March 20, 1952

PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. A. Ross (Souris):

May I ask the Prime

Minister if a decision has been reached as to the length of the Easter recess this year?

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO EASTER ADJOURNMENT
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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

I would not like to say that a decision has been made. What has been decided is that I will place a notice of motion on the order paper-subject, of course, to the decision of the house-to the effect that when the house adjourns on Wednesday afternoon or evening of holy week it stand adjourned until the Monday after Easter week.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO EASTER ADJOURNMENT
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EDUCATION

EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY


The house resumed, from Wednesday, March 19, consideration of the motion of Mr. Knight: That, in the opinion of this house, the government should take into consideration means of expanding and equalizing educational opportunity across Canada, by the granting of financial assistance to the various provinces for that purpose.


PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of ihe Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, at six o'clock last evening I had explained why we were supporting this motion, and I wish now to review briefly the points which, I suggest, provide convincing reasons why the government should be prepared to accept the motion and take action which will carry out its intent without in any way infringing upon the exclusive jurisdiction of the provincial governments in the field of education.

It is not the duty, nor is it the right, of the parliament of Canada to interfere directly or indirectly with any aspect of education itself. Education, however, is everybody's business and everybody's concern. As Canadians, and as members of this house, education must be of great concern to all of us. To the extent that the government and parliament of Canada have it within their power to assure that the provincial governments will have adequate financial resources to give equality of educational

Education

opportunity to children, we in this house should do what we can to make sure that steps will be taken by the government to give the provinces adequate revenues to meet their constitutional obligations.

No problem is causing greater concern to educational and municipal authorities today than that of meeting the heavily increased costs of education. Because of their inability to raise the salaries of teachers, and because they see no immediate prospect of finding the money to do so, unless there is some change in the situation neither the educational nor the municipal authorities will be able to offer that encouragement which would stop the steady and increasingly rapid drain upon the teacher supply in this country.

I pointed out yesterday that the estimate of the bureau of statistics is that if the present drain on teachers continues there will be a shortage of 25,000 teachers by 1955. That would mean disaster to the whole structure of education within Canada. At the same time I pointed out that this estimate is based upon the present percentage of attendance of pupils. The percentage of attendance and the length of time during which the pupils attend are far from satisfactory. As indicated by the figures I gave yesterday, pupils are leaving school far too soon, for many reasons. That flow of pupils from the schools will be increased if because of a shortage of teachers there is more crowding of our classrooms and less opportunity to give the pupils personal attention. If we were able across the whole of Canada to give every child the educational opportunities it should have, and to give equality of education up to the extent of the capacity of every child regardless of the means of its parents or where the child may live, then instead of a shortage of 25,000 we probably would have a shortage of 50,000 teachers by 1955.

I can only repeat that the whole future of this country is dangerously threatened by the possibility that the ten provinces of Canada may not be able to provide the kind of education that has carried us along the road of advancement as far as we have gone. It is not a case of advancing education still farther; the danger is imminent that education will go back rather than ahead, because of a shortage of teachers, and because of the increasing difficulty encountered by municipal and educational authorities in providing the money to meet heavy educational costs.

It is for that reason, because it is of concern to us as well as to the provinces, that I repeat, with all the earnestness I can put into my words, the suggestion that the dominion government arrange to meet the provinces for discussions, now long overdue, in an effort

so to readjust taxation within Canada that the provincial governments may have from their own revenues financial resources which will be adequate to give their children that equality of educational opportunity which I am sure every hon. member in this house wants to see in Canada.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. Stuart S. Garson (Minister of Justice):

In rising to take part in this debate I think I should at the outset make it clear that I am speaking to,a private member's resolution, and not to a government resolution or concerning federal government policy.

It is commonplace to say that the jurisdiction of provincial legislatures over education is, of all provincial rights, the one of which some if not all of the provinces are most jealous. Therefore, as between federal and provincial governments, the initiative in connection with matters pertaining to education is one which I think the federal government has always felt should be taken by the provincial governments. So far as I am aware, the provincial governments have never raised with the federal government at any time the subject matter of this resolution as such; nor have they raised the question of educational costs except as an item of the provincial budgets which naturally were the subject of discussion in the Rowell-Sirois report, in the conference dealing with the dominion proposals of 1945, and indeed in all the fiscal conferences between the federal government and the provinces.

