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A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
1973 as the start of what the speaker has called in his book "The Anxious Years," a collection of columns that deals with the Mulroney and Chrétien years and which tries to suggest in various places that the anxiety has much deeper roots. 1973 also the year our post-war world changed with the OPEC crisis that gave the western industrial world "stagflation." Looking back at that pre-OPEC period. After 1973, slower growth and slumping productivity gains as factors that lie at the heart of what has plagued governments and the public ever since. Now living through a delayed and painful readjustment to the developments and decisions taken long ago, under different circumstances. The roots of today's challenges lying in decisions made long ago. Remembering the 1960s: turbulent times and the launching of many major programmes that have defined post-war Canada and to which Canadians remain attached. Losing control of the purse. Recession. The struggle in Ottawa. Some words and thoughts from the speaker's columns in 1984. The problems inherent in deficits and debt. Large deficits as the neo-conservatives' best friend, and why. The speaker's belief in selective, creative use of the state for collective purposes such as the fostering of national identity, furthering social justice and the enlargement of what Ralf Dahrendorf called "life chances" for the largest number of citizens. Advantages and disadvantages of the free market. A cohesive society searching for a balance between justice and efficiency, rights and responsibilities. The need for the agency of government to lean periodically against the injustices and disequilibriums caused by the free market and the difficulty of doing so when the government is burdened down by insupportable deficits and debt. A review of the "anxious years" and what the governments found themselves having to deal with. How and why people became so anxious. Comments on Mr. Chrétien's speeches. The enormous irony to what is happening these days. Issues with regard to the activities of the current Federal Government. The three fundament challenges facing the country that stand out: the problem of productivity, which such initiatives as the FTA and the GST were designed to address; the fiscal imbalance built up over the last 23 years, which has produced the fight against the deficit and the reform of social programmes; the fragile state of Canadian unity, with discussion. Now redefining our governments, adjusting them to what we are prepared to finance. Witnessing the simultaneous erosion of governments' capacity to act in the face of global demands, and the resurgence of demands by people to take a greater measure of control of their lives in the face of impersonal, bloodless forces. Entering the new and difficult debate over equality between those who favour equal treatment and those who favour policies to make more likely equal results. Facing the serious problem of growing income inequalities that cannot be easily dismissed because in them lie the roots of many social problems. Room for optimism in the speaker's heart in the face of all these challenges. Some concluding words about Canada and Canadians.