“Canada has an enormous range of advantages and strengths—natural as well as human—and yet we are faced with immobilizing problems which we do not seem to have the will or means to tackle and resolve.” In these words the Honourable R. Elgie, Ontario Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, summed up the dilemma Canadians face today.
Speaking at the September 8 annual meeting of the Commercial Security Association in Toronto, Elgie pointed out that Canada is extremely dependent on international trade. But inflation has damaged our credit system and ability to compete, while far-reaching structural changes in the world economy demand further adaptations here. Because of this, said Elgie, our traditional methods of setting government policy and conducting labour-management relations are no longer adeguate.
Lamenting the lack of trust and cooperation among government, labour and business, Elgie stressed the need to institute a framework for consultation and cooperative policy making. He maintained that tough collective bargaining and ongoing central consultations on broader economic issues are not incompatible, and that the three major sectors must collaborate in designing anti-inflationary measures, including an incomes policy. Elgie stated that some form of wage and price restraint is necessary, claiming that the 1975-78 controls reduced inflationary pressures, and that controls are part of an inevitable trend in industrialized countries.
Mr. Elgie’s speech provided a clear signal that the Ontario government intends to continue a form of its current wage restraint program for public employees. Elgie’s plea for a different approach to the issues that now often divide labour, management and government should not be lost in the heated debate about the pros and cons of Ontario’s restraint legislation.