It is for this reason that the federal government as such has never had occasion to consider as a matter of government policy the precise subject matter of the resolution before us. It is quite true, as I have already indicated, that in other contexts this question has arisen. I have no doubt that some of my colleagues have formed opinions upon it, as I have done. The ideas which I express today are, therefore, entirely my own, although doubtless most of my colleagues will agree with some of them.

I should like to compliment all of those who have taken part in this excellent debate, in that they have made clear many points of law and fact which are involved in this resolution. I think it is also correct to say that they have come within striking distance of the nub of the whole matter, although with great respect I do not think that they have actually pin-pointed what that nub is.

From what has been said it is clear that certain points of agreement have emerged. It is hardly necessary for example to repeat all the truisms about the great importance of

education in our national life. Nor is it necessary to argue at great length that teachers' salaries in general are inadequate; for their inadequacy is clearly established by the relative economic unattractiveness of the teaching profession. It is very gratifying to me to hear the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) and the hon. members for Saskatoon (Mr. Knight), Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) and Red Deer (Mr. Shaw) state in such positive terms not only that education is wholly a provincial responsibility under the British North America Act, but that it is unthinkable that it should be otherwise. When the hon. member for Red Deer asserted that no child should be deprived of an opportunity to acquire a good education, he was again stating a truism with which no one would disagree. It may be stated that the general agreement in this house upon most of the principles which have been enunciated so far in this debate affords a much more satisfactory basis for examination of the facts than would be the case if we were in disagreement on those principles.

Having stated some of those points of agreement, perhaps I should clear up some of the points upon which I must confess reluctantly I am in disagreement with some hon. members. I disagree, for example, with the leader of the opposition when he states that because the federal government makes grants to the universities of Canada, it admits that it could and should make substantial grants to the provincial governments earmarked for the support of primary education.

In this connection the hon. member made much of the fact that under the British North America Act the provincial legislatures have exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter of education. That, of course, is quite correct. I suggest that anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Canadian history must realize that it is one thing to make, to universities which are entirely self-governing and non-political, grants which form a minor part of their total income; but it is quite another thing to make, as has been suggested, a contribution which would be a large part of the income of the primary schools of the province, to provincial governments whose provincial departments of education actively control, supervise and make policy for the whole primary school system of the province. There is no comparison between those two facts, and the hon. member draws an analogy which I must regard as a false one.

It was not an accident that at the time of confederation the legislatures of the provinces were given exclusive authority to make laws in relation to education. It was a deliberate provision which certain of the fathers of confederation insisted upon as a

Education

condition to the formation of Canada, in order to protect their religion, their language, and their way of life. The point of this is that primary education is concerned entirely with the instruction of the young during the highly formative period of their life-instruction which, as the Rowell-Sirois report said, is of decisive importance as regards religious training and the preservation of language and of culture. I quote from volume II of the report, page 50:

We have already said that the instruction of the young during their formative years is a matter which the provinces must continue to control- subject, of course, to the safeguard for religious minorities provided in the British North America Act and amendments. A free hand in something so important to the social and cultural life of the people seems to us to be vital to any provincial autonomy worthy of the name, and it is obvious that any attempts to alter the existing arrangements would1 meet with powerful opposition and would provoke profound resentment.

I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that to anyone who stops to reflect upon this matter the difficulty about large federal educational grants to the provinces earmarked for primary education would be this. If they were large enough to be worth while, the dominion treasury simply could not defend handing out these large sums of money to the provincial governments without assuming some responsibility as to the manner in which they would be spent. For the federal government-for example, the present federal government, or any federal government that might be in power in Canada at some future time-to supervise the manner in which these grants would be spent by a provincial government for primary education would involve, in the opinion of a large number of sincere Canadians-amongst

whom I number myself as one-an interference with the exclusive authority of the provincial legislatures over education, and something which, under certain governments and under certain circumstances, could prove to be exceedingly harmful. It is for that reason, Mr. Speaker, that, with the leader of the opposition, I think it is preferable that the federal government, rather than make grants to the provinces earmarked for primary education-if the federal government is to provide assistance at all-should provide other financial resources.

