Constitutional Conference, Opening Remarks by the Premier of Manitoba (14-16 June 1971)

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Date: 1971-06-14
By: Edward Schreyer
Citation: Constitutional Conference, Opening Remarks by the Premier of Manitoba (Victoria: 14-16 June 1971).
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JUNE 1971

June 14, 1971
VICTORIA, B.C. JUNE 14 — l6, l97l
Mr. Chairman:
I am very happy to join with you and my fellow
Premiers in congratulating the Province of British Columbia
on attaining its 100th anniversary as a province of Canada.
From the experiences of Manitoba’s Centennial last
year, including the royal visit and a meeting of the federal
Cabinet in our province, I know that the people of British
Columbia are drawing a deeper understanding of their own
history and a renewed dedication to play their full role in
the developing story of our country. Our present Conference
may well help British Columbia and all other provinces of
Canada to appreciate the importance and value of our federal
form of government and also to renew their intention to make
Canada a finer and an even more just society in this second
century of our Confederation.
Manitoba is fully convinced of the potential good
that can come from these constitutional talks in which we are
engaged. We recognize the reasons why it is desirable to
relate our constitution to the requirements of a federal state
in the late twentieth century. I believe that Manitoba delegations
have at all times tried to co-operate with the Government of
Canada and with the governments of the other provinces in trying
to bring the work of Constitutional Conferences to a point of
consensus and to conclusions which could be accepted.
After our meeting in Ottawa last February it did
seem that there was broad general agreement on a method of
bringing the Canadian constitution home to Canada so that it
could be amended in future through entirely Canadian processes.
Perhaps since February there has been an excessive desire on
the part of some governments to cram too much into a “package
deal” so that our apparent unanimity in February may now have
disappeared. I hope this isn’tso.

_ 2 _
At the outset of this meeting perhaps we would be
wise to resume exactly where we – thought we had reached a
point of unanimous agreement on a method of patriating the
Canadian constitution, of adopting a new amending formula and
of modernizing a number of the clauses in the existing constitu-
tion without changing any of its provisions in a substantive
way at this time.
I would ask First Ministers, however, to continue
to remember that the constitution of Canada – whether a new
instrument or the present time—tried one under which we have
lived from Confederation until this moment – is intended to
serve the people of Canada and to encourage their development,
and prosperity. I believe we must constantly remind ourselves
that the essential things for governments to be doing in the
Canada of today are connected with policies to reduce and
eliminate poverty, to improve the quality of education, and
manpower training, and to enable us to bring our resources to
serve our fellow citizens in all their many needs. Let us
view the proposals for changing the allocation of powers under
the Canadian constitution and for assigning financial resources
by asking how can the Canadian citizen best be served under our
constitutional arrangements. This may seem to be a trite
suggestion but the great aims of Confederation are sometimes
neglected in the attempt to play constitutional chaos,
This leads me to Manitoba‘s deep concern with the
basic fiscal issues that must be resolved this year. Our
country’s present tax system is inequitable, regressive, and
inefficient. It is increasingly out of touch with the rapidly
changing division of responsibilities between the federal
government on the one hand and provincial and municipal govern-
ments on the other. Municipal governments are particularly
hard pressed. We have many times made known our fears that
under pressure from special interests the “tax reforms” that

_ 3 _
were promised will be so altered as to perpetuate the privileges
of the past. I repeat that constitutional change will mean
little unless tax reform produces equity, and unless tax-
sharing produces a modern view of provincial and local tax
needs. Well – it won’t be long now before we find out.
I might add that it is difficult to divorce tax-
sharing from problems related to federal-provincial shared-cost
programs. The federal government has in the past urged the
provinces to join it in important cost-shared programmes, such
as hospitalization and medicare. Ottawa has more recently
recognized the need for federal participation in the field of
post-secondary education. These are all excellent contributions
to the quality of life in Canada. Manitoba has whole-heartedly
supported them.
It is, therefore, with the greatest concern that we
now discover that the central government is beginning to walk
away from and abandon commitments which we logically assumed
were firm. The consequences of federal withdrawal would simply
be that growing residual costs would rest on the provinces, an
intolerable burden, and especially for the less prosperous ones.
We must not underestimate the problem in Canada of
providing social services that are acceptable in amount and
effective in form. A rational tax system is indispensable if
the problem is to be solved. The war on poverty, carried on
in formal committees and government secretariats, has met with
little real success. Welfare programmes, it is increasingly
realized, fail in their purpose and are smothered by bureaucratic
detail. The whole pattern must be redesigned. You will know
of Manitoba’s deep interest in proposals for reform in terms
of a Guaranteed Annual Income. It is my opinion that it would
be wise to push ahead in this area by well-prepared but prudently
limited pilot projects so that we will not have to speculate
year after year whether a rational guaranteed annual income
or negative income tax program will be good or bad for individual
initiative and human dignity.

