies and platforms of Conservative parties and of Conservative governments when they had the good sense to consult him between elections. In Stanfield, Roblin, Diefenbaker, and later in Bill Davis, Richard Hatfield, and others, Dalton found intellectual and political soul mates. In him, they had a mentor and often a goad. Theirs was a modern version of Disraeli’s One Nation conservatism. There was no Reform alliance calling themselves Conservatives and offering Charles Darwin as a better political model.

Dalton became a much more public figure in 1964 when he was elected national president of the Conservative party. There ensued one of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of Canadian politics. In September of 1966, he called for a reassessment of policy, reform of party organization and the reconfirmation or otherwise of leadership. It was interpreted as a challenge to Mr. Diefenbaker’s leadership, and so it was. But there was a much more radical notion at stake. The idea that democratic political parties should themselves practice democracy. Dalton counseled his then young supporters to stay away from personalities and defend the principle. And so, for the most part, we did. However, one of our number, an alumnus of this university, Finlay MacDonald, strayed somewhat off the message, when he was defeated for re-election as president of the Nova Scotia Tories. Finlay, who nine years earlier had coined the slogan "Nova Scotia first to say, Diefenbaker all the way" changed it to "Nova Scotia last to know, Diefenbaker’s gotta go." By the end, Dalton had been re-elected. As he promised, the principle of party democracy proved to be more important than personalities - and more enduring also. Leadership review and other provisions to ensure accountability were before long adopted by all the other parties.

Dalton had managed Mr. Diefenbaker’s last election campaign as Prime Minister - the tumultuous election of 1963 - and he had run for parliament himself in the general election of 1965. Anyone who understands the rapport between a national political leader and a senior political advisor, will understand how a rupture in that relationship, even on a question of principle, perhaps especially on a question of principle, can be personally painful. I’ve never heard Dalton discuss that aspect of it. However, I believe it was made more difficult by virtue of the fact that on one of the issues Dalton and many of us cared most, that is concern for the needs of Atlantic Canada, Prime Minister Diefenbaker had never disappointed. There’s an old saw to the effect that revolutions devour their own children, and so it was wrongly predicted this one would. It did not. Mr. Diefenbaker once described us as Camp followers. And while he did not intend it as a compliment, we accepted it as such then and now. Several of the Camp followers became national leaders of the Tory party or contended for that job. Two of them have been Prime Minister. Several became cabinet ministers, provincial premiers, senators and MPs in which positions they have performed more or less to Dalton’s satisfaction. He usually let us know whether it was more or less. Most continued in one way or another to help maintain the Progressive Conservative party as a viable, national political force in-season and out.

Dalton himself was never far from public view, writing, broadcasting and lecturing, except for several years sabbatical undertaken when one of the Camp followers, Brian Mulroney, persuaded him to come to Ottawa as senior advisor to the Privy Council. There, among other things, he was a leading proponent, sometimes I thought the only one, of the creation of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the most coherent and persistent advocate of regional development policy. More than any single person in or around the government of the day, he was responsible for saving the South Moresby forests of British Columbia from the chainsaw and for the creation of a national park. He quite simply stuck with the issue and would not let go until everybody, Prime Minister, ministers, bureaucrats, cabinet, made the right decision. He stayed with us through the 1988 election, then spurning the various sinecures that were on offer, vanished from Ottawa, only to reappear as a commentator in the national media.

During those years from the 1950s through the 1980s, Allan J. MacEachen was winning elections for the Liberal party down here, sitting in Parliament, serving in federal cabinets and leaving his own distinguished mark on important areas of national policy. Thinking of their contemporaneous careers, I tried to recall from memory any public comments that might have been made over the years by MacEachen about Camp or Camp about MacEachen. None came to mind and I decided this was a subject better left un-researched for our purposes this evening. The question Dalton Camp and his Conservative parties tried in their various times and places, and their different ways to answer, is a question Senator MacEachen posed a couple of years ago in his introduction to the book of essays, In Pursuit of the Public Good, published in his honour. The question is, Senator MacEachen said, "who puts bread on the table when private markets fail to do so?" It is a question that today preoccupies Dalton more than ever as his newspaper columns attests. It is a question for Conservatives, Liberals and everybody. Which somehow reminds me that one day 30 years ago I saw Dalton in Ottawa, marching arm and arm with the late Tommy Douglas, protesting the Vietnam War. Some Tories thought this a preposterous place for their national president to be. More of us thought it a principled and profoundly Conservative response to what David Halperston later called "the aggressive, combative, liberal nationalism" of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and we were proud. We brought him into Stanfield’s office and gave him a drink, for it was a cold day and he would have had a long wait for a drink in the office of Tommy Douglas.

Anyway, after more than a half century’s exposure to politics and politicians, he could still describe himself as he did in the introduction to his book of columns five years ago as "a deep believer in party politics and a romantic admirer of those ordinary and sensible people who maintain and assure the vitality of partisanship." "It is a pity," Dalton wrote, "so few journalists understand the requirement for partisan politics and its role in a democracy. But it is difficult to educate or enlighten people who do not, as we used to say in Carleton County, know their arse from their elbow about politics but delight in disparaging its practices and defaming its practitioners." Needless to say, I am glad to welcome him here to my alma mater and proud to introduce him to you. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Dalton Camp.


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