Ontario of the Future
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Nov 1971, p. 84-92
Nixon, Robert F., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Short review of the results of the recent election. Unemployment a provincial responsibility as well as federal. Suggestions for solutions: school facilities to operate year-round; set up a provincial employment program. Legislative reform. Regionalization. Centralization. Predictions of the consequences of the Ontario government's policies.
Date of Original
25 Nov 1971
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
NOVEMBER 25, 1971
Ontario of the Future
CHAIRMAN The President, Henry N. R. Jackman


Our guest today is Mr. Robert F. Nixon, the Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition in the Legislature, and Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. 1 might add that this is the first major address that our guest has given to a Toronto audience since the last provincial election, an election which all politicians must have considered as something of a traumatic experience.

We are glad, however, to see him again at The Empire Club with his usual smile and cheerful disposition, ready once again to meet the challenges as they may come, and take advantage of new opportunities as they present themselves.

I suppose, if one is a Liberal in the Province of Ontario, one must feel that the Conservative election record in recent years is something of an exercise in perpetual motion, and the discouragement on the part of some of Mr. Nixon's colleagues may well be giving way to a general feeling of resignation, that there will always be Conservative Governments. I was very interested to note that in Mr. Nixon's official biography, his 260-acre farm in Brant County is described as an historic site. I am not sure whether it is the antiquity of the buildings that make it historic. I think perhaps a better explanation of its uniqueness is the fact that it was the home of the last Liberal Premier of Ontario, which to the uneducated must date it back to Joseph Brant and the Iroquois.

If it is any consolation to Mr. Nixon, the disappointment of the Liberals at losing the general election can be nothing compared with the discouragement felt by members of the Brant County Progressive Conservative Association who have seen Nixons--both father and son--win 17 consecutive victories, in every election since 1919. So perhaps Mr. Nixon will agree that long traditions of service are not always a bad thing.

Our guest came from a rural background, and was indoctrinated at a very early age in Western Ontario Liberalism. Educated at local schools, he went on to McMaster University and received, in 1950, his Degree with Honours. As a young man, he was a high school teacher at Sault Ste. Marie, and in his own County town of Brantford, where he was Head of the Science Department at North Park Collegiate. Politics, however, proved to be an irresistible draw. and on the death of his distinguished father he was elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1962, a position to which he has been re-elected three times. His advancement in his own party was predictably rapid. The year of his formal entry to politics saw him elected President of the Liberal Association in Ontario, and in 1967 he became the Liberal Leader, and Leader of the Opposition--a position which he has filled with intelligence and dignity.

Many of us here watched the last election campaign on television, where Mr. Nixon was shown with his lovely wife, Dorothy, and his children, living together with his mother, on the family farm--which has been in the Nixon family since the original Crown grant. Those of us who are conscious of our heritage found it very easy to identify Mr. Nixon's life style with those traditions of early Ontario which are the root upon which our Province's present greatness is founded. The Nixon family represents the best in our Ontario traditions--and if our guest today continues to show the same determination and perseverance which his forebearers have shown, I am sure Mr. Nixon will undoubtedly be called upon to serve his Country and his Province in yet some greater capacity.

I have, therefore, the great pleasure in introducing to you, Mr. Robert Nixon, Leader of the Opposition, and Leader of the Liberal Party in Ontario.


I am honoured to be asked once again to address the Empire Club.

As a politician, I am aware of the importance of your collective opinions, and as a realist, I know I am talking to a group that does not always agree with my philosophy nor the policy of my Party.

I do, however, want to talk politics. The last few months--during and just before the provincial election have been full of political sound and fury--Royal Commissions of Enquiry, gauntlets hurled to the ground, and predictions of political victories. But this political smog is quickly cleared by the people at the polls.

On October 21st, the people expressed themselves clearly handing another overwhelming mandate to the Conservative Party. While it is true that 56% of the people voted against the "Bill Davis team", still, in the Legislature where it counts, the government is supported by 78 out of the 117 Members. Clearly, the Conservatives will be in a position to run the show.

