March 28, 1996
Premiers Release Report of the
Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal
In his capacity as chair of the
Annual Premiers' Conference, Premier Brian Tobin today released the report
of the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal. The council
was established at the 1995 Annual Premiers' Conference in St. John's, and
all provinces/territories with the exception of Quebec participated in its
Premiers have sent the report to the Prime
Minister of Canada, and called on him to discuss its recommendations at the
upcoming meeting of First Ministers.
Premier Tobin noted that premiers look
forward to using this report as a basis for discussions on renewing and
reforming the federation.
The attached backgrounder provides further
details on the Ministerial Council report.
Copies of the news release and report are
available (in French and English) from:
Newfoundland Information Service
Ground Floor, East Block
St. John's, Newfoundland
Telephone: (709) 729-3610
Facsimile: (709) 729-0584
The report is availble on the Internet at
Cathy Coady Andrew Noseworthy
Director of Public Relations Assistant Secretary to Cabinet
Office of the Premier for Intergovernmental Affairs
Telephone (709) 729-3564 Telephone (709) 729-3164
Report of the Ministerial Council
on Social Policy Reform and Renewal
At the 1995 Annual Premiers' Conference, premiers agreed on the
necessity to provide leadership in the reform and renewal of Canadian social
policy. This commitment led premiers to establish a Ministerial Council,
with the view to developing a national agenda for social policy reform and
renewal that could protect the national dimensions of social programs and
undertake the reforms necessary to enhance the effectiveness of social
programs in Canada.
Premiers believe that the Report of the
Ministerial Council constitutes a truly national reform and renewal agenda,
and they are committed to a true partnership with the federal government to
ensure that social programs continue to meet the needs of Canadians now and
in the future.
The Ministerial Council Report demonstrates
the commitment of provinces/territories to the exercise of leadership in the
process of social policy reform and renewal. It reflects an approach which
can lead to more effective cooperation between governments in the design and
delivery of social programs.
The report has two key elements:
- A Statement of Principles to Guide
Social Policy Reform and Renewal - This statement has four central
- social programs must be accessible and
serve the basic needs of all Canadians;
- social programs must reflect our
individual and collective responsibility;
- social programs must be affordable,
effective and accountable; and
- social programs must be flexible,
responsive and reasonably comparable across Canada.
- A Framework and Agenda for Change and
Renewal - The Ministerial Council recommends the creation of a
national agenda for social policy reform and renewal. The report sets
out a number of specific recommendations on how provinces/territories
should cooperate with one another, and with the federal government, in
the creation of this new national agenda. Premiers agree that this new
national agenda should:
- reflect the Statement of Principles
contained in this report;
- incorporate the agenda for reform
woven through the recommendations of this report and related work by
sectoral ministerial committees; and
- establish a mechanism for settling
differences and monitoring progress on the national scope of
progress in social policy reform and renewal.
Premiers also recognize that Canada's social
safety system consists of a complex series of interconnected programs and
services, with the federal and provincial/territorial governments active in
virtually every field. This has resulted in costly overlap and duplication,
diffused accountability, and ultimately led to client confusion. Good ideas
for reform are often lost, and federal and provincial/territorial programs
often conflict with, rather than complement, each other. In this context,
premiers agree that clarifying the respective roles and responsibilities of
both orders of government is crucial to effectively reforming Canada's
social safety system. Premiers agree that the following criteria should be
used in clarifying federal- provincial/territorial roles and
responsibilities in the social sector:
- federal activity in areas of sole
provincial responsibility should occur only after
federal-provincial/territorial consultation, and provincial/territorial
agreement on how federal spending can be effectively applied;
- as responsibilities within the federation
are clarified and realigned, commensurate resources should also be
- areas of joint
federal-provincial/territorial responsibility should be minimized in
those instances in which this would improve the effectiveness of these
- the use of federal spending power in areas
of sole provincial/territorial or joint federal-provincial/territorial
responsibility should not allow the federal government to unilaterally
dictate program design; and
- the federal government should accept full
responsibility for all programming for Aboriginal people, both on and
off reserve, with a gradual transfer of authority to Aboriginal
Premiers further agree that the various
sectoral Ministerial Councils complete proposals based on the above
guidelines, and with public input as appropriate, as the basis for a new
dialogue between premiers and the Prime Minister.
Due to variations in the demand for, and cost
of delivering programs, and in revenue generating abilities,
provinces/territories have differing abilities to provide social programs.
The report recognizes that renewed fiscal arrangements must be a first
priority in attempts to restructure and renew the federation. It is
important all federal-provincial/territorial transfers be included in the
new approach to Canadian fiscal management which will likely be required to
support these new directions.
Premiers agree that, if genuine cooperation
and partnership between governments in the social policy sphere is to be
achieved, the existing process of intergovernmental dialogue on social
policy and fiscal matters must be strengthened. Building a new national
vision will require a commitment by all governments. There must be regular
dialogue between governments on such matters as the interpretation of
national principles, and agreement on how they should be monitored and
administered. This will require a strong commitment to leadership by all of
Canada's First Ministers.
Principles to Guide Social Polic and Renewal
The following principles were proposed by the
Ministerial Council to guide social policy reform:
- SOCIAL PROGRAMS MUST BE ACCESSIBLE
AND SERVE THE BASIC NEEDS OF ALL CANADIANS
- Social policy must assure reasonable
access to health, education and training, income support and social
services that meet Canadians' basic needs.
- Social policy must support and protect
Canadians most in need.
- Social policy must promote social and
economic conditions which enhance self-sufficiency and well-being,
to assist all Canadians to actively participate in economic and
- Social policy must promote active
development of individuals' skills and capabilities as the
foundation for social and economic development.
- Social policy must promote the
well-being of children and families, as children are our future. It
must ensure the protection and development of children and youth in
a healthy, safe and nurturing environment.
SOCIAL PROGRAMS MUST REFLECT OUR
INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
- Social policy must reflect our
individual and collective responsibility for health, education and
social security, and reinforce the commitment of Canadians to the
dignity and independence of the individual.
- Partnerships among governments,
communities, social organizations, business, labour, families and
individuals are essential to the continued strength of our social
- There is a continuing and important
role, to be defined, for both orders of government in the
establishment, maintenance and interpretation of national principles
for social programs.
SOCIAL PROGRAMS MUST BE
AFFORDABLE, EFFECTIVE AND ACCOUNTABLE
- The ability to fund social programs
must be protected. Social programs must be affordable, sustainable,
and designed to achieve intended and measurable results.
- The long-term benefits of prevention
and early intervention must be reflected in the design of social
- Federal constitutional, fiduciary,
treaty and other historic responsibilities for assurance of
Aboriginal health, income support, social services, housing,
training and educational opportunities must be fulfilled. The
federal government must recognize its financial responsibilities for
Aboriginal Canadians, both on and off reserve.
- Governments must coordinate and
integrate social programming and funding in order to ensure
efficient and effective program delivery, and to reduce waste and
SOCIAL PROGRAMS MUST BE FLEXIBLE,
RESPONSIVE AND REASONABLY COMPARABLE ACROSS CANADA
- Social policy must be flexible and
responsive to changing social and economic conditions,
regional/local priorities and individual circumstances.
- Governments must ensure that all
Canadians have access to reasonably comparable basic social
programming throughout Canada, and ensure that Canadians are treated
with fairness and equity.
- Social policy must recognize and take
into account the differential impact social programming can have on
men and women.