At the time this article was written
Henry Muggah was Clerk of the House of Assembly of Nova--Scotia)
Current examination and debate the
constitution of Canada and the need for techniques of revision suggest that the
exercise that has been underway in Eastern Canada during the past seven years
might be of interest to legislators in Canada -- members of the Commonwealth
Parliamentary Association .
Professor J. Murray Beck, in his History of
Maritime Union: A study in frustration, makes the following comment:
"In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht decreed
that Acadia was to be British. More than two hundred and fifty years later --
in 1969 -- the number of political entities that is most appropriate for
administering the original Acadia is still a subject for study and
It will be recalled that Acadia included
what are now the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward
Island. New Brunswick was established as a separate province in 1784 and Prince
Edward Island in 1789. Cape Breton, having been separated in 1763, was
re-annexed to Nova Scotia in 1820 to settle the present geographic and jurisdictional
boundaries of the Maritime region.
The Maritime Union Study, carried out under
the direction of the late Dr. John Deutsch and published in 1970, notes the
persistence of the idea of Maritime Union over the past century and a quarter.
Various governors of the three Provinces proposed the union during the 1850's
but failed to attract firm support locally or in Great Britain. The original
Charlottetown conference in 1864 was organised by the three Provinces and
attracted delegates from the governments of the Canadas. Discussion of Maritime
Union was deferred to permit consideration of proposals for the larger union
with results that need not be referred to here .
The idea, however, refused to die and
discussions of it were resumed from time to time leading, in the autumn of
1964, to the unanimous adoption by the Assemblies of New Brunswick and Nova
Scotia of identical resolutions, presented by Premiers Robichaud and Stanfield,
supporting a study of union. Some time later, Premier Alex B. Campbell of
Prince Edward Island indicated, his willingness to participate in,' the study.
This study appears to' have been sparked by remarks of the Honourabl.e Louis J.
Robichaud, Premier of New Brunswick, at the opening of the Confederation Centre
in Charlottetown in 1964, on the 100th anniversary of Charlottetown Conference.
Dr . Deutsch and his associates, Messrs.
F.R. Drummie and F.J. Arsenault, after considering three possible approaches,
viz. informal co--operation, formal co--operation and some form of union, came
down in favour of a form of Maritime Union.
They did not undertake to prescribe form of
political union that should be aimed at, but recommended the establishment of
machinery and procedures to carry out a number of tasks in preparation for
union, namely: regional economic planning, regional negotiations with federal
authorities, establishment of common administration services, development of
uniform legislation, co--ordination of existing provincial government for the
Maritime region, and implementation of successive steps leading to political
The mechanism suggested would consist of:
The Council of Maritime Premiers
The Maritime Provinces Commission
The Joint Legislative Assembly.
The Council of Maritime Premiers would consist
of the three premiers of the Maritime Provinces who would meet regularly and at
least four times a year, to:
(a) consider recommendations from the
(b) approve joint submissions and negotiate
with federal authorities on behalf of the region;
(c) co--ordinate policies of the three
provincial governments and
(d) secure agreements among the three
governments for common action.
It was recommended also that the Council
should have a small secretariat to organise and expedite its work.
The Maritime Provinces Commission would
consist of five full--time members appointed by the Council of Maritime
Premiers -- two from nominees of each of the Governments of New Brunswick and
Nova Scotia and one from nominees of the Government of Prince Edward Island,
plus a chairman appointed by the Council. Its duties would be principally to
submit to the Council of Premiers recommendations respecting the tasks
enumerated above that were required to be performed in preparation for union.
The Joint Legislative Assembly would consist
of all the members of the three provincial legislative assemblies meeting in
joint session 11 once a year f or a few weeks to receive and discuss reports
from the Council of Premiers and from the Maritime Provinces Commission. The
Assembly would consider "proposals from the Commission for uniform
legislation, for budgets, for joint services and projects, for the constitution
of a united Maritime province, and for the procedures and timetables for the
progressive implementation of political union".
The three speakers of the existing
provincial assemblies would alternately act as speakers of the Joint Assembly.
Work of the Assembly would be organised and arranged by a "steering
committee" of five members elected annually.
As detailed later, the three Premiers --
Hatfield of New Brunswick, Regan of Nova Scotia, and Campbell of Prince Edward
Island -- lost little time in acting upon the recommendation for establishing
the Council of Maritime Premiers.
They departed from the recommendation for joint
meetings annually of all the members of the three Assemblies and arranged for a
meeting of a number of members from each assembly to review the Study and the
various tasks identified in the Study. Such a meeting was held in 1971, but was
not considered to be sufficiently productive to warrant similar meetings in
subsequent years. It would appear that the main reason for insufficiency of
productivity was the lack of support staff and preliminary preparation for the
On the recommendation for establishment of a
Maritime Provinces Commission, the Premiers have opted for examination of
projects and possible joint programs by committees of ministers or of senior
public servants supported by a secretariat and, on occasion, by consultants
engaged for matters requiring specialised knowledge or experience.
