APRIL 9, 1970
The Road to Reform--Ontario Style
AN ADDRESS BY The Honourable John P. Robarts, P.C., Q.C., LL.D.,
PRIME MINISTER OF ONTARIO
CHAIRMAN The President,
H. Ian Macdonald
Before turning to our main business, I have a brief, but happy task to perform. The President of this Club, being front and centre at all times, is the recipient of any credit for the Club's performance--he will also inevitably be on the receiving end of any criticism. But this Club endures mainly because of the loyalty, interest and plain hard work of certain individuals. Among them, Harold Gillingham occupies a special place--please stand, Harold, for your citation.
For eight years he has organized our Head Table, which means he arranges, individually, for over 500 guests in a single season. Such is his charm, his sense of protocol and, above all, his persistence, that he has become almost an international figure. More important is the place he holds in the hearts of the eight Presidents with whom he has been associated. We have a simple, but sincere, gift for him today a specially engraved scroll, signed by the Presidents with whom he has worked, including the present Governor General of Canada. I wanted to acknowledge Harold in this manner before our season concluded and at a meeting when so many of his friends would be present. Harold would you please come forward and accept this gift, which you may take away on one condition--that you promise to continue arranging the Head Tables, in your inimitable fashion, for many years to come.
Gentlemen, this is the twenty-seventh introduction which I have undertaken during the current season of the Empire Club of Canada. My natural apprehension of over-exposure would be compensated for, normally, by the awareness that my term of office is shortly to be terminated. Moreover, we welcome today one of the most distinguished of those from whom we have heard this year. For that reason alone, my task should be an easy one. Unfortunately, it is never an effortless task to introduce "the boss" and, when the relationship is one of civil servant to political master, it becomes a most forbidding assignment.
I think of the story told by my friend, Eugene Forsey. He was speaking to a gathering in Prince Edward Island many years ago and the Premier of that Province had agreed to preside and to introduce him. He began by saying: "Well, here's Forsey; I don't know much about him, but here he is!" After the speech, the Premier rose to his full height and growled: "Before he spoke, I said I didn't know much about him--well, I know plenty now!" Five years ago, I did not know much about the Prime Minister of Ontario, but I know plenty now. Although it befits a Deputy Minister to remain silent in the present circumstance, I prefer to conform, at least, to Lord Beaverbrook's definition of the role of my British equivalent, an undersecretary. Beaverbrook once remarked: "The secretary's job is to make statements. The undersecretary's job is to make understatements."
Prime Minister Robarts is distinguished in the service of his country and prominent in the profession of the law; he was baptised politically in the rugged font of municipal government and has been confirmed in provincial politics by eighteen years in the Ontario Legislature, two-thirds of them in the Cabinet.
Presumably, he grew accustomed to high places at an early age as the result of his birth in Banff, Alberta, to bucking an opposition line while playing football at the University of Western Ontario, and to retaining his balance and equanimity during five years in the Royal Canadian Navy. Active service, between 1940 and 1945, took him to the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific theatres, and he was mentioned in dispatches during the Battle of Salerno. After the war, he resumed his studies at Osgoode Hall and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1947.
On one occasion, Sir Winston Churchill, a brilliant bricklayer as well as a cunning cabinet-maker, was building a wall. He was observed by a critic, whom he put firmly in his place. Told that the wall was crooked, Churchill quickly retorted: "Any fool can see what's wrong. But can you see what's right?" Credit has come to the Prime Minister of Ontario, from men of various political persuasion, for his contribution to a number of events, which have transformed the lives of many citizens in this province, and have been judged "right" by political followers and foes:
- the "Robarts Plan", whereby some high school students would be better prepared for a non-University career;
- the Ontario Foundation Tax Plan to assist in achieving equality of educational opportunity in Ontario;
- the establishment of French-language secondary schools; and,
- the Confederation of Tomorrow Conference in the style and tradition of the Charlottetown Conference of 1864.