On that point the leader of the opposition and I are in complete agreement; and we are supported by the Rowell-Sirois report, which has this to say at page 51-and I quote at some length because this is the definitive recommendation of the report on this very point:

Many representations have been made to us that financial help should be extended by the dominion to the provinces for various purposes, such as scholarships, technical training, grants to be used

Education

for general educational purposes provided1 that the provinces did not reduce their own expenditure on education. These representations appear to have been inspired largely by consternation at the reductions in educational expenditure which certain provinces, under the stress of the depression, have felt compelled to make. It has even been contended that the dominion is bound to see that there is equal educational opportunity, as far as is practicable, for every Canadian child.

We have the deepest sympathy for these views which have been advanced by many of the organizations most closely associated with education in Canada, and we share to the full the regret that, especially in recent years, education has been terribly neglected in many of the poorer parts of the country and that wholly disproportionate sacrifices have been imposed on those who have devoted their lives to this important public service. But the representations appear to us to go too far in denying-

And this, Mr. Speaker, I suggest is the point of this particular part of my argument. -the right of each province to decide the relative importance of expenditure on education and expenditure on other competing services. It is our hope that provision can be made for the fiscal needs of all provinces, including within those needs provision for the education of the young. Our financial proposals-

That is, the financial proposals which the Rowell-Sirois commission outlined in another part of their report.

-aim at placing every province in a position to discharge its responsibilities for education, on a scale that is within the means of the people of Canada, if it chooses to do so. Once this position Is established it seems to us best that education, like every other form of welfare service in a democratic community, should have to fight for its life, and that a generous provision for the education of the children of the nation should depend, not on any arbitrary constitutional provision, but on the persistent conviction of the mass of the people that they must be ready to deny themselves some of the good things of life in order to deal fairly by their children. Hence we do not think that it would be wise or appropriate for the dominion to make grants to the provinces earmarked for the support of general education.

As is well known, Mr. Speaker, owing to the recalcitrance of certain provincial governments, the Sirois recommendations were not put into effect in Canada-that is to say, their financial provisions which were designed to place all the provinces in such a position that, if they wished to do so, they could finance education adequately. Hon. members will also recall that the further recalcitrance of certain provinces prevented the implementation of the proposals made by this federal government in the year 1945 to place the provinces in that position.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the minister at this point retain some semblance of the facts. If he will cast his mind back, he will recall that the provinces met the dominion government in 1946 as well.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

Yes. My hon. friend is quite correct. If I am not mistaken, what I said was that they were dealing with the 1945 proposals-

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

No. That was not what you said.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

-by the federal government. My hon. friend is quite right in his interjection-which I think really had little relevancy to my remarks-that the conference extended from 1945 to 1946. But I am glad to accept that correction.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

And it was not called off by the provinces.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

Well, that is a matter of

opinion, which also is not relevant to my remarks.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

If that is not relevant, then

what you are saying is not relevant.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

That also is a matter of

opinion, and I do not agree with my hon. friend.

Upon the break-down of these two efforts to put the provinces in such a position that they could adequately deal with what is really their constitutional responsibility, the members of the house are all familiar with the fact that there were negotiated the dominion-provincial tax agreements-which have now been in existence for some four years and which will shortly expire, to be replaced, I hope, by renewal tax agreements even more favourable to the provinces. I shall endeavour to show today that those tax agreements have put the provinces of Canada in such a position that they and their municipalities, if they wish to do so, can increase their support of primary education. But if the municipalities and the provinces having the benefits under these tax agreements, instead of increasing grants to primary education, prefer to increase their expenditures upon roads and bridges, or to reduce debt, or to spend their revenues on the discharge of any other provincial function which they regard as having priority to education, I suggest to the leader of the opposition that they are at perfect freedom, under the tax agreements and under the constitutional law of this country, to exercise that discretion. I am sure that is a freedom which he, having regard to his views on provincial autonomy, would be the first to support and approve.

Therefore, sir, the real question here is whether the federal government and the provinces, in concluding these tax agreements, have attained one of their objectives namely that of placing the provinces in a position, if

they chose to do so, of supporting adequately the cause of primary education. I do not know any shorter or simpler method of establishing that than by pointing out that the provincial authorities, after attending several conferences-the ones arising out of the Rowell-Sirois report; the one, as the leader of the opposition has pointed out, in 1945, extending into 1946, dealing with the proposals of the federal government at that time-after thoroughly canvassing this whole question in those conferences and again in all of the subsequent conferences leading up to the tax agreements themselves, have accepted and executed these agreements. These provincial representatives, who, whatever may be implied to the contrary sometimes. in this house, are very intelligent and competent men, have executed these agreements as purporting to do, and as I think I can show, as in fact doing that very thing; that is, these tax agreements put the provinces in the position of adequately supporting education if they desire to do so.

