The very important additional work necessitated by the session of the legislature of Quebec has prevented me from writing you before today on the
subject of your letter of the 6th of February, concerning the new Canadian intergovernmental conference in September or October next.
I wrote you December 14 last:
"The government of the province of Quebec is always pleased to co-operate in the pursuit of the provinces' and the country's welfare and prosperity, on a basis of fairness and within the framework of constitutionality.
"The Ottawa conferences obviously involve a considerable amount of trouble and inconvenience for provincial authorities. Nevertheless we accept that with pleasure, when it results in greater prosperity and progress for the Canadian confederation and for the provinces of which it consists and which have given it birth."
In your letter you say:
"But there are other problems of interest to both the federal and the provincial authorities. It is with a view to discussing these problems that I made my proposal of a general conference next fall."
Do you not believe, Mr. Prime Minister, that it would be opportune to proceed in a way that would not complicate or delay the solving of our constitutional problems? In our humble opinion the multiplicity of conferences could result in making the situation more difficult.
Assuredly, apart from the constitutional questions which were the object of the conference in January, and the vital questions mentioned in the letter which I wrote to you on the 1st of February, there are numerous other problems in this connection. To mention just a few-and this is obviously not complete-there are the problems relating to the exclusive rights of the provinces in the matter of insurance, unemployment, radio broadcasting, etc., etc.
Are you of the opinion, Mr. Prime Minister, that it would be practicable to consider all these problems together? Don't you think that we should first study and decide the fundamental questions in respect to the rights of the federal authorities and provincial authorities in fiscal matters? It seems to us necessary to establish first in a precise and incontestable manner the fiscal powers of each authority, that is to say, our means of action and possibilities of realization.
You may rest assured, Mr. Prime Minister, that it is the sincere desire of the government of the province of Quebec to co-operate diligently and in a friendly way in the study and the settlement of all these problems on a just and constitutional basis.
It is our firm conviction that these problems ought to be studied and decided without any partisan approach. It is our most ardent wish, respectful of the rights of all, to co-operate for the progress and prosperity of Canada and of the provinces, and of ours in particular.
The cordial invitation of the government of Quebec to hold these conferences in the old capital applies to each and every one of them.
Accept, Mr. Prime Minister, our sincere greetings and the assurance of our complete willingness to do everything possible to solve these various problems in a friendly, just and constitutional way.
M. L. Duplessis
OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER Canada
Ottawa, February 28, 1950
Hon. Maurice L. Duplessis, M.L.A.,
Premier of the Province of Quebec,
My dear Premier:
I have received your letter of the 22nd of February with further reference to the conference between the federal and provincial governments proposed for next September or October.
The federal government is, like you and your colleagues, convinced that it would not be desirable to complicate or delay the solution of our constitutional problems. We believe, however, that the procedure agreed to at the conference in January constitutes an important step in that direction. We have no desire for a multiplicity of conferences, but, like several of the provincial governments, we are of the opinion that there exist many other problems which require consideration as soon as possible.
As for the particular subjects mentioned in your letter, namely, insurance, unemployment and radio broadcasting, the federal government would certainly have no objection to their being placed on the agenda of the proposed conference, if that is generally desired by the provincial governments. We hope, however, that the question of unemployment will not assume proportions which will make it bulk very large at that time.
It is obvious that any general conference would inevitably be primarily concerned with fiscal questions. While the federal government does not see any possibility of any definite renunciation of constitutional rights in fiscal matters, we do feel that there is plenty of scope for practical workable agreements based on a general desire for co-operation.
In conclusion I may say that we fully share the conviction expressed in your letter that these problems should be studied and decided without the intervention of any partisan considerations.
Louis S. St. Laurent
THE PREMIER New Brunswick
Fredericton, February 23, 1950
Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent,
Prime Minister of Canada,
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
On January 27 you wrote regarding the proposed dominion-provincial conference suggested for the autumn of this year to discuss general questions of common concern to the provincial and the federal governments and inquiring as to any suggestions we might care to advance for a tentative agenda. This letter was acknowledged on January 31 by my secretary in my absence from Canada.
Since my return I have given thought to this matter and it is my present intention to direct a study by our appropriate departments to the end that this government may shortly advance suggestions in this connection.
I shall be in further communication with you with reference to it shortly.
John B. McNair
Wednesday, March 8, 1950