"Ontario-1970" is an exciting place in which to work and live. There is no end to our opportunities for creating a truly distinctive style of life. In this society, the man who occupies the office of Prime Minister shoulders a large part of the responsibility for the direction in which that life will take us. His truly important task is to identify and to grasp the fundamental nature of our society at any given time. G. K. Chesterton once described a certain group by saying: "It isn't that they can't see the solution; they simply can't see the problem." Today, we welcome a man who lives daily with our problems and is expected to produce instant solutions?
Gentlemen, were we in the United States, I might have spared myself and you all that has preceded. In introducing the President in Washington, one follows a simple convention with the phrase: "Gentlemen, the President." I dared not import even such a slight degree of implied congressional practice to the very citadel of the parliamentary tradition--the Empire Club of Canada. However, in the face of such remarks as I have already made, I believe that it is now safe to say to you no more than: "Gentlemen, the Prime Minister of Ontario."
Mr. Chairman, honoured guests, and gentlemen. Thank you for your very warm welcome and, Ian, thank you for your kind introduction.
I remember speaking to Ian before he joined the Ontario public service. I said: "Why do you not just come along with the Ontario Government? I think it will probably be one of the most exciting periods of Canada's history." I do not think that I have been too far wrong.
His excitement in his present duties as president of this club has nothing to do with the Government other than we negotiated four separate occasions to get me here. Events forbade three of those occasions so I imagine it was with some sense of relief that Ian saw me walk in the door at noon today because things are moving with such rapidity in the world in which we live and work.
I am just delighted to be here. I gathered from Ian this was my last chance if I wanted to speak to you this year, so he too has the ability to issue ultimatums to me.
It is some considerable time since I have been here and had a chance to speak to you. The last time I was here was on the occasion of the Queen Mother's visit. A very pleasant and wonderful occasion that was. It is time we had another visit of that type, I think. I am highly honoured to join the ranks of speakers you have had during the 67 years of your history.
In my remarks today, I should like to deal with some of the broader aspects of the problems we face in Canada and in Ontario. In preparing my remarks I came across an intriguing cartoon in the Saturday Review and this cartoon--I have it here--shows a father dinosaur speaking to one of his offspring. They are standing knee-deep in the primeval jungle and the father says, "Look, kid. We are aware of the problems besetting our society and we are working on them."
The exact significance of this, of course, I will leave to you, but I suppose that cartoon and the idea behind it expresses really the timelessness of the eternal predicament in which man finds himself. I hope we will be more successful in finding solutions to our problems than were that dinosaur and his offspring.
I think that we are at least aware of our problems even though we may not always be able to produce instant answers. But we hope that we will be rewarded in the efforts we make. Certainly there is a great deal of work being done to unravel the problems.
You simply cannot solve any problem unless you are completely aware of what it is. Partial solutions, while sometimes necessary, are not always completely satisfactory.
I think we, as a people, are completely competent and able to meet the challenges we face. It is wise occasionally when you think nothing is really going well and nothing really is being done to take a look at history and take some solace from events of other days. Because, in this country we seem to bounce from crisis to crisis. It was the same in your day, Mr. Frost, and it was the same in other days. Yet, somehow we have succeeded in solving these problems and I am sure we will be able to solve some of our problems.
At the moment in our country, we need to attempt to find some consensus at least about the kind of country that we really want. What do we want? What are our intentions? We must spend some time looking at this question because our society is changing very, very rapidly. It seems to me that men of other years had much more time to consider and to ponder and to develop answers to some of the major problems than we have because our society alters with such incredible rapidity. I think that we are making decisions very quickly. We have to address ourselves to the problem, as I say, very rapidly because we have not the time.
I was looking through some records of a fishing club to which a former Prime Minister of Canada belonged. To my amazement I found that at one stage he spent six weeks in this fishing camp. I consider myself fortunate if I can get in there for four days. I use this as an illustration of the fact that I do not think that our predecessors really suffered under the same degree of instant pressure that we do, because of the speed with which things change in our society.