Some may say that that is a short and simple answer, but not a satisfactory one, that we should have a more objective one. What are the facts and the figures? I do not wish to go too much into detail on the facts and figures, but it so happens, to begin with, that I have some figures applicable to Manitoba, which I have retained since the time that I was treasurer of that province. They indicate that when we went into this tax agreement our revenues from the various sources which were surrendered were in 1946 a little over $8 million in that year. In place of this, we got, under the agreement, a guaranteed minimum of $13,500,000, and received in the year ended March 31, 1948, about $14,500,000. This enabled us to increase our expenditures for education from $2,800,000 in 1946 to $5,600,000 in 1948. That was one of the first things we did with this increase that we got.

I am not suggesting for a minute that even that provision was adequate; but, Mr. Speaker, under the proposed renewal of this agreement the guaranteed payments are $18,800,000 instead of a little over $8 million, and the adjusted payment for 1952-53 is $20,890,000, nearly $21 million. During this interval in Manitoba-which now, as always, has an economical and careful administration; its budget is one of the smallest among the provincial governments, certainly in western Canada- in Manitoba the total budget went up from $19,250,000 in 1946 to over $33,500,000 in 1949, and I saw the other day that its present budget is $49 million. Will anybody argue that between these two limits of $19 million in

Education

1946 and $49 million in 1952 there is not some elbow room if it were needed for some increase in the provincial contributions to primary education?

I have used the figures in the case of Manitoba because they were the only figures that I had to show the revenue that was being obtained from these tax sources before the agreement went into effect. In that connection I might say this. Outside of the central provinces and British Columbia the productivity of these tax fields in Manitoba was higher than it was in either of the other two prairie provinces at that time, so that our relative benefit between what we had got before and after the signing of the tax agreement was smaller than in some of these other provinces.

I think perhaps the best way to indicate the value of the tax agreements is to set out the position of all the provinces during this five-year period, which is covered by this agreement. First may I, without invidiously mentioning any single one of the provinces, examine what their expenditures were for education during that period, and what their expenditures were for highways and bridges. This is a fair comparison to make of two important provincial expenditures.

In 1939-that is, before the tax agreement was entered into-the total expenditures upon education in all the provinces was $38 million. The total expenditures on highways and bridges amounted to $87-6 million. In 1949 the amount spent on education totalled $154,100,000; on highways and bridges, $251,700,000. Now, let us look at the total budget. The total provincial expenditures in 1939 amounted to $356 million. In 1949, they amounted to $858 million. Does anyone suggest that there is not some elbow room in there if the provincial ministers charged with the constitutional responsibility for dealing with education desired to use it? In the face of these large over-all increases in provincial expenditures, does anyone suggest that some more moneys could not have been paid on education?

But apart from these provincial expenditures, let us look for a moment at the surplus position of the provinces. During the five-year period there was not a single province in Canada that did not have a surplus, and a substantial one. The accumulated current account surplus of all Canadian provinces over that five-year period was not less than $670 million, that is a surplus over and above these expenditures that I have been talking about.

Now, these are the provincial governments which the hon. member for Saskatoon (Mr. 55704-40$

Education

Knight) suggests that as a matter of dire necessity we should help; that we should interfere with provincial autonomy in order to pay some more money over so that they could discharge their provincial responsibilities.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knight:

On a point or order; I at no time suggested that we should interfere with provincial autonomy. I maintained throughout that we did not have to interfere with provincial autonomy to bring about the thing that I request.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

No one in the house has suggested it.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

From his standpoint I think my hon. friend is quite right in what he has said. I think the leader of the opposition is also quite right in his interjection, but I suggest from my standpoint, and I have had some little experience in provincial administration, I should like to know how the federal treasury could pay over large amounts of money to the support of primary education without in practice interfering with provincial autonomy.

Topic:   EDUCATION
Subtopic:   EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITY
Sub-subtopic:   ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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March 20, 1952