Constitutional Conference, Recent Developments in Federal Provincial Relations (10-12 February 1969)

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Date: 1969-02-10
By: Secretariat of the Conference
Citation: Constitutional Conference, Recent Developments in Federal Provincial Relations in the Areas of: -Medicare -Indian Affiars -Housing (Ottawa: 10-12 February 1969).
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The Constitutional Conference – February 1969


1. Medicare

The most recent information available from the
Department of National Health and welfare reveals the
possible pattern of provincial entry into Medicare to be
as follows:

B.C. & Saskatchewan: Already participating
Manitoba, Nova Scotia & Newfoundland: April 1, 1969

Alberta: Not before 1970
New Brunswick: October 1, 1969, a possible date

Ontario: No announcement likely until after the
Constitutional Conference, though officials
consider July 1, l969; January 1, or April
I, 1970 to be serious dates. There was
some talk of PSI being discountinued with
the introduction of Medicare in Ontario;
the fact that there has been a recent
increase in premiums suggests a later
rather than an imminent entry into the

Quebec: no indication

Prince Edward Island: no indication

2. Indian Affairs

A number of provincial governments are under
increasing pressure as Indian problems continue to become
more acute and more public. Any of the Prairie Provinces,
or British Columbia might raise in passing points of
concern that might relate to the exercise of federal
jurisdictional responsibilities for Indians. A point of
argumentation might be that here is an area where the
federal government is attempting to negotiate with provinces
the transfer of programme responsibility on a piecemeal
basis, for instance responsibility for welfare services as
is provided for under the Canada Assistance Plan, without
fully considering the financial and jurisdictional impli-
cations for provinces themselves. British Columbia recently
argued that a transfer of jurisdiction ought to be considered
in these circumstances, and the Prairie Provinces have been
urging comprehensive discussions on the situation of Indians
for some time.



If a question arises, it might be recalled that
two developments are underway that will make full dis-
cussions with the provinces desirable and timely.

First, an internal federal policy review is
near completion and Cabinet will be considering the
results shortly. Provinces can be assured, as must Indians,
that consultations shall precede new federal policy formu-

Second, there was general agreement at the

January Conference of welfare Ministers that Indian welfare
should be discussed between the levels of government in a
comprehensive way, and that preferably the discussions
should encompass the whole range of services, education,
health and welfare, and be subjects for discussion at a
Ministerial Federal-Provincial Conference. The Minister

of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was present at
the Conference for these discussions and agreed to the
desirability of this. Such a Conference would be the first
held since 1964, and would no doubt provide an important
forum for discussions between governments, and Indians, on
the range of current and critical problems.

3. Housing

Mr. Hellyer has tabled in the House of Commons
the report of his Task Force on Housing and Urban Development.
This report and the work of the Task Force have received a
great deal of publicity across the country. Many of the
recommendations have been debated in the press for some time.
The question which now must be looked at carefully is how
best to react to provincial comments that will undoubtedly
be forthcoming and which may well be at their peak at about
the time of the Constitutional Conference.

Sixteen of the forty-seven recommendations con-
tained in the report involve provincial or municipal govern-
ments pretty directly. while the report states on page 25

“In setting forth their recommendations,
the Members have been conscious of the
constraints of Canada’s present consti-
tution and have attempted to abide by

the recommendations certainly will have the effect of bringing
public pressure to bear on provincial governments in matters
which are entirely their constitutional concern.

I might mention the following phrases as examples
of comments that will help to stimulate provincial reaction.

In speaking of federal loans direct to municipa-
lities, the report says:

“The Task Force would hope that the
provinces would not stand in the way
of what it considers a major step
forward in urban planning and develop-
ment. It would urge any provincial
government which does demand a role

in the process to seek the part of
expeditor and not agent of delay”.



In speaking of provincial controls, the report

“The Task Force believes that provinces,
for their part, should restrict their
involvement in land development to
issues which clearly have an impact
beyond local boundaries. . . . . .. it is
difficult, if not impossible, to find
a rational raison d’etre for provincial
regulations establishing a minimum
street width in a residential sub-
division or provincial decrees that
five per cent of the land in any
subdivision must be reserved for parks.
Matters such as this are strictly of
local concern. If they need be regu-
lated at all, it should be at that

“Nor can the Task Force understand why
it should take as many as 50 separate
steps to register a piece of land for
development, as it currently does in
some provinces. Such bureaucratic
nonsense would border on the ludicrous,
if it were not for its very real impact
on land costs”.

It would be unreasonable not to expect lively
provincial reactions to these criticisms, however well the
points may be justified. And against all of this, there is
the background of the constitutional problem and the very
strong feelings on the part of Quebec that housing and urban
renewal are provincial concerns.

If the Task Force report had come from a Royal
Commission or some other group not headed by a Cabinet
Minister, it would be easier to pass off the comments. As
the Task Force was headed directly by Mr. Hellyer, however,
it will be natural for the provincial governmenuaand
municipal governments to assume that the recommendations
in the report represent definite or likely federal govern-
ment policy. This sort of misunderstanding could simply add
fuel to the existing fires with which we will have to cope
at the Constitutional Conference.

It is our understanding that a Memorandum to

Cabinet will be coming from Mr. Hellyer in about two weeks
time and that document will contain precise recommendations
for implementation of certain parts of the report. Pre-
sumably, important changes will be recommended and this will
take time for consideration.

The decisions to implement the report can only be
taken after a good deal of thought has been given to them by the
Department of Finance and by various other offices of the
government, not to mention, of course, the various Cabinet
Committees and the Cabinet itself.

In the circumstances, it would seem to be out
of the question to take any policy stand on the recommen-
dations of the report prior to the Constitutional Confe-
rence or prior to Mr. Hellyer’s proposed meeting with the
provincial governments in Toronto. This, in turn, would
seem to make it advisable to ensure a clear understanding



on the part of Parliament, the provincial governments and
the public that the Task Force report does not in any way
constitute federal government policy and that it will take
some time for the government to study the recommendations
and to take into consideration the comments that it
receives from the provincial governments on these recom-

This approach would then simplify the answering

of any questions that might be raised on this subject
during the Constitutional Conference.

February 5, l969.

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