Thematic Guides - Federal-Provincial Conferences

This guide consists of a history, research strategies, specific and general references to government sources, and a selected bibliography, all relating to federal-provincial conferences

This guide was revised in September 2000.

1. History

Intergovernmental conferences of a quasi-constitutional character date from 1887. The earliest Dominion-Provincial Conferences of 1902, 1910, 1918 and 1927 focussed on financial issues. From 1927 to 1944, there were approximately eight federal-provincial conferences involving First Ministers, ten from 1945 to 1959 and fifteen from 1960 to 1969. After the constitutional conferences of 1969-1971, federal-provincial conferences at the level of Ministers and First Ministers became incorporated as an integral and regular component of governance in the Canadian Confederation. Federal-provincial conferences may involve meetings of the First Ministers (Prime Ministers), meetings of Ministers or meetings of Deputy Ministers and officers of agencies representing different levels of government and sponsored by their ministers. (This finding aid is not designed to search for intergovernmental conferences related explicitly to relations with First Nations.)

2. Research Strategies and Advice

The main source of documentation at Library and Archives Canada for federal-provincial conferences is the Federal-Provincial Relations Office incorporated into the Privy Council Office in 1968. Prior to 1968, the Privy Council Office provided support on an ad hoc basis to periodic conferences. The Records of Dominion-Provincial Conferences (RG 47) are now called the Federal-Provincial Relations sous-fonds in the Privy Council Office fonds and are arranged by specific conferences. However, they are listed below by their former record group (RG).

Another major source of archival records related to federal-provincial relations and federal-provincial conferences is the Records of the Department of Finance (RG 19). By virtue of the complex intergovernmental agreements related to transfer payments, equalization, taxes and other financial arrangements, the records are extensive and, up to 1968, the Department of Finance was the only department of government to have a formal organizational unit supporting the formal conference activities