This Conservative win occurred in the face of the provincial trends in Canada during the last two years. The governments have changed in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, with the changes in Prince Edward Island and Quebec occurring fairly recently as well. Only British Columbia with Mr. Bennett, and Ontario have bucked the trend--the outcome in Newfoundland, at least according to Mr. Smallwood, is still in doubt. The situation there is something like the political events in Ontario a hundred years ago. In the election of 1871, Premier John Sandfield Macdonald, leading the Liberal-Conservative Party, was defeated by the Reformers in March 25th. He hung on until the administration ran out of funds late in December before turning over the government to Edward Blake.

However, Mr. Chairman, the provincial election of 1971 was not just number nine in an unbroken record of Conservative victories since 1943. It has given a massive legislative majority to Bill Davis which in the tradition so substantially established by his Party he will attempt to maintain at least for the next decade.

I am not here as a knee-jerk opposition politician predicting his failure in achieving this goal. Rather, like yourselves, a taxpayer and family man interested in public affairs I want to consider the problems the province must face in the next decade and what the solutions might be.

The most pressing problem is employment. To continue identifying this entirely as a federal problem is irresponsible and ignores the fact that our projected provincial expenditure this year is $4.5 billion. Ontario has one-third of Canada's population and about one-half of our gross national product earned here. While federal programs must provide a basis for equalization of opportunity and strengthening of national unity, still Ontario must and will, I predict, take independent initiatives to keep our employment levels high and our economy expanding.

The real challenge will be to provide jobs for our young people, particularly following post-secondary education. Stories of Ph.D's selling encyclopedias and driving buses are common. The real tragedy is that by far the largest group among the unemployed are under age 25. Most of them have good formal education but little or no experience.

When one considers the massive public investment already made in the province of education facilities, it is obvious that we must follow through with a two-pronged approach to the problem.

First, our post-secondary facilities must operate year-round.

The so-called "summer holiday" established when young people were needed for the harvest, interrupts the efficient use of the facilities and the students' time. Under a full semester system, the students could choose when time away from formal education would be most advantageous for them. Almost as many could be ski instructors and winter resort employees as lifeguards in the summer; and on a broader base, business and industry could have programs for student employment allied to the educational direction being followed that would be available in three-month periods all year around, not just during the summer when all the young people flood the labour market.

Even for the ones who hitch-hike the summer away and I for one hope that as many as possible get a chance to travel around--the ease and cost of student travel to Europe means that for our young people at least, the world can truly become a global village.

The second thrust to counteract unemployment among the youth will be a provincial employment program geared to four-semester year-round education. Such a program will provide three months' employment anytime during the year. The jobs would be a direct part of provincial programs in recreation, conservation, forestry, highways, hydro, agriculture, education, mental hospitals, the courts, law enforcement; in fact, in all areas of public responsibility.

Not only would the young people have work during part of the year, but they would earn money to assist in the continuation of their education. They would also have the experience of a job in an area of public service that would, I believe, be valuable in the formation of their attitudes toward the community and their responsibilities as citizens.

At the session of the Legislature convening in the next few weeks, we must come to grips with means whereby Ontario strengthens our program to combat unemployment. During the election campaign, Mr. Davis promised to reduce personal income tax by 3%.

We must also move to utilize Ontario's share of the $1 billion federal program announced six weeks ago. I trust that a substantial program to improve employment prospects for our young people will be a part of it.

The second matter that I believe the government will deal with is the reform of the Legislature itself. This will be forced on Mr. Davis by his large caucus of 78. These people will not be content to sit in the offices waiting for the division bells to call them to vote with a "ready, aye ready" attitude towards public affairs and Party loyalty.

I predict that Mr. Davis will expand the size of his government by giving many more of his followers in the Legislature jobs in the administration. While they will not have cabinet rank, they will follow the same role as the Parliamentary Secretaries at Ottawa. At the same time, real and decisive power over policy and administrative decision will be concentrated in a much smaller inner cabinet.

