18th Annual Premiers Conference, Background Paper: Report on the Western Premiers’ Task Force on Constitutional Trends (18-19 August 1977)
Citation: 18th Annual Premiers Conference, Background Paper: Report on the Western Premiers’ Task Force on Constitutional Trends, Doc 850-8/004 (St. Andrews: 18-19 August 1977).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
DOCUMENT: 850-8/ 004
18TH ANNUAL PREMIERS CONFERENCE
Report on the Western Premiers Task Force
on Constitutiona1 Trends
St. Andrews, N.B.
August 18-19, 1977
Report on the Western Premiers Task Force on Constitutional
The four Western Premiers, at their Conference in
Medicine Hat, Alberta, in the spring of 1976, expressed concern
over the increasing number of federal legislative moves into
areas of traditional provincial jurisdiction. Accordingly, they
established a Task Force of Ministers, chaired by British .
Columbia, to prepare a detailed inventory of these apparent
federal intrusions, and to report its findings and recommendations
in one year’s time.
The Task Force submitted its report to the Western
Premiers at their Conference in Brandon, Manitoba on May 5 and 6,
1977. The Report was endorsed by the Premiers and forwarded to
other First Ministers, with the expectation that it could play a
constructive role in resolving current federal—provincial tensions
In order to compile a detailed inventory of federal
intrusions, Task Force staff developed a common questionnaire,
and administered it to the appropriate Ministries in each of
the four provinces. The following policy areas were addressed:
1. Consumer and Corporate Affairs.
3. Housing, Urban Affairs and Land Use.
4. Economic Development.
6. Immigration, Manpower and Labour.
7. Administration of Justice.
8. Interventions by the Government of Canada before
the Supreme Court of Canada.
_ 2 _
While the four Western governments assign varying
priorities to the intrusions identified in the Report, and not
all recommendations are unanimously endorsed, a high degree of
consensus emerged. There was general agreement that federal
initiatives have too often been unilaterally imposed, unappre
ciative of legitimate provincial interests and regional aspirations,
or developed without adequate consultation with the provinces.
This has led, in the View of the four Western provinces, to an
unnecessarily large number of “friction points” between the
federal government and the provinces.
In reviewing the findings of the Task Force, the
Western Premiers noted that many of the intrusions affected not
only the Western provinces, but all provinces. Many of the
concerns were not specifically regional in nature, but national
in scope. This prompted the suggestion that this topic be
placed on the agenda of the Annual Premiers‘ Conference, so
that all Premiers might have an opportunity, jointly, to
consider these issues.
It was the hope of the Western Premiers that the
Report would assist in creating a climate in which the federal
government would be more sensitive toward legitimate provincial
concerns, and more alert to the need for meaningful intergovern-
mental consultation. It was with some regret, therefore, that
we have noted two additional intrusions of a major nature since
the Report’s publication — the amendments to the federal
Fisheries Act and the proposed Home Insulation Program. Both
of these initiatives directly affect the provinces and impinge
on provincial jurisdiction; in both cases, however, prior
consultation was inadequate or non existent.
_ 3 _
For example, while most provinces would agree with the
energy conservation objectives inherent in the proposed Home
Insulation Program, none would fully agree with the manner in which
it was presented more or less as an “ultimatum” to the provinces.
This course of action is incompatible with constructive federal-
The letter to the Prime Minister, transmitting the
Report, noted that the Task Force would continue to operate, in
order to facilitate follow up discussions with federal officials.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s reply indicated a willingness to discuss
these matters, and placed the federal responsibility for this
follow—up process with the Federal-Provincial Relations Office (FPRO)
An initial meeting of Task Force officials and FPRO
officials has been held, and a tentative follow—up process
identified. It remains unclear, however, to what extent concrete
results will flow from this process, and, more generally, how
seriously the federal government regards the entire exercise.