- Choosing the third option
- Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 10, Number 1, February 1975
- pp. 1-64
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Journal of Canadian Studies/ Revue d'etudes canadiennes Editor Associate Editor Editorial Assistants Editorial Board DENIS SMITH Redacteur RALPH HEINTZMAN Redacteur adjoint ARLENE DAVIS Assistantes MARGARET PEARCE JEAN-PIERRE LAPOINTE Comite de redaction MARGARET LAURENCE HARVEY McCUE JACQUES MONET, S. J. W. L. MORTON W. F. W. NEVILLE GORDON ROPER DONALD V. SMILEY PHILIP STRATFORD T. H. B. SYMONS W. E. TAYLOR CLARA THOMAS JOHN WADLAND MELVILLE H. WATKINS ALAN WILSON Choosing the third option In the last two months the country has grown accustomed to a new catch-phrase to describe the first aim of our foreign policy: Third Option. With it we have chosen to develop a comprehensive, longterm strategy intended to give direction to specific policies and programmes which will reduce Canadian vulnerability to the magnetic pull of the United States. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. MacEachen tell us that they have chosen 'the third option.' For the Prime Minister the third option means seeking to diversify Canada's economic ties to offset the overwhelming influence of the United States; the exercise is apparently meant to establish a counterbalance for Canada in Europe rather than to assert any more basic conception of the national interest. For the Secretary of State for External Affairs something more may be intended. In his Winnipeg speech of January 23 he made this unequivocal declaration: The decision was taken to adopt the If this is policy, it is a welcome clarification . Until the statement, the government had never made entirely clear the status of the statement published by the previous Minister, Mitchell Sharp, "Canada-U.S. Relations : Options for the Future," in the fall of 1972. It is no exaggeration to say that there was a certain calculated ambiguity about that document. It was uncertain at the time of publication - during the federal Journal of Canadian Studies 1 election campaign - whether this was a discussion paper, a statement for which the minister assumed personal responsibility, or a collective assertion of cabinet policy; and that uncertainty remained in the months that followed. The cynic would say that "Options for the Future" was intended to disarm the nationalists; to offer mild persuasion to the non-nationalists that Canada could, if it wished, move carefully in the direction of independence from the United States without any substantial disadvantage; and thus to give the government itself time to measure more surely whether the Canadian popular winds were blowing permanently in the direction of national self-assertion. Now, apparently, the measurement has been made, and we can take it from the horse's mouth that tne government intends "to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy" to reduce Canadian dependence on the United States. In principle, at least, the nationalist campaign that began in 1956 with the Preliminary Report of the Gordon Commission on Canada's Economic Prospects, and which broadened and deepened throughout the late 1950's and 1960's, seems to have been won. The declaration of principle by Mr. MacEachen may be an important benchmark in what he speaks of several times as the evolution of "a more mature relationship" between Canada and the United States. But between principle and practice there are bound to be barriers and delays and compromises which diminish the significance of the principle; and in this elaboration of principle into practice there is doubt about whether the Canadian government is acting with much determination, or knows what both hands are doing. "Options for the Future" was not only ambiguous in its status; it was ambiguous in content. While the paper's emphasis showed a gentle bias in the direction of the third option (greater independence from the United States as opposed to maintenance of the status qua or closer integration), by its conclusion the distinction between the 2 first and third options had been fudged and lost. This seemed to occur partly because of the importance given to the suggestion that "Canadian energies should not be wasted or efforts misspent on policies that give little promise of being achievable," and because of the caution with which that warning was subsequently interpreted in the paper. What is achievable, the statement went on, depends to some extent on "the world trend," or "the...