Type of entity
Authorized form of name
New Brunswick. Equal Opportunity Programme
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
When Premier Louis J. Robichaud's government took office in June 1960, the province of New Brunswick faced deep social and economic inequalities. At their root was the fact that municipalities were responsible for the administration of a wide range of services but, at the same time, were severely limited in sources of revenue. This left many county governments incapable of discharging their duties, especially funding costly social and educational programs to the level found in other parts of New Brunswick.
The Liberal government asked Edward G. Byrne, Q. C. to chair the Royal Commission on Finance and Municipal Taxation, formed to investigate the deteriorating municipal structure and to determine what role the provincial government should assume. In his late 40s with a forceful personality, Edward G. Byrne, a graduate of the Dalhousie Law School, accepted the invitation with the proviso that the commission could recommend solutions to the problems. As a lawyer in Bathurst, he was acutely aware of financial problems in Gloucester County and the resultant quality of services afforded the population.
In 1962, the New Brunswick Legislature appointed individuals to the Royal Commission. In addition to Byrne, public servant Dr. Alexandre Boudreau, of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; businessman Archie Andrews, of St. Stephen, Charlotte County; county councillor and farmer Ulderic Nadeau, of Baker Brook, Madawaska County; and Saint John dry dock owner Charles N. Wilson, of Saint John, rounded out the commission. A. Milton Moore, John F. Graham, Philip H. White, and James F. Sullivan were hired a technicians.
The Commission's report focussed on taxation, a subject that touched virtually every facet of New Brunswick life. Byrne found that nearly every New Brunswick rural county was impoverished and often could not pay the cost of services, due to a poor tax base. For example, in Gloucester County, the large crown land acreage resulted in low revenue from local taxation. In cities the range of services was uneven, also due to the tax base.
The Commission drafted a blueprint that centralized responsibility for education, health, welfare, and justice in provincial commissions. These would operate at arms-length from politicians and the civil service. It would be financed, not by poll taxes and personal taxes, as the crumbling structure was attempting to do, but by property tax assessment, based on market value, one of the few tax fields left for the Province.
The Byrne Commission's approach was influenced by developments in the European Common Market and government structures in Sweden. The Robichaud government rejected the idea of commissions but adopted major features of the report and implemented them Equal Opportunity Programme, which took effect January 1, 1967. Under this programme, the Province assumed complete responsibility for public school education, health, welfare and justice. The County Council system of government was abolished, poll taxes were eliminated, school districts were re-drawn from over 400 to 34, all municipal property tax concessions to industrial interests were eliminated, and a provincial tax rate with a $1.50 ceiling per $100 assessment on real property was struck.
The fundamental change resulting from the commission was the shift to taxing-raising and tax-sharing. The report also introduced ideas of developing the public service, creating single member constituencies and a Law Amendments Committee, and studying the idea of union of the Atlantic Provinces. The Royal Commission Report on Finance and Municipal Taxation is the seminal document to understanding the development and administration of the government of New Brunswick in the last quarter of the 20th century.
The Institute of Public Administration of Canada met in St. John's Newfoundland in September 1969. Among the topics studied by the Institute was the implementation of the Byrne Commission's recommendations and the establishment of the Equal Opportunity Programme in New Brunswick (1965-1966). Seven senior New Brunswick civil servants and the Saint John city manager presented papers at the conference which are included in this collection.