_ 4 _
I must now speak bluntly about the state of the economy.
This past winter Canada experienced the highest levels of ’
unemployment in a decade, with unemployment figures registering
over two-thirds of a million people. In terms of family support,
this meant approximately two million Canadians or more immediately
affected by national economic policies. The unemployment crisis,
part of which has been deliberately induced, still exists with
little change projected for the immediate future.
An estimate of the cost to the national economy has been
set at $4 billion a year by the Chairman of the Economic Council of
Canada. In Manitoba we estimate the corresponding cost to be about
$150 million a year. The human counterpart is found in the hundreds
of thousands of Canadian citizens who have lost their jobs and
whose families have been exposed to hardships through no fault of
their own.
There is only one employment policy by the Government of
Canada acceptable to Canadians, and that is a commitment to fgll
employment, defining full employment at the level recommended by
the Economic Council of Canada, It is difficult to understand how
the federal authorities could ever have let themselves be
persuaded that unemployment should be an instrument of national
policy. In their justly praised “White Paper“ on Employment and
Income published in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, the
spokesmen at Ottawa promised the economics of Depression would
never again be tolerated and a commitment to full employment was
Who would have thought that twenty-five years later
unemployment would be deliberately induced and the unequivocal
commitment withdrawn, so that today’s Minister of Finance in effect
says only ‘full employment if possible but possibly not full
employmentl? Manitoba urges a return to the White Paper of l945:
its concept of full employment policy.

_ 5 _
But it is easy to criticize if one forgets inflation harm.
So I turn to the problem of prices. Any policy causing mass
uneWP1°Yment to combat rising prices must be rejected. The so-
called victory over inflation purchased at measurable costs in
lost production, in social discontent, and in pointless misery of
the unemployed, has proved not to be a victory even in its own
terms. We note that current increases in prices show we are back
where we began; the monthly costs of living increases are as high
as they ever were.
In suggesting alternative policies the Manitoba Government
recognizes that ours is an open economy next to a giant from which
prices spill over in hundreds of channels and through a multitude
of influences. We have emphasized to the federal government the
predominancy of this linkage to inflation in the United States.
Nonetheless, if Ottawa decided that controls on prices and
wages were necessary, then controls on profits, controls on
professional fees, controls on capital gains, rents, interest and
dividends would be equally required. Furthermore, any federal
action of this kind would need selective investment controls to
ensure the support of public and socially necessary private
In addition, federal commitments would be needed to keep
urgent social and economic development moving ahead while non-
essential and excessive activity is being cured. Controls would
have to be technically workable, and fair and equitable in their
applications as among persons and regions. But we are not convinced
that even the public relations efforts of the Prices and Incomes
Commission of last year was successful — certainly it was not
effective in dealing with inflation and certainly as regards to
unemployment it had no proposals to offer.

_ 5 _
We cannot look at these problems only from the industrial
side. No-one has been more burdened by the errors of the past few years
than the farmers of Canada. As a partial remedy, Manitoba has
proposed a net income stabilization plan of modest proportions that
would guarantee prairie farmers a return for their labour and
investment of $10 per acre up to a maximum of 500 acres per farm.
The plan is flexible and could be easily administered.
We disagree fundamentally with Ottawa’s concept of a
stabilization plan based on gross receipts. The all-important
thing is that farmers must have some assurance of a pet income,
an income that they can spend on the things every family needs.
The formula we have proposed, based on average costs and yields
and would not fall into the trap of rewarding inefficiency.
We have positive suggestions in all of these areas.
Accordingly we recommend that the Government of Canada:
(1) institute a massive public housing program across
the land by providing additional mortgage money for
low—cost housing; furthermore it is time for the
federal government to get back into certain
federal programs;
(2) expand anti—pollution programs, including the
provision of capital for municipal and industrial
sewage and waste treatment facilities;
(3) accelerate the construction of public facilities
that have been neglected to date such as nursing
homes, roads to resources and other socially
required facilities;
(4) increase purchasing power by tax relief for low
income groups, and by increasing allowances
to those on pensions and other fixed incomes.
There should be a cost of living escalator in
social allowances;
(5) provide funds for child care, convalescent services,
assistance to elderly persons, recreation,
conservation and public health. This would increase
employment opportunities for young people;

_ 7 _
(6) go ahead with the transitional payments of
$100,000,000 to prairie farmers without tying
them to the provision of the discredited
Bill 244;
(7) introduce a two-price system for wheat, as
other major wheat producing countries have
(8) expand the economy by active government planning
in conjunction with the provinces and the
municipalities. In the 1970’s urban Pr°blem5
will crowd in onus even more – as an example,
the neglect of public transit will require funds
to reverse.
Economic growth is necessary to absorb our rapidly
growing work force but it must be planned growth, and growth
which will improve the quality of life for all Canadians. In a
land where there is so much to do the irony is that so much is
left undone while so many are, at the same time, unable to get

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