A brochure for the series “Canada towards the Year 2000.”

John White was a Progressive Conservative politician. He was a provincial cabinet minister in Ontario and Member of Provincial Parliament for London South from 1959 to 1975. During his career in provincial parliament, he was appointed chair of the Select Committee on the Report of the Ontario Committee on Taxation. His report proposed replacing the welfare system with a guaranteed annual income. In 1968, he was appointed Minister of Revenue, and in 1971 he was named Minister of University Affairs. His positions in Cabinet included Minister of Trade and Development, Minister of Tourism and Information, Minister of Industry and Tourism, and Treasurer. In many of these roles, White participated in the expansion of government services to small manufacturers. As Treasurer, he promoted energy conservation, a controversial energy tax, among other ‘Red Tory’ policies. He retired from politics in 1975.

In his lecture, John White argued that the present structure of Canada in 1976 would prove to be unsustainable. He believed that there was a need to de-structure society and reinvent a Canadian federation capable of responding to the different needs of various regions. He believed that it was necessary to apply policies and programs heterogeneously to meet the sometimes-conflicting needs diverse populations. White then outlined the experiments in both deconcentration (moving the provincial government out of Queen’s Park) and decentralization (delegating powers to local governments) that the Ontario government had undertaken in recent years. Both of these, he said, were attempts to meet the demand for humanized government policy, but he doubted their ability to make significant changes. Without a fundamental restructuring of the Canadian constitution and federal structure, White predicted that citizens would continue to be frustrated and discontented. If government was to be humanized it had to be decentralized, and as different areas gained the ability to reflect the wishes and needs of their populations, a more amiable environment would emerge to protect the future of federation.

Queen’s professor George Rawlyk provided commentary, suggesting that White’s proposal would involve imposing Ontario’s standards and wishes on the rest of Canada. As a rich province, he believed that Ontario had responsibilities to the nation, and that the redistribution of Ontario wealth was essential for the continued existence of the Canadian nation.

Listen to White’s lecture below.

John White delivers his Dunning Trust lecture.
The Queen’s Journal reported on White’s lecture.