We are spending a good deal of time in the Province of Ontario studying so that we may reach some determination about the kind and quality of life we think our people want in the final decades of this century. Twenty-five years ago a great many of us here today were engaged in waging the Second World War. With us this does not really seem so long ago. And yet in the intervening years transformation in Ontario and Canada has been simply tremendous.
If we look back to the Second World War, then reverse the process and look ahead a similar period of time and project our thinking, we begin then to realize just the magnitude and the extent of some of the challenges that will have to be met in the next twenty-five-year period.
We are very lucky in this province. I do not think personally any of us can take a great deal of credit for it. The Good Lord has been very good to us in the natural wealth that we have and our geographical location. The Good Lord also has provided us with a population that is by and large very vigorous and very active and very vital. Some of our immigration policies have assisted us greatly in this regard. We are lucky, too, that our development has been just that much behind some areas that we are able to take advantage of other people's experience.
We are still able to preserve our own environment. I am certain that we are, if we use proper policies. We still have vast areas of natural beauty that we can preserve. We have an opportunity to repair much of the damage that has been done in the last 100 or 150 years. But we have no room for complacency. We have the time and opportunity to deal with the problem but if we do not take the opportunity that is ours right now, time will run out and time is running out very rapidly. The rate of change is so great and so fast that we are playing for very high stakes indeed, in my opinion.
So we come back to some very basic questions. What in fact do we really want? Do we know what we want? Can we get together to do what must be done? Can we get off the negative, the self-critical and self-destructive and get onto the positive approach to our problems? Are we going to be able to reduce some of what I consider to be the nonsensical competition of governments in this country? Are we going to be able to get together and look after our people cooperatively rather than always in an adversary position? I must admit I find this very depressing personally. I do not like it and I do not think it is right or good for Canada. Can we develop in our country some sense of urgency to cope with our problems? Can we develop the type of commitment and especially the co-operation that, for instance, World War Two brought to our people? Can we develop that type of feeling in peacetime?
The stakes for which we are playing in this country today are just as high as were those stakes we fought for in the 1940's. So, if we are going to control our own destiny and if we are going to decide what we want and if we are going to make an effort to achieve it, then we must be prepared to make certain commitments. And let us face it, we are going to have to accept some personal sacrifices which will be for the benefit of our society as a whole.
During the 1960's we in Ontario enjoyed one of the longest sustained periods of economic expansion in our history. I would point out that during that decade our gross provincial product ran from $15 billion to $34.7 billion and we estimate it will exceed $80 billion by 1980. During the same decade, in the 1960's, our population expanded by approximately one quarter from 6.1 million to 7.5 million. We anticipate it will reach 9.1 million by the end of this particular decade. These are relatively simple yardsticks by which we can get some measurement as to what lies ahead of us.
During the 1960's a new generation of Ontario Residents grew up. A new generation of Canadians grew up in that ten-year period. Their experience and the views they take are not necessarily our own. Their experience is not coloured by the Depression of the Thirties nor is their experience coloured by the blood and tears and difficulties of wartime. This generation is probably better educated and more aware. I notice a great awareness among our young people today. They are interested. They know more. They are more highly educated. More tools are being put in their hands and in their minds.
Their aspirations and their values are being shaped and have been shaped by circumstances quite different from the influences that made me and our generation what we are. They are much less concerned, for instance, with the rather frenetic activities of producing economic growth and wealth for their own sakes. I think that our generation, having come through the Depression and the war, and with the great backlog of things that were not done in those wartime years, have been preoccupied with economic growth and economic development. I do not think the generation below us have that same great sense of urgency for economic expansion for its own sake. I think this is beginning to appear in some of the attitudes that they are taking.
They appear to be much more concerned with the ends we will achieve with the wealth we have created, rather than just the creating of wealth. They are much more concerned with the values of our society. I think some of us will have to shift our positions and start to think of the values, and what are we going to do, and what use we are going to make of the wealth we have been able to create.
We must, of course, pay attention to the positive side of what these young people are saying and thinking. We must ask the same questions that they are asking. When you put them simply you can understand their bewilderment.
