A New National Economic Policy
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Oct 1971, p. 1-10
Davis, The Honourable William, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
National economic policy. Suggestions for future policies. Ontario's role in determining national economic policy. A review of Ontario's current activities. Federal-provincial economic interdependence. The Ontario Advisory Committee on Confederation and new terms of reference.
Date of Original
1 Oct 1971
Language of Item
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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.
Empire Club of Canada
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Full Text
OCTOBER 1, 1971
A New National Economic Policy
AN ADDRESS BY The Honourable William Davis, Q.C., M.P.P., LL.D., PRIME MINISTER OF ONTARIO
CHAIRMAN The President, Henry N. R. Jackman


Although it is not customary for the President of the Empire Club to ask someone other than the principal speaker to address the meeting, I know you will all agree with me that the importance of the United Appeal to our metropolitan community deserves making an exception. I would like to present to you Mr. James C. Thackray, Executive VicePresident of Bell Canada and this year's Chairman of the United Appeal.


I speak to you on behalf of more than 125,000 families who are clients of one of the seventy-eight United Appeal Agencies in Metropolitan Toronto. Perhaps some of those families are represented in this room. One doesn't need to be poverty-stricken to need help in dealing with the realities of living in a contemporary, complex, urban society.

Obviously, however, most clients of United Appeal agencies could not buy the services they receive from the Agencies. The rest of us then must fill the gap, between income from Government grants and fees and the small amounts some clients can pay. Hence, the United Appeal Campaign--a great means to a noble end.

This year, the needs are pressing--you know, as well as I, how important it is for us to keep these voluntary agencies going. The quality of life in Metro is vitally affected. We count on your support. An extra dime on every dollar donated--or ten dollars on every hundred--will put us over the top.

Now, we notice that another campaign is underway that is due to culminate on October 21st. It is important also and, therefore, we gladly accept the fact that our political friends are poaching on the traditional United Appeal time across Ontario. So we say--"After you have canvassed, collected and contributed to your United Appeal Campaign, don't forget to vote for the candidate of your choice."


Last February, when our guest became Premier of Ontario, I invited him to be the opening speaker for The Empire Club's 1971-72 Season, an invitation which he very graciously accepted. Since that time, only seven short months ago, many changes have taken place in the political life of our Province. Through circumstances well beyond the control of The Empire Club, though perhaps not entirely beyond the control of our Premier, this has perhaps been a busier fall for our guest than he might have anticipated when he accepted our invitation. We are, therefore, doubly grateful that he has seen fit to honour this longstanding commitment.

The presence of the Premier of Ontario at Empire Club Luncheons is, of course, not unusual. Every Premier of Ontario has spoken to this Club, usually many times during his term of office. I could go further and say that every Premier of Ontario in the past 70 years has also been a member of The Empire Club. In fact, three Premiers of Ontario, Sir William Hearst in 1922; the Honourable George Drew in 1932-33; and the Honourable G. Howard Ferguson in 1940-41 have served as Presidents of this Club.

In the event that some of our guests may think that this seeming connection between The Empire Club and the Premier's office is a bit untoward or strange, I can assure you that while there is a very good chance that every Premier of Ontario will be asked to join, if not to become President of The Empire Club, I can likewise assure you that it is very unlikely that every President of The Empire Club will ever receive a reciprocal invitation.

I, therefore, urge those guests here who would like to join The Empire Club--and I sincerely hope you will do so, simply by filling out the forms left on the tables and mailing them to the Club's Secretary -that you will do so in the expectation of good food, good company and good speeches, and not consider it as an opportunity for political advancement.

The role of Premier of Ontario has never been an easy one. If one took the time to read the addresses of successive Premiers of Ontario in our Yearbooks, going back now for almost 70 years, one would very quickly begin to realize that the responsibility of our Province's Chief Executive has certainly not diminished through the years. In this age of ever increasing government involvement in our daily life, the sheer size and economic importance of Ontario to the rest of Canada, has compelled our modern Premier to look outward and take a national rather than a provincial view of his responsibilities.

Our guest today has dedicated his life to the science of politics and government. Elected to the Legislature at the age of 29, a Cabinet Minister at 32 and Prime Minister at 41, William Davis, perhaps unlike others who are summoned to such high office, has exhibited a rare degree of professionalism and understanding of government processes. His Administration, though only seven months old, has come to office highly responsive to demands for change, but, at the same time, feeling secure in its ability to move the levers of government firmly in accordance with its own deep felt convictions and beliefs.

Three weeks from today the future of Bill Davis will be decided by a constituency far greater than those assembled here--and on this the first day of October, 1971, in the midst of a fiercely contested election battle, it is very difficult not to be conscious of the role of Bill Davis as a political partisan. This is a role which, of course, all Prime Ministers must play.

It is easy in times like these, to forget that on most of the really important issues all Parties are united. It is also perhaps easy to forget that no one political party has a monopoly of concern for individual liberty and human betterment.

