Rotary Club of Fergus-Elora
Ted Arnott spoke at the Rotary Club of Fergus-Elora on February 15, 2011. The
following is the text of his remarks:
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for inviting me here today.
Service above self. It’s your motto, and it’s your method in all Rotary activities.
We see that reflected in your members who work both at home and abroad to combat
hunger, to improve health and sanitation, to provide education and job training, to
promote peace, and to eradicate polio.
You have good reason to be proud—not only for being part of an organization that
supports these worthy humanitarian goals, but also for working actively, as individuals
and as a community, to see them through.
In our own community, your support for the food bank, your fundraising for the Rotary
aquatic centre, and your commitments to the Groves Memorial Community Hospital are
just a few of the ways you have made a difference.
And speaking of Groves, let me just add that I will never, ever give up trying to get the
government to let us move forward with planning for our new hospital.
And it’s because you work every day to put “service above self,” for projects large and
small, our community is stronger, fairer and better. For that you deserve thanks.
We know we’re fortunate to live in such a community, but what about our broader
World affairs and world awareness is the theme you’ve asked me to discuss today. It’s
an appropriate theme, I think, for an organization of “service above self.”
After all, if governments and institutions around the world would more frequently put
service above self, following in the example of Rotary International, the condition of
world affairs would no doubt improve. Likewise, world awareness would no doubt be
Today’s theme also matches Rotary International’s fourth guiding principle: “the
advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world
fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.”
As an MPP, I consider my role to be one, first and foremost, of service to my
community. Just as importantly, it means trying to determine to the best of my ability
what is in the public interest of the province as a whole. And while I’ve occasionally met
elected officials from other countries, the role of the MPP only rarely requires interaction
on an international level.
Foreign affairs, after all, is a responsibility of the Government of Canada. That means
federal Members of Parliament may need an up to date passport—but as for Members
of Provincial Parliament, well, let’s just say that for MPPs a passport is not really a job
In fact, I was once asked what the trips are like for MPPs.
Yes, I replied, being an MPP does involve extensive travel. In fact, I do travel quite a lot
— to places like Clifford, Harriston, and even Palmerston occasionally!
In our home, Lisa and I are savers, not spenders — conservative even at home! So
even though we’ve enjoyed some travelling, my travel experiences to date have been
more limited than you might expect. In the past 20 years, however, I have been to
Britain twice, Washington D.C. twice, and New York City just once. So I really have no
vast international perspective to draw upon today, based on exhaustive world travel.
At the same time, I can draw upon my long-held interest in the opportunities and
challenges facing our world.
While studying at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo in the 1980s, I was very
interested in Canada’s international relations and, for a time, I even aspired to serve in
Canada’s Foreign Service.
And although my life took a different path, I continue to read and I continue to follow
current events. Like many in public service, I have a considerable appetite for news.
I think it’s always a good idea to read news and opinion from a variety of perspectives,
even those with which we may disagree.
I believe in lifelong learning, especially on matters of importance to the world around us.
I’d like to share one example. Just last week I read an article in the Globe and Mail
about influential scholar Joseph Nye, who is a former senior State Department and
Pentagon official. Nye has some lessons for Canada, and how it can build and use
influence in the world.
He advocates the use of so-called “soft power” as well as “hard power.”
Soft power, explains Nye, is the ability to get what you want by attraction and
persuasion. Any Canadian government, he says, should want it.
Soft power has been called “a narrative that confers legitimacy, such as respect for
democracy, influence in institutions or networks of countries or people – nudges them to
compromise or to share your goals.”
Hard power, on the other hand, can compel nations to do what they don’t want to.
Military force is the most obvious example of hard power. Too often in history, hard
power has been necessary to help prevent great injustices or great loss of life. Today,
hard power is necessary to provide security and rebuild Afghanistan.
I agree with Nye that Canada has to be smart about how it uses its power, hard and
soft. I agree that Canada can—and indeed that we must—play a meaningful role in
world affairs. Our country has a great deal to contribute, and we have the capacity to
effect positive change in the world.
In recent years in particular, one of Canada’s most important contributions has been our
knowledge and experience in economic affairs and the financial sector.