For instance, can you continue to accept the coexistence of hunger and wheat surpluses? That is a pretty simple concept. We have accepted it all our lives. I am suggesting there may be some young people coming along who are not prepared to accept the fact that these two things can co-exist, where you have hunger and food surpluses side by side. Can we accept the vast sums of money, for instance, that are being spent on weapons of destruction when we have so many positive things that are undone in our own society and with our own people? Can we really justify some of the things that are done in the name of economic advancement to our environment?
These obvious questions are all being raised today in a very positive way. Can we accept our usual approach as to how we treat our resources? I think these are some of the basic questions that are being forcefully put in front of us today. I have come to the conclusion, in any event, that perhaps it is we, in our generation, who need to do more of this changing. It is we who need to shift our positions, and it is going to be uncomfortable.
This is one thing you learn in government. As soon as you change anything that has been in existence for any period of time, human reaction is automatically against change because, of course, change is always uncomfortable. But we are going to have to do it whether it is uncomfortable or not. In fact, as a government, we are in the throes of suffering for some of the things that have been a little uncomfortable but nonetheless things that we had to do if we were to accept our responsibilities.
We need to demonstrate to all the people of our country from coast to coast that we have a real, abiding, humane and sincere feeling about the effect of anything we do as governments on each and every individual. We must demonstrate clearly that as governments we are using our resources to their maximum potential to improve the quality of life for everybody, and I mean everybody, in our society.
We can no longer tolerate different levels of quality for different people. This must be demonstrated not in pontifical phrases in front of the Empire Club but in actions that are producing the results we talk about.
As we enter the Seventies, we think there are three main areas of concern with which we will have to deal.
The first of these is the role of the individual in our society, the preservation of the individual's right and preservation of his opportunity. This is a matter of increasing concern because as a government increases its role in the total life of our society, it inevitably encroaches upon the rights of the individual. We must never forget that any time the state takes over any function whatsoever from the individual, the individual loses some small part of his decision-making rights, of his control of his own activities and his own life. So we must address ourselves with even greater vigour to the preservation of the rights and the position of the individual. We have undertaken a good deal of work in the last ten years.
Secondly, we must be concerned with maintaining the economic growth of our province in order to provide opportunities for the people here. Inexorably our work force grows by about 100,000 people each year. That is the number of new jobs we must create. We must provide a climate in which those jobs will be available.
Then, of course, we must be concerned with our environment and with the quality of life. In these simple words lie a very large range of governmental activity indeed. We have to start thinking about the quality of life that our children and our grandchildren will expect us to provide for them because if we do not do it now they will not have it when they want it. These things take time.
So we have three major elements and you can group most of our concerns in these three. The role of the individual, the continuance of economic growth and the management of the environment in which we will live. With some refinements and definition over what we did in the Sixties, these three areas will continue as the basis for our plans in the Seventies.
Just to give you some reference to what we have done in the Sixties, the Ontario Human Rights Code became a truly vigorous and functioning code. We established the McRuer Royal Commission Inquiry into Civil Rights. That study is going to be, in my opinion, one of the truly monumental works and efforts that will have been produced in this period of time. We have provided legal aid for our citizens. This is a great step forward in the preservation of rights for the individual.
We have developed a broad and sophisticated system of education in the province which once again directs itself to the individual by permitting him to become properly aware of his own capabilities and the knowledge of other people of other times. We completed in the Sixties a network of fourteen universities and twenty colleges of applied arts and technologies. This was all done in a relatively short ten-year period, and it is having its effect on the entire quality of life in this province.
We have broadened the elementary and secondary school system enormously in that ten-year period. We have also reduced the numbers of school administration units. When I was Minister of Education, there were about 4,500 school boards in this province. Today there about 110. Do not think that was not done without some pain and anguish; in particular, just figure out the number of elected positions we destroyed. Of course it was difficult. It never occurred to us it would be easy but we still think we would have abdicated our responsibility had we not done it. And, there will be other things, I am afraid, that will not be any more popular than that before we finish.