As the Premier of Ontario must at all times represent each and every one of us and provide the leadership which our Province and nation so richly deserve: the man I now introduce you to is in a very real sense--Leader of the Province and Prime Minister of us all.

I present to you the Honourable William Davis, Prime Minister of Ontario.


Some of you will recall that four years ago the Government of Ontario took the initiative to convene a Confederation of Tomorrow Conference. The purpose of that conference was to explore the possibility of ters affecting national unity. It provided focus for both the concensus and agreement among the provinces in matters relating to constitutional issues and having to do with matpolitical leaders and the Canadian people.

We were all seeking the assurance of our survival as a harmonious nation and the development of a true cultural identity satisfactory to the historic character of Canada. Such has been our continuing concern.

At the most recent Federal-Provincial Conference at Victoria, the provinces and the federal government failed to achieve concensus about the future shape of the Canadian constitution. No one should regret that the effort was made, nor should anyone conclude that the matter is impossible of achievement. If anything, there is greater urgency and, more than that, it is now obvious that there are other important considerations relating to the Constitution which must be resolved.

During these years of self-examination and introspection, Canada enjoyed an unprecedented period of steady economic growth. This salutory condition of our economy was taken as a given fact, and not until very recently was there any substantial body of public opinion or discernible government effort directed to economic considerations. Nevertheless, our economy has for some time been showing the strain of prolonged unemployment, low productivity, and the failure to produce to capacity.

Easy assumptions as to when and how the economy would resume its normal course, or what so many considered its normal course, disappeared in the wake of the American measures which were proclaimed on August 15th, so that once again, for the first time in a long time, national economic policy becomes an urgent concern and one that, I suspect, will dominate the decade of the seventies and be the principal preoccupation of all Canadians and their governments.

I hope this somewhat dismaying discovery will make way for an earnest effort to develop an explicit national policy or national objectives and aspirations in pursuit of which policy can be framed. To that general observation, let me attach some matters more specific.

In whatever future policy, there now needs to be an emphasis, if not an insistence, on the need for us to process more of our own national resources and minerals in Canada. There must be clear recognition of the need for research and development in Canada, more of it Canadian, regardless of the nationality of the enterprise.

We must make the maximum effort to exploit certain of Canada's clear bargaining advantages in relation to the export of our natural resources. We need to have a more explicit policy regarding resource conservation.

There must be a consideration, if not a determination, of those areas of the country which should more effectively concentrate on resource development, and those areas where secondary manufacturing can be viable in terms of the economies of scale and desirable in terms of the protection of the environment.

There must be a clear recognition of the pressing need for new manpower policies, both in terms of creating opportunities for the young and for the retraining of older citizens.

There is no greater disaster area in the field of public policy than in welfare. The resolution of this problem can only be found in new policy.

We must find ways and means to draw upon the considerable savings in Canada which, in terms of national requirements for capital, now amount to hoarding, so that we can encourage entrepreneurship and business investment, and while we cannot as a manufacturing and trading nation interfere with the basic need for greater scale and production, we need policies which are designed to enhance and maintain competition in the economy.

There are some, but not all, matters which await our study and initiative. Saying so, I should now add that Ontario is the province that provides two-fifths of the Gross National Product and provides two-fifths of the jobs in our country. I take it for granted that the Government of Ontario has a role and a responsibility in the development of national economic policy. No provincial government, much less Ontario, can be indifferent to the success or failure of such policy.

One does not need to be in an election campaign to discover the obvious fact that the voter does not go about with a copy of the British North America Act in his pocket. He does not consult it very often, and he is not fully aware of which government is responsible for what. Instead, he is inclined to confront the first politician he encounters and ask "What are you going to do about it?" and indeed, he is more often right than wrong in the belief that more than one government is involved in almost every area of public policy. But when I say they are involved, and when one admits the interrelationship and mutual interest, this does not assume, unfortunately, either co-ordination or cooperation. There is never too much of it and, more often than not, there is not enough of it.

In recognition of this, Ontario has already gone quite a distance. We have our Federal-Provincial Affairs Secretariat, our Central Economic Planning Branch, our regional development program, and our basic taxation and fiscal policy programs, but we must go further in the future organization of government in this province. But it is not only up to Ontario, or any other province, to recognize the need. It is essential that there also be that recognition in Ottawa.

I agree that it is easier to recognize the shortcomings of others than the faults of one's self, but surely it is now abundantly clear that part of our failure to articulate clear national economic objectives and to develop economic policy has been due to our failure to co-ordinate our efforts and to co-operate with one another. For example, I have in mind income tax reform, the recent new proposals for Unemployment Insurance; and the recently announced family income and supplement program. These are three federal programs which were developed and which are proceeding independently, and their efforts will be less than satisfactory and less than desired because of the failure to develop them together.