I predict that regional government will be imposed on four new areas of the province within a year. Even though local government costs in the new Niagara Region went up 40% in the first eighteen months, still it looks as if other areas are slated for the same treatment. Just like the imposition of County Boards of Education occurred six weeks after the election of 1967, so this new push to regionalize will occur in the early part of the term to let the political heat dissipate well before 1975. Halton-Peel, HamiltonWentworth, Haldimand-Norfolk, and Oshawa-Ontario are the areas slated for regionalization.

It is easy to predict that costs of government will soar in these areas. Expectations of economy of scale and elimination of duplicate programs have withered with the experience of the regionalizing and centralizing programs of the last six years.

Inherent in the programs and the philosophy of the present government is the centralization of even more authority over local councils and boards. However you might feel about the decision to stop Spadina, it is just another indication of the government's policy to override the authority of municipal councils and planning boards.

I regret deeply the erosion of the authority of locally-elected boards, councils, and authorities, but I predict that the implementation of the Toronto-Centered Plan, and other plans covering the province, will mean an escalation of centralized decision rather than the reverse.

This means, of course, that the present provincial civil service numbering 65,000 will expand to at least 72,000 by 1975, excluding from the count the employees of Ontario Hydro presently numbering about 24,000.

All of these programs cost money, and my predictions in this area will conclude my remarks.

The $1.8 billion spent by the province in 1967 has mushroomed to $4.2 billion estimated this year. With the fulfillment of promises made by Mr. Davis during the election such as free medicare for pensioners, the expenditure this year will be at least $4.5 billion. Provincial spending has increased since 1968 at twice the growth rate of Ontario's economy.

The pressures on provincial revenues have led the Ontario government to blame the federal administration, more and more shrilly, for not increasing Ontario's share of the income tax revenue. In this connection, it should be noted that the share of the personal income tax revenue collected by the government of Canada and paid back directly to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of Ontario is expected to amount to $1.05 billion this year, by far the largest single source of provincial revenue.

Both the Premier and the Treasurer, Mr. McKeough, have cajoled, threatened, and berated the government of Canada for not collecting and rebating more money for Ontario--so far to no avail. The federal authorities have made it plain repeatedly, that if Ontario needs more revenue then the provincial government must take the responsibility itself in raising the income tax. This step has been taken by four other provinces, and I predict Ontario will follow suit within two years. The increasing atmosphere of confrontation and recrimination which has recently marked fiscal relationships between Canada and Ontario is regrettable and can lead to nothing but further overlapping of responsibilities, high collection costs, and more confusion to the taxpayer instead of the real tax reform so seriously needed.

These, then, gentlemen, constitute a few of my predictions for the directions the government of Ontario will take. Many other areas of compelling importance I have ignored, such as labour and farm policy which will occupy much of our attention.

My own experience as a Member of the Legislature for ten years, and Leader of the Opposition for five, is that all of us, regardless of political affiliation, share the same goal. The building of a better community in Ontario as the leading province in a unified Canada concerns us all. Having prophesied problems, I must also say I feel confident and optimistic that our democratic system will cope with them effectively.

Mr. Nixon was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Mr. Joseph H. Potts, C.D., Q.C.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Robert Nixon, the son of the last Liberal Premier of Ontario had, since 1967, been Leader of the Liberal Party in Ontario and Leader of the Opposition in the Ontario Legislature. This was the first major address by Mr. Nixon since the October 21st General Election, which saw the Liberal strength in the Ontario Legislature reduced from 27 to 20 members.

Mr. Nixon made some predictions as to the future thrust of Provincial policy in the years ahead. On February 12, 1972, less than three months after this address was given, Mr. Nixon announced to a Liberal Party meeting in Ottawa that he was stepping down as Leader of his Party in Ontario and would not be a candidate at the leadership convention to be held in 1973.

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Ontario of the Future

Short review of the results of the recent election. Unemployment a provincial responsibility as well as federal. Suggestions for solutions: school facilities to operate year-round; set up a provincial employment program. Legislative reform. Regionalization. Centralization. Predictions of the consequences of the Ontario government's policies.