These things had to be done and they were done. We are really quite proud of what we have done in the field of education. We hope our people will be proud of it because, believe me, they have paid for it.
During the Sixties we extended our health care facilities, another personal area dealing with the rights and position of the individual. We have also instituted many changes in municipal government and we will have to institute more. Once again this is an area where there will be some sacrifices in order to achieve a better way of doing things. We are far from finished with what we will do in the municipal field.
Two weeks from today, at the Ontario Science Centre, we will convene the first in a series of provincial-municipal conferences. We will meet so that we may go ahead with the large problem of municipal reform with the full knowledge on the part of all as to what we are doing. We are launching with this particular conference a very searching examination of the problem. Here once again we must start by delineating the problems that face our local municipal governments.
We want to work in co-operation with them in finding the answers. We will exchange views. We will search out fresh approaches, for instance, to the financing and reorganization of the structure itself. We hope that we will be able to press on and get a similar type of co-operation with the federal government because the time has gone, in my opinion, when we can hope to function independently of one another. It just will not work.
We are going to have to develop a much closer system of co-operation with the federal government, just as we are proceeding to do the same thing between ourselves and the municipalities. We cannot live in isolation from one another.
Those are some of the essentials in this area that must be dealt with in the next ten years.
For several years we have been working in the province to create a programme of regional economic planning and development. This is going to bring some large changes in thinking by our people and by our governments. For instance, we want the better dispersion of people throughout the ten economic regions into which we have divided Ontario. We are not going to be able to allow people just to go where they want, because this may create many problems. We need planning to make sure that we make better economic use of our resources. We will be calling for more orderly land planning and use of land; of course, as always, there will be difficulties in this area.
In 1966, we launched this programme with a statement I gave in the House called "Design for Development". Later we went through Phase Two of "Design for Development". This is a very difficult task indeed because we really have no precedent to follow. We are breaking new ground, trying to find new ways of doing things.
Mr. Frost, of course, took a huge first step forward when he created Metropolitan Toronto. As I recall there were thirteen municipalities and only one of them approved of what you did. But had you not done it, Mr. Frost, what a mess we would be in today. One of the major problems facing the big cities of the world is the question of fragmented local government, where it is not possible to get things done on a broad basis. So against the wishes of certain people, Mr. Frost, you did what you did. We are all duly grateful that you did this in Metro the way you did it. We are going to hope for the same type of thing in our regional development programme.
We have completed the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Transportation Study, commonly known as MTARTS. This analyzed the future growth and requirements of the most highly developed area in Southern Ontario. In MTARTS we started dealing with transportation but we found we could not deal with transportation in isolation. We were automatically led into total examination and total planning for the whole area.
Therefore, as we move into the Seventies and these problems come to us, we in Ontario are about as well prepared to deal with them as any jurisdiction we can find. The only problem in government is that if you get too far ahead you are liable to lose your basis of support. It does not matter how many wonderful ideas you have, if you cannot get elected they are no good. Therefore, there are some fine lines to be drawn in how fast you can move and how far. What I am doing today is setting the scene for some of the things we are going to have to deal with. I say "we" collectively because they are going to affect every person in this room, every person who may see me making these remarks in some other parts of the province. Because, we must become accustomed to the idea there are going to be greater controls on our activity.
Now, if you accept that as a thesis, you can see how important it is that we also develop the protection of the individual because he is inevitably going to be subjected to more controls for the benefit of all. There will be greater controls in the use of land. There will be controls, in my opinion, that our people are not necessarily used to. I want them to understand why we are doing it. If we are to do what must be done to avoid the enormous urban problems of our neighbours in the United States, governments will have to step in and say "Thou shalt not". If they say that, they are going to have the understanding and the agreement of the people to whom they are speaking because we cannot do it in a vacuum. It can only be done if people really understand that it is not for the government that we are doing these things; it is for the people who ask us to look after their total interest.