Whatever the cloth or colour of the federal administration or a provincial one, economic interdependence is a fact of life. The great majority of Canadians accept the premise that it is in the national interest that we process our own resources. Nothing stands in the way of that short of national policy, but it cannot be a policy handed down.

Instead, it requires complete federal-provincial cooperation. For example, the federal government controls policy over the export of energy, but the provinces control production of these products and have a natural concern as to their viability and distribution. Co-operation, then, is a basic requirement.

These are the matters that should now occupy our concern and demand our energies if we are to maintain an efficient economy and an effective Confederation. It is for these reasons that I have decided to reconstitute the Ontario Advisory Committee on Confederation and give it new terms of reference. I have asked the Chairman, Mr. Ian Macdonald, to make recommendations to the Government, which I expect to have shortly, which in reconstituting the Committee will place the emphasis much more squarely on the functional and economic policy problems which Canada will face and, indeed, faces now, and in devising means within our jurisdiction to solve them.

Now, if I might, Mr. Chairman, address myself to matters of the day, it has been my observation that every political leader brings to government something of his own personal attitudes and aspirations which cannot help but be an influence upon the development of government policy and which will shape the character of his administration.

It is, of course, a political imperative that you win, but it is also a matter of personal decision if an electoral victory is seen as being likely, or at least possible, how you are to win. In other words, the terms of your mandate.

Some may feel, and they may be right, that we should enliven the election campaign with promises and easy assurances. I confess to be inhibited by an intimacy with the facts. Some people do not like to be told that any government is limited in its powers, that all problems do not have immediate solutions, that the only government source of income is the taxpayer, and that everyone is in fact a taxpayer.

It is sometimes politically expedient to delay decisions. It is always easier to say "yes" than "no" and it is often a temptation not to say either.

In the first few months in the Prime Minister's Office at Queen's Park, I cannot recall making any decision in which I could be certain that the majority would approve of it. I believe it more important, however, that people have a decision and, whatever it is, that they believe you did what you thought was right, whether or not it was popular.

These are the times of difficulty and anxiety for a number of Canadians, those without work and many others who are insecure in their jobs. It is of first importance that we do not lose confidence in our capacity to respond to the challenges to our economy and, indeed, to our economic system.

I believe the surest way to lose the confidence of many is to create false and unrealistic expectations. The casualties of public failure of expectations is a loss of faith in our political institutions and in public men.

It is always a poor political risk to seek power by abandoning responsibility; today, the risk could be fatal.

This is a poor time for Ontario to set one group of our people against another, to sow seeds of suspicion and resentment, to conceal our real problems behind hollow slogans and abusive rhetoric. I believe it will be tragic if we fail to respond to the hard realities confronting too many Canadians who are faced with the loss of months and years of productive life.

The need for jobs is the first priority, and all the talk of belligerent jingoism and pie-in-the-sky economic theorizing, will not put one man back on the job, or keep him there.

No one has a greater stake in the decisions to be made in the interest of national economic policy than has Ontario. Ontario cannot prosper if a great part of the country is a depressed area.

Ontario cannot grow and diversify and market her products to the world if Canada is seen as a nation of confused and feeble purpose, internally divided and at odds with her neighbours.

This is a time for Ontario to exert its leadership and use its basic strengths of resources and skills to fulfill a new role in the determination of a new national policy. To do so, and to succeed, requires of us some sacrifice of self-interest, and it requires a stable government supported by a confident people. I regard this period in our history as a test of the maturity and common sense of our people, and an indication of their strength and resolve. Because I have confidence in them and in Ontario, I am only anxious that we all get on with the task at hand.

Mr. Davis was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Mr. Robert L. Armstrong.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This speech was given just three weeks prior to a general election in Ontario. The Progressive Conservatives had been in power since 1943 and there was considerable speculation as to whether William Davis, who had succeeded to the office of Premier on the retirement of The Honourable John Robarts just seven months earlier, would be able to hold on to a majority in the Legislature. These reservations proved unfounded as Mr. Davis increased his party's standing, winning 78 seats to 20 seats for the Liberals and 19 seats for the New Democratic Party.

In this major address, Mr. Davis suggested that Canada's failure to articulate clear economic objectives and develop a coordinated economic policy was caused by lack of federal-provincial co-operation. In November of 1971, with the election behind him, Mr. Davis expanded on his ideas with the Federal Government and other Provincial Premiers at a Federal-Provincial Conference in Ottawa. He suggested the establishment of a "Joint Economic Committee" which would hopefully enable the Provincial Governments to participate in the formulation of long-term economic objectives, particularly in the field of taxation. His proposals won considerable support with the other Provincial Premiers but to date, have been resisted by the Federal Government.

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A New National Economic Policy

National economic policy. Suggestions for future policies. Ontario's role in determining national economic policy. A review of Ontario's current activities. Federal-provincial economic interdependence. The Ontario Advisory Committee on Confederation and new terms of reference.