Mulroney gives Canada a new look
Ottawa — Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his new Conservative government are moving quickly to change everything - from relations with the United States to the uniforms of the armed forces.
Armed with the first Tory majority government in more than 20 years, Mr. Mulroney and his Cabinet ministers have been sending out not-too-subtle signals that the Canadian nationalism of the Trudeau era is over.
In Washington this week the Canadian prime minister said he wanted a ''special relationship'' with the United States. As he gave the message to President Reagan, his Cabinet ministers were hammering home the same ideas in both Canada and the United States.
Canada's new minister of finance, Michael Wilson, spelled it out at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund also in Washington this week. ''Let me state clearly that the welcome mat is out once more,'' he said. ''Canada is a good place to do business.''
Mr. Wilson is a far cry from the last two Liberal finance ministers who had little or no experience in the real world of business. Before entering politics five years ago, Wilson was executive vice-president of Dominion Securities, where he was in charge of helping meet the financing needs of some of Canada's biggest companies. Neither he nor Mulroney is a fan of the type of economic nationalism that characterized the Trudeau government.
The new international trade minister, James Kelleher, told an audience in Toronto this week that the Tories plan to make it easier for foreigners - and in most cases this means Americans - to invest here so Canada can ''once again become a first-class place to invest.''
To that end, they are changing the name of the Foreign Investment Review Agency to Investment Canada. The agency will retain the power to block foreign investment, but Mr. Kelleher said that would not be its primary job.
Not everyone thinks this open-arms approach to foreign investment is a good idea.
''I don't think this is going to cure Canada's unemployment problem, though I'd be delighted if I'm wrong,'' says Mel Watkins, an economics professor at the University of Toronto and a proponent of Canadian economic nationalism.
''There are bound to be political costs,'' he says, referring to what he sees as the Tories cozying up to President Reagan. ''A lot of people in the United States anticipate some major intervention in Central America either just before or just after the election, and what do we do when that happens?''
Watkins says Canada may lose its independence in foreign policy by forging too-close economic ties with the US.
Mulroney, anticipating that type of criticism, has denied that Canada will lose any independence by having a special relationship with the United States.
''We plan to maintain an independent stance in our foreign policy,'' he told reporters this week. ''A healthy, strong relationship with the United States of America in no way presupposes any degree of subservience on our part.''
Although most of the Tory government's actions will please the people who voted for the party on Sept. 4, the Conservatives are going to do a few things that may anger some of their supporters.
The new agriculture minister announced this week that the government is going to set up a tobacco marketing board. The purpose of this and other marketing boards is to smooth out the fluctuations of the market for farmers. Over the years tobacco farmers have been rich and have not wanted protection, but a dramatic decline in smoking and tobacco sales has meant some are losing money.
Many Tories have long been critical of the Liberal government's use of marketing boards, saying it ruins any hope for a free market.
On Wednesday afternoon the Queen was welcomed in Ottawa by a ceremonial guard of Mounties in their red coats and by soldiers dressed in the tall fur hats called busbies and red uniforms that are used only on such occasions.
That same day the new minister of defense, Robert Coates, was discussing new uniforms for the armed forces. Since 1968 Canada's Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel all have had green uniforms. The Tories promised to do away with that.
Mr. Coates has told the generals and admirals he wants that promise carried out as quickly as possible. The change of uniform is a promise that can be seen - especially on television and in newspapers - and the Tories are wasting no time ordering the new cloth.
The Mulroney government plans to spend more on defense, and there were smiles at National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa when Mr. Coates's appointment was announced.