19th Annual Premiers’ Conference, The Economy (9-12 August 1978)

Document Information

Date: 1978-08-10
By: Secretariat of the Conference
Citation: 19th Annual Premiers’ Conference, The Economy, Doc 850-10/017 (Regina/Waskesiu: 9-12 August 1978).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).


DOCUMENT: 850-10/017




August 10, 1978

August 9-12, 1978


The provincial Premiers reviewed the state of
the Canadian economy and the progress which they had made
towards achieving the goals established at last year’s Conference
in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

They noted that as provincial governments they had
made some fair degree of progress in the areas which they had
established as important in coming to grips with the dual problem
of unemployment and inflation.

– the provinces had restrained their operating
expenditures, with the growth of provincial
expenditures falling below that of the federal

– provincial public sector wage and salary
settlements have been comparable to or less than
those in the private sector.

In reviewing Canada’s current economic situation, the
Premiers noted that there were a number of positive signs.

In the second quarter of 1978, the economy was
producing jobs at more than twice the rate experienced in
l977. In July 422,000 more people were employed than at the
same time a year ago.


Both retail sales and business investment are showing
increased strength.

On the other hand, they noted that while the Canadian
job creation has been greater than that experienced in past
years, it was still unsatisfactory and unacceptable since there
are now close to one million people actively seeking employment
due, in part, to the rapid growth in the Canadian labour force.
While the provinces have introduced programs to alleviate this
problem further action and leadership by all governments in Canada
is required.

To turn this surge in labour force growth into an
opportunity rather than a problem, the Premiers agreed that a
co-operative effort would be required on the part of all levels
of government to build for the future.

In this context, the Premiers noted the contents of the
Prime Minister’s recent television address. They observed that
he was restating many of the points agreed to by all First
Ministers at last February’s Conference.

They also noted the Prime Minister’s promise to produce
an economic package to stimulate the economy to achieve a five
per cent rate of real growth to put young people back to work, to
encourage investment and to look after those hurt by inflation.


The Premiers cautioned that past experience with promised
federal spending cuts had resulted in little more than expenditure
shifts on to the provinces and local governments. They.urged that
the federal cuts be based upon increased efficiency in programs
administered by the Government of Canada rather than expenditure

To achieve the end of reducing the level of unemployment,
the Premiers agreed to a fiscal position of continued restraint
and efficiency in operating expenditures, but with sustained
investment in useful assets for the future.

The resources saved must be ploughed back into direct
job-creating efforts or into tax reductions for the stimulation
of investment and for the benefit of consumers.

The Premiers urged the joint development of a national
economic strategy. The February Conference was a step in this
process. The Premiers reaffirmed their commitment to the
principles agreed to but expressed their concerns about the lack
of progress on specific policy directions and projects also agreed to.

The Premiers discussed the following policy issues:


The Premiers again stressed the importance to the provinces
and to the overall Canadian economy of the GATT negotiations taking
place and asked that there be full and meaningful consultation


between the Federal Government and the provinces on Canada’s
position. The provinces must be fully informed as to Canadian
positions before the Geneva negotiations have been completed.

Resource Taxation

The Premiers agreed that the review promised by the
Federal government in February should proceed and be concluded with

Government Regulation

The Premiers repeated their call of the previous day
for immediate action to lessen government red tape and regulations
which have had negative impacts on the economy of the country and
on the daily lives of Canadians. They agreed that action should
not be dependent on lengthy studies of the type referred to the
Economic Council of Canada.

Transportation Policy

The development of a national transportation policy
is necessary to assure that it is an effective vehicle of regional
economic development. The Premiers agreed that this should be an
agenda item for the forthcoming meeting on economic policy.


Regional Development

Stress was placed on the spottiness of job creation
provincially and regionally within provinces, and recognition
given to the need for greater decentralization of economic


The Premiers agreed that the U.I.C. Act be changed, if
necessary, to provide for new uses of U.I.C. funds which would
be more conducive to job creation. In this respect they urged
the Federal Government to cooperate with the provinces, in
devising more creative use of the U.I.C. funds.

They agreed that, for instance, where a temporary
economic crisis disrupts employment patterns, a strategic
disbursement of unemploymentinsuranceumonies could maintain a
work force intact and hasten its reemployment.

Energy Policy

The Premiers called for creative measures to maximize
the utilization and development of all Candian energy resources
not just for domestic markets but also for foreign markets thus
improving Canada’s balance of payments. This will require a
reassessment of our National Energy Policy.



The Premiers called for a planned approach to commercial
development and greater provincial input into the formulation
and administration of overall policy.

Specific Projects

The Premiers also urged immediate action on specific

– the Energy projects agreed to in February

– railbed and equipment upgrading and implementation of the
Hall Commission

– upgrading the fishing fleet and facilities to take
maximum advantage of the 200 mile limit

– decisions on federal procurement of marine vessels

– port and harbour development


The Premiers agreed that a high level of inter-
governmental co-operation is essential and proposed that the
First Ministers meet on an annual basis at a fixed time to
ensure the development of a national economic strategy. In
this respect, the Premiers stressed that the meeting be held
at approximately the end of November each year.

The need for adequate advance consultation and
cooperation on contemplated tax measures affecting both levels
of government was stressed by the Premiers.

For the current year, the Premiers stressed that the
meeting scheduled for this November take place regardless of
the timetable for constitutional discussions.

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