Canada's First Ministers met today to develop new approaches to take on the challenges faced by Canadians. First Ministers agreed to work together in many areas deemed to be priorities by all partners of the federation and all Canadians citizens.
This meeting will yield tangible results in the following sectors:
Framework For Canada's Social Union*
All First Ministers, with the exception of the Premier of Quebec, agreed to mandate designated Ministers, under the auspices of the Ministerial Council for Social Policy Renewal, to commence negotiations on a framework agreement for Canada's social union, that would apply to Federal/Provincial/Territorial governments while respecting each others' constitutional jurisdiction and powers.
Within this context, the objectives for negotiation of such an agreement are:
First Ministers recognized that these negotiations should proceed in conjunction with ongoing activities in sectoral areas.
First Ministers agreed that this work be undertaken with a view to its completion by July 1998.
National Child Benefit*
First Ministers reconfirmed their commitment to a successful launch of the National Child Benefit system by July 1, 1998. They agreed that this is a model of cooperation that commits all governments to action. First Ministers committed to work together on measures that ensure the overall level of child benefits for families is protected during implementation.
First Ministers agreed that provincial reinvestment strategies would be completed as soon as possible and identified the February meeting of Social Services Ministers as a target date.
As announced in the September 1997 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada reiterated its commitment to a second contribution during its mandate to the Canada Child Benefit of at least $850 million. First Ministers agreed to work together in developing a plan for this second contribution to ensure that federal and provincial programs are complementary and effective.
National Children`s Agenda*
First Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to new cooperative approaches to ensure child well-being. They noted the progress thus far in developing a National Children`s Agenda and agreed to fast track work on the agenda through the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Renewal.
Persons with Disabilities*
First Ministers reviewed the progress made over the past year by Social Service Ministers and endorsed their work on harmonization and a revamped Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities program (EAPD). Social Service Ministers have been tasked to complete bilateral agreements for EAPD by April 1998 and to bring to a conclusion the development of a vision statement and a national framework to guide future collaborative work in this area.
First Ministers expressed their strong desire to protect the future of the health system for Canadians.
They agree to work together to ensure that the fundamentals of the health system remain solidly in place.
First Ministers agreed that it is important to achieve broad agreement around future priorities. This will help ensure that available funding is invested most effectively by both orders of government.
First Ministers agree that youth employment is a national priority requiring the involvement of both orders of government. At a time when 16% of young Canadians are looking for jobs, governments must cooperate with the private sector and community groups to alleviate youth unemployment.
First Ministers committed to a youth employment action plan and asked their Labour Market Ministers to put into motion a four-point Agenda for Action which would set clear objectives including:
Labour Market Ministers will provide a status report in June 1998.
The First Ministers agree on the importance of lessening students' financial burden. Furthermore, it is agreed that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Human Resources Development will accelerate work in concert with provincial and territorial Education Ministers so that the Minister of Finance can take account of this work in the next federal budget.
First Ministers discussed the Kyoto Protocol. They agreed that climate change is an important global issue and that Canada must do its part and must do so in such a way that no region is asked to bear an unreasonable burden.
They also agreed that it is important to achieve a thorough understanding of the impact, the cost and the benefits of its implementation and of the various implementation options open to Canada.
First Ministers agreed to establish a process, in advance of Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, that will examine the consequences of Kyoto and provide for full participation of the provincial and territorial governments with the federal government in any implementation and management of the Protocol.
First Ministers therefore have directed their Ministers of the Environment and Energy to work together to consider jointly the appropriate courses of action.
First Ministers also agreed that in six months the Prime Minister will meet with the Chair of the Annual Premiers' Conference to review progress towards the next FMM.
* While sharing essentially the same concerns, the Government of Quebec does not intend to adhere to the federal-provincial approach to social policies. The Government of Quebec reaffirms its will to exercise fully its control over the development, planning and management of social policies in its territory, in full accordance with its exclusive jurisdiction in this field. Consequently, any reference to joint federal-provincial positions in the sections with asterisks do not include the Government of Quebec.