Canada may not have made all the right economic moves all the time, but, on the
whole, we as a nation have weathered the global economic storm better than most of
our Western counterparts. That’s why when governments and global financial
regulators responded to the economic crisis, Canada was at the table. And because of
our successes, we had good reason to be there and to offer our best advice.
As your provincial representative, I’ve tried to offer my own advice to the government,
and have tried to do so constructively and frequently in a non-partisan way.
Ontario’s economy has suffered in recent years. For a long time, even before our
current global economic challenges, I’ve been concerned about our province’s lack of a
long-term strategy for economic competitiveness—something I believe we need, given
the rapidly changing world in which we live, and the rapidly evolving global economy.
As early as 2005, working with Perrin Beatty, who at the time was president of the
Canadian Manufacturers Association, I brought forward a resolution in the legislature
calling for the all-party Finance and Economic Affairs Committee to hold public hearings
and develop an action plan to strengthen our manufacturing sector—and save jobs.
In 2006 and 2007, I continued to call for an action plan to deal with economic
competitiveness, and the loss of manufacturing jobs affecting so many communities
And you’ll recall that we began lose manufacturing jobs even before Wall Street’s
financial crisis in 2008 and the great recession. And we’re still feeling the effects of it.
Again and again I called on the finance committee to address the specific economic
challenges facing our manufacturing sector.
Even though my resolution passed in the House, the government refused to follow up.
Perhaps if the government had actually done the hearings, paid attention, and initiated a
plan of action in response, we could have saved some of the jobs that were lost.
Even though the Legislature isn’t presently in session, the all-party Standing Committee
on Finance and Economic Affairs has been busy. Recently I joined the committee and
participated in some of the pre-budget consultations held at Queen’s Park.
It’s a chance for the committee to hear the ideas and suggestions of various people and
groups from across Ontario. The committee then attempts to achieve consensus on the
most important priorities facing the province, and will then write and submit a report to
the Minister of Finance. That report will contain priorities, based on those hearings, that
could be included in the upcoming budget.
One of the groups appearing at the hearings was the CME – Canada’s Manufacturers
and Exporters. You’ll be interested to know that Jay Myers, who grew up in Fergus, and
who many of you know, is now heading up that organization. I’m always glad to work
with Jay; he is an outstanding leader in the province of Ontario.
They called on the government to take action to ensure that the overall business
environment is favourable and sufficiently competitive to retain and grow manufacturing
investment in Ontario.
But there is another aspect of manufacturing exports, and international trade more
generally, that is positive for Canadians: international trade creates prosperity and
creates jobs for our neighbours in our community.
Our prosperity at home depends upon our economic relationships with the rest of the
We know that Canada is not an island. We are a trading nation, and have been for
more than 400 years, ever since that first boat of cod fish and the first load of furs left
Canada for Europe.
We are a trading nation, and that, I believe, is one of our greatest strengths.
Trade produces economic benefits, of course, but it’s more than that. In many cases,
trade helps to facilitate international awareness. The world is enriched not only when
we trade our resources and commodities, but also when we trade our ideas and our
For that, we need strong interpersonal relationships reaching across borders.
In that respect, Canada stands in an enviable position. Because of our immigration
policies, which have brought millions to our shores over the last number of decades, we
already have well-established relationships between our nation and so many others.
Looking to the next 40 years, our economic future will be brighter because of these
relationships. By comparison, other nations—nations that have followed less
welcoming immigration policies—will be less likely to be able to seize the opportunities
of the future.
In the end, however, government policies mean very little without people willing to take
advantage of them and reach out to the world.
Of course you know that Rotary is at the forefront of building relationships through its
global service projects.
You should be proud of those projects, and so should Canadians of all ages who are
travelling, studying, working and serving abroad. They are forming relationships for
today and for the future.
Of course we can learn from the experiences of others.
But at the same time, I assert that Canada is the greatest source of good in the
international community today, and as Canadians, we can all take pride in this
We know we’re a source of good. And that’s why we should look to the future with
anticipation, believing that tomorrow can be better than today.
Let’s embrace that kind of future. Let’s embrace its promise—its promise for peace,
prosperity and harmony for generations to come.
Again, thank you for this opportunity to be here today.