Similarly, they have consistently shown an
unwillingness to approve the recommendation that the Provinces enter into a
political union, preferring to follow the route of co--operation and promotion
of joint programs and objectives.
A speedy action of the Premiers to the Study
was an Agreement among them in May, 1971, to form a Council having objectives
similar to those listed in the Deutsch report, but omitting any reference to
political union. A secretary was engaged and office space acquired in Halifax.
At the sessions of the three Legislative
Assemblies in 1972, identical acts were passed confirming the Agreement of 1971
and empowering the Lieutenant Governors in Council to enter into agreements,
appointing the Council of Premiers as agents of the three Governments to do on
their behalf anything that they themselves were authorised to do. Pursuant to
this authority, the Governments of the three Provinces have entered into a
number of agreements with the Council, whereby the Council has been appointed
as their agent to negotiate and enter into agreements with the Federal
Government and others respecting various joint programs and projects.
A full--time Secretary and two Assistant
Secretaries have been appointed, as well. as a number of Regional
co--ordinators who work with committees of Ministers, or official on subjects
such as: Communications Transportation, Environmental Matter Energy, Tourism,
Uniform Legislation Economic Development, and the like.
Two substantial programs have been carried
on jointly with the Federal Government since the establishment of the Council
-- one involving the surveying and mapping of the three Provinces leading to
establishment of a land titles system, known as Land Registration and
Information Service, and the other as Maritime Resource Management Service,
designed to provide consulting services in community planning, aerial
photography, cartography and selected civil engineering services. Approximately
three hundred employees are engaged in these two projects..
Many of the persons employed in these two
services had previously been Federal or Provincial employees enjoying the
benefits of superannuation, group insurance and collective bargaining rights.
In order to ensure that they would not be prejudiced by joining the staff of
the Council, it was considered necessary and advisable to set up similar
arrangements in relation to them as Council employees. This has led to the
creation of a Council superannuation plan, a group insurance plan, personnel
policies and collective bargaining arrangements. These in turn have required
the establishment of an organisation of approximately ten persons within the
Council Secretariat for central administrative purposes .
Before the Council was formed, each Province
had a commission or agency charged with the duty of administering programs
providing financial assistance or support to post --secondary education . In
keeping with a decision of the Council, legislation was passed in all three Provinces
replacing these provincial bodies by the Maritime
Provinces Higher Education Commission, to
act as the advisory to post--secondary educational institutions on development
of higher education in the region. The Commission annually recommends to the
Council levels of provincial financial support to all and each post--secondary
educational institution in the three Provinces. Upon approval by the Council of
the Commission's recommendations, each Premier arranges for inclusions in the
Estimates of his Province the portion of the total contribution that is to be
borne by it. In preparing its recommendations for funding, the Commission
consults with institutions concerning their plans for continuing and possible
new areas of education and training, and with the Regional Treasury Board
composed of the Minister of Finance and one additional Minister from each of
the Provinces. In addition to the savings flowing from replacement of three
provincial bodies by a single Maritime Agency, the Commission has been effective
in producing greater equity in the public support of institutions that serve
students from provinces other than those in which they reside, and in helping
to restrain uneconomic duplication of new programs and courses.
With encouragement and financial support
from the Federal Department of Urban Affairs, the Premiers joined in the
establishment of this Board to promote education and training of persons
engaged in municipal administration. The Board itself is not designed to
provide training and education, but rather to assist and advise municipal
bodies and educational institutions in developing and providing those services.
Administrative services are provided to the Board by the Institute of Public
Administration of Dalhousie University under contract with the Council. An
example of the value of the Board is a program for training of building
inspectors, which has been developed by it to complement adoption of the
National Building Code in all three Provinces following passing of legislation
promoted by Council.
The space available in this Review is not
sufficient to permit a detailed account of the range and variety of other
matters that have been, or are being, carried on under the aegis of the
Council. Some of the more significant or interesting are listed below, and more
information about them is readily obtainable from the Secretary of the Council
whose address is P.O. 2044, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J M.
1. Establishment of a Maritime Energy
Corporation to produce and distribute electricity throughout the Region.
2. Co--ordination of Provincial positions on
transportation and telecommunications, participating in negotiations with the
federal government, and presentations to regulatory bodies.
3. Development of uniform harmonious
legislation or regulations on co--operatives, credit unions, building codes,
land titles, securities, and motor vehicle transportation.
4. Joint planning, promotion or
administration in relation to tourism, environmental protection, archaeological
5. Support service in preparation for, and
conduct of, annual meetings of Eastern Premiers and New England Governors.
Decisions of the Council require unanimous
agreement of the three Premiers, who in turn must have approval of the Lieutenant
Governors in Council for agreements containing financial obligations and the
grant of funds by their Assemblies. Participation by the Ministers and
officials is necessary for effective action by committees to which subjects are
referred. In effect, ultimate authority in all matters remains with the
Provinces. The Council, its agencies and staffs exist to complement, not to
compete with or displace, Provincial organisms or bodies.