On Tuesday, May 5th, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, the proposals of this government will be released for the long-range economic development and orderly growth of the region which encompasses a 90-mile arc around Metropolitan Toronto. These proposals are called "Design for Development: Toronto-Centred Region". We started with this area because it probably is the area which most needs some type of control.
"Design for Development: Toronto-Centred Region" is the outcome of comments and suggestions which followed the release of the MTARTS report, the planning study which started out to be a transportation study, some two years ago. We had been at work on this for some six or seven years to arrive at the position where we could submit to the people of the area conceptual proposals for their consideration and understanding.
Believe me, we are not imposing this. It is being put forward as a result of years of study so that people can understand the problems and the proposed solutions. I am quite certain there will be much comment. I am quite certain that before implementation there will be many changes made. And I am sure you will all agree that the question of the eventual size of Metropolitan Toronto cannot be treated as a separate question apart from all the rest of the province and particularly the orderly development of the central part of the province.
We are concerned. Our plans are designed to assist us in dealing with the problems of congestion, transportation, pollution, balanced economic growth and the quality of life, and by this we mean green spaces and open air, fresh air parks, access to water, fishing and shooting, skiing and camping, and all the things that people want to do. That is the quality of life which is so very important in the years ahead. None of these things can be done in isolation. Therefore we are going to have to have co-ordinated planning unprecedented in our history. These are the matters which will be discussed in the report on this Toronto-Centred Region. We hope this report will stimulate a careful examination of the proposals by all of those who are interested. Eventually it will lead to the adoption and implementation of a total provincial planning policy.
As we move ahead we must continue to pursue our goal of sustained economic growth, because only by so doing can we hope to meet the rising level of expectations among our people. Furthermore, if we cannot maintain a very dynamic economy in this province we will not have the funds to do these things for society which we think must be done. Therefore, the whole structure is based on a sound economy and that must remain one of our primary goals.
As you can see, many of the problems facing us will be in this area of combining individual rights with the social goals of our society. I foresee a larger role being played by government in all our lives in the years that lie ahead. I cannot say I am particularly happy about this because I am not happy about the intrusion of government into our private lives. Nonetheless, I do not see any other way that we can deal with the many extremely large problems which face our people today.
One encouraging note is that I am assured by the Deputy Treasurer it does not necessarily mean that, because the government may play a larger role in our lives, it will necessarily spend more of our money for us. I think that point should be made.
We are going to have to work out some new types of partnership between the government and the individual and between the government and industry in order that we may achieve these goals which, as I say, do not necessarily involve large expenditures of money. Once again this type of partnership I am speaking about must represent a consensus among us as to what we want and what commitments we are prepared to accept in order to achieve that type of life we want.
This is the type of planning and the type of partnership which we must encourage. It will be new to us. We will be breaking new ground. Frankly, it appeals to me as being very exciting indeed. As a government, we will do everything in our power to achieve the type of life we feel the people of Ontario want.
From my knowledge of the people of this province I am confident they will understand why we must do what we have to do. I am quite certain they will support us when we do it, if our explanations and our communications are proper and if people really do understand why we do the things that we do.
It will require that some individual rights take second place to the rights of the group, because as our population increases and these matters become more complex, the group has to be considered to an extent that the group has not been considered, perhaps, heretofore. We may have to ask that the people submerge some of their positions as individuals in the interests of long-range planning and in the interests of establishing a proper and fitting place for their children and grandchildren. If this is understood, we will have no difficulty.
I would just end on this note. All this to us who are in the government is exciting indeed. We have complete and absolute optimism in the capacity and ability of our people to meet these problems and to deal with them. I am sure that coming up in the generations which follows us is the vigour and vitality and free thinking which will make it possible for us to create these changes.
All of you, of course, are very active participants in the province at this time. Let us look upon it as a most stimulating era in the life of our province. Let us not succumb to the much too prevalent pessimism about what the future holds, because all is there for us to accomplish if only we will.
Mr. Robarts was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Mr. R. H. Hilborn.