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Banner: First Among EqualsCharles Joseph Clark banner

Notes for a speech to the Vancouver Canadian Club, Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver, B.C., August 31, 1979


During the election, I set forth six basic changes which we proposed to bring to the direction of national policy.

First, we undertook to achieve the potential of Canada by building on the very real strengths that exist or can be developed in each of our regions.

Second, we would restrain the growth of government spending and make more efficient use of the resources available to the national government.

Third, we would improve Canada's economic performance through greater reliance on the private sector as the prime generator of growth, jobs and wealth for Canadians.

Fourth, we would recognize the cultural diversity of Canada as a national asset and increase the opportunity for all our diverse elements to grow and thereby enrich our national life.

Fifth, we would put a fresh face on federalism by replacing confrontation with cooperation in our relations with the provinces and by modernizing our major institutions.

Finally, we would enhance the role of the individual within our system by providing more open and responsive government, by increasing the opportunity for those outside government to participate in its decisions, and by giving individual Canadians a chance to build a stake in their country.

Let me dwell for a moment on the question of a stake in the country  --  of the sense that the citizen belongs to the nation and the nation to the citizen. Restoring that sense is a fundamental goal of my government, and there are several fronts on which we have begun to act. Some are well known. Our mortgage deductibility plan is designed to encourage Canadians to become owners of something tangible and lasting. Our youth employment plans will respond with jobs and training to young people who now feel the system is against them. Our plans to encourage Canadians's equity holdings will help our citizens to get more control of our economy, and broaden the base of involvement.

Those are specific programs. But in achieving our goal, processes are as important as programs. We have begun a deliberate program of seeking the advice of people outside government on major issues facing the nation. For example, this morning I had the opportunity to meet with representatives of both industry and organized labour in Vancouver. Before both my summer trips abroad, I had the benefit of formal advice from Canadians with special information, and in both Tokyo and Lusaka, the Canadian Labour Congress, in particular, was most helpful in giving me background information. In federal-provincial relations, the Honourable Robert de Cotret and a team of federal ministers will start next Wednesday, a series of meetings with Provincial Ministers to discuss national economic development programs.

I have reviewed the basic commitments we made to the people of Canada prior to May 22nd. They will form the foundation of our policies and programs during what I expect to be a full term of office. My colleagues and I will be proposing initial action in all of these major areas in the speech from the throne next month.

I expect it to be a busy and exciting fall. It has been a very busy summer too but in a different way. Before we could change the program of the government, we had to change the way we govern.

The Cabinet is smaller, and has a formal executive committee, the inner Cabinet. Power, which had been concentrated around the Prime Minister, has been returned to full Cabinet by a stronger Cabinet committee system. We significantly expanded the use of Ministers of State to bring more effective political direction to the most complex departments.

We have opened government and will consecrate that principle with freedom of information legislation. Open government is important to all Canadians, including particularly a Prime Minister. I need to know what is going on, and what is going wrong in my government, and the best guarantee that I will know is for you to know.

In that spirit of openness, let me convey my view that we have a dedicated and expert public service in Ottawa: its senior officials have been of invaluable assistance to my colleagues and me in getting hold of the government. But we are determined that the Public Service shall not be the sole source of advice available to ministers.

We are using the practical talents of .members of Parliament to assist ministers in dealing with questions ranging from grain transportation to unemployment insurance administration. We will make full use of outside experts, both as individuals and in task forces, to advice the government on policy directions and, equally important, on how policies can be quickly and effectively implemented. For example, Pat Carney of this city is assisting the government in planning an initiative on Pacific rim trade and economic opportunities to be held in Vancouver later this fall: Jalynn Bennett of Toronto, formerly of the Ontario Economic Council, is preparing recommendations for the government on the future role of the Economic Council of Canada: and next week we will be announcing members of a task force to advise us on how to disperse the ownership of certain assets of Petro Canada among individual Canadians.

At our meeting in Jasper this week, we made another fundamental change in the way we govern. We confirmed and began to implement a new system for allocating the financial resources available to the Government of Canada.

There is not much sex appeal in expenditure management. In fact, if the government wants to attract attention, it can ignore expenditure control. Then it will become known for the money it wastes. We would prefer to be known for the public money we save.

The system we are implementing has four major features. First, it is 'top down'. We will first decide the total amount of money available to the government in a given year, and that decision will set the boundary for every other decision. Ministers must plan, and departments must spend, within strict limits, which will be public. Second, the system allows four year planning. Each year, we will publish not only the spending limit for the next fiscal year, but the global amounts which those decisions imply for the following three years. That means that ministers must say today what their programs will cost tomorrow. Third, it brings together the responsibility for planning policy and practising restraint, by handing to each policy committee of Cabinet direct responsibility for allocating the funds available to support policies and programs in that field. Finally, it means that every ministers who wants to start a new program now must find the money by reducing or replacing an existing program.

It is, in short, a fundamental change in the way government manages its expenditures. Without that change in my view it would simply not be possible to get effective control over the spending process and the efficient use of your tax dollars.


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Source: Clark, Charles Joseph. Notes for a speech by the Right Honourable Joe Clark, Prime Minister of Canada, to the Vancouver Canadian Club in the British Columbia Ballroom of the Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver, B.C. Ottawa: Office of the Prime Minister, 1979. 3 p.


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