Ghostwriter – Author – Journalist

Former Liberal MP Hugh Faulkner was a hero of Canadian culture

By on May 7, 2016 in Articles with 0 Comments

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Hugh Faulkner after his 1974 re-election in Peterborough riding.
(The Canadian Press)

Hugh Faulkner, who died recently in Switzerland at the age of 83, was Canada’s culture czar for four years during Pierre Trudeau’s first government, which ushered in a wave of nationalist cultural policies. During this time, the young secretary of state became the hero of Canadian content, helping boost the magazine, television, film and visual art sectors.

One initiative that bolstered Mr. Faulkner’s reputation was his sponsorship of Bill C-58, the law that did in the Canadian edition of Time magazine, which had existed for 30 years. The bill, which passed in February, 1976, amended the Income Tax Act to prevent advertisers from deducting the cost of ads from their corporate taxes unless the magazine had 80-per-cent Canadian content.

The results: Maclean’s magazine went from monthly to weekly publication; Time closed its Canadian editorial bureaus and laid off its staff here, though the magazine continued to print in Canada, offering Canadian ads at a lower price.

“Bill C-58 had the intended effect of [prompting the creation of] a national Canadian weekly magazine, which at the time was a lot more important than it is today, because along with newspapers and TV that was where many people go for their news,” said Peter Lyman, who was Mr. Faulkner’s executive assistant in Ottawa. “And on the television side it was the same deal. The tax change meant $100-million to $200-million a year in advertising gain for Canadian stations.”

The journalists at Maclean’s were over the moon.

“Hugh was one of the few ministers who spoke out on the issue,” said the author Peter C. Newman, who was editor of Maclean’s at the time. “Faulkner was always approachable and there was never any doubt about where he stood.”

Mr. Faulkner also helped start the boom in tax-sheltered film production in Canada. It was another change to the Income Tax Act, in 1974, that allowed investors to deduct 100 per cent of the money they put into feature films, as long as those films were certified Canadian.

He also started the Canada Council’s Art Bank, which buys Canadian works of art and rents them to government and corporate clients across the country.

“Hugh spearheaded the passage of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act in 1975 to protect Canadian cultural property and archeological heritage,” Mr. Lyman said. “To this day, if you donate cultural works which are nationally significant to a bona fide museum, gallery or university, you can benefit enormously as the value of the claim can be deducted as an expense on your income tax.”

James Hugh Faulkner was born in Montreal on March 9, 1933, to Elizabeth (née Baird) and George Faulkner. His father was a doctor who, during the Second Word War, served in Burma with the Chindits, a special forces group that operated as guerillas deep behind Japanese lines. Dr. Faulkner was always armed and ready to fight while working as a doctor in the jungle. He was awarded a Military Cross.

While his father was away at war, young Hugh was sent to boarding school at Lakefield, north of Peterborough, Ont. This connection would feature in his later political career.

After graduating from McGill, Mr. Faulkner worked for a while and earned a business degree from the International Management Institute, in Geneva. He worked in Britain, then knocked about Europe, spending a lot of time in Paris. By then he spoke French, which was unusual for English Montrealers of his generation. He set off on a motorcycle for a while, and ended up in Israel, where he worked on two kibbutzes.

He was in Israel in 1961 when a friend offered him tickets to the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi bureaucrat who was responsible for the death of millions of Jews, in particular Hungarian Jews.

“His friend said, ‘I want you to watch Eichmann, to see how an ordinary human being can commit the most terrible crimes,’” said his wife, Jane (Meintjies) Faulkner.

When Mr. Faulkner returned to Canada when he was about 30, he had seen far more of the world than most of his contemporaries.

He needed a job, so he contacted his old headmaster at Lakefield and was hired to teach English and history.

His stories about his experiences in Europe and Israel captivated his students as well as other community residents, who invited him to speak at the local Rotary Club.

“The next thing he knew he was the Liberal candidate in the upcoming [federal] election, with no chance of winning. The headmaster, a good Progressive Conservative, thought it would be a good opportunity for the older boys to experience democracy close-up,” said his wife, Jane.

Mr. Faulkner was trounced in his first election, in 1962, losing to PC candidate Fred Stenson. The next election was in 1963, when the minority Diefenbaker government was defeated, and Mr. Faulkner came in third again. In 1965, however, he won the Peterborough riding and the Liberals under Lester Pearson formed another minority government.

When Pierre Trudeau took over as leader in 1968, Mr. Faulkner won again in Peterborough in the June election that year. He soon became deputy speaker of the House of Commons, and then in 1970, parliamentary secretary to the secretary of state, Gérard Pelletier, a journalist and close friend of Pierre Trudeau. Mr. Faulkner became secretary of state in November, 1972.

This powerful cabinet post put him in charge of several key Crown corporations and government organizations, such as the CBC, the National Film Board, the Canadian Film Development Corporation (now Telefilm Canada) the Canada Council, National Archives and all the national museums right down to the National Arts Centre. There were other responsibilities as well, including the Company of Young Canadians (CYC), a youth program similar to the American Peace Corps. According to Mr. Lyman, his former executive assistant, at one point Mr. Faulkner was given a choice between killing the CYC or the National Arts Centre. The arts centre is still there, the CYC is not.

“He was also instrumental in giving [film producer] Bill Marshall and friends the grant to start the first Toronto film festival,” Mr. Lyman said. “I am not saying this just because I worked for him, but Hugh Faulkner was a decent and principled person, maybe rare for a politician today.”

The secretary of state was also responsible for citizenship (now a separate portfolio). Mr. Faulkner oversaw the rewriting of the Citizenship Act, which among other things allowed Canadians to have dual citizenship.

After the cabinet shuffle of September, 1976, he was briefly minister of Science and Technology. He was promoted to another major cabinet post, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, late in 1977 and stayed there until he lost his riding and the Trudeau government was defeated in the election of May, 1979.

Many people who leave office stay attached to politics in one way or another for the rest of their lives, as lobbyists or pundits. Hugh Faulkner, however, went on to three other careers: international businessman; executive and organizer of non-profit groups; and owner and operator of a successful vineyard.

“Hugh was an interesting guy and he had a fuller life postpolitics than many people who leave political life,” said Dick O’Hagan, who was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s press secretary in the late 1970s.

When he left Ottawa, Mr. Faulkner went back to Montreal, where he wanted to help in the 1980 referendum on independence. He was also part of a group that tried in vain to save the Montreal Star newspaper. He did some consulting for Alcan, whose president was impressed by his work and hired him as vice-president of occupational health, safety and environment. He then moved to India, where he ran Alcan’s subsidiary there.

He moved to Geneva in 1987 to work with Alcan in Europe. Two years later, there was a change at the top and the new CEO decided to centralize operations in Montreal; Mr. Faulkner chose to stay in Geneva, working as “executive in residence” at his old business school, the International Management Institute.

In 1989, the Faulkner family moved to Paris, where Mr. Faulkner became secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce. At one point, the chairman of the group, a member of Sweden’s Wallenberg family, asked Mr. Faulkner to fire a senior person. He refused and that ended that, though it led to a new chapter in his life: making wine.

“Hugh had an ironclad contract for once, and so there was a large settlement. We used that windfall to buy a farm in the south of France,” Ms. Faulkner said. That farm, the Domaine du Grand Cros was a rundown vineyard that the Faulkners set about restoring. Today, it is run by their son Julian, who has an MBA in wine making from a school in Bordeaux. Then 25-hectare vineyard produces 300,000 bottles a year; red, white, rosé and sparkling.

While working on his vineyard project, Mr. Faulkner became involved in several non-profit organizations. He was involved with Maurice Strong in the Rio Summit in 1992 and out of that Mr. Faulkner helped found the Business Council on Sustainable Development. It enlisted 50 CEOs from around the world to discuss environmental issues.

Mr. Faulkner also worked with Sustainable Project Management, an NGO he helped set up in 1994, and was involved with for the rest of his life. The object of the organization was to alleviate poverty in the developing world. In 2009, he travelled to Manila to inaugurate a recycling facility in a former squatter’s community.

Mr. Faulkner was one of 86 people who served as a cabinet ministers in Pierre Trudeau’s two ministries, from 1968 to 1979, then 1980 to 1984. (With Mr. Faulkner’s death, 34 of them are still alive.) In contrast with the gender parity of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet today, only four women served as Liberal cabinet ministers while Pierre Trudeau was prime minister.

Mr. Faulkner died unexpectedly in Rougemont, Switzerland, on April 21. He leaves his wife, Jane; daughter, Antonia; sons, Julian and Adrian; and his sisters, Claire and Susan.

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About the Author

About the Author: Fred has had a full career as a CBC TV host and reporter. He has written countless articles for many renowned publications such as The Economist, The Globe and Mail, BusinessWeek and many more, as well as more than 2000 obituaries. He is also a successfully published author and ghostwriter. His current projects include writing and co-authoring books, as well as lending his talents as a speaker and interviewer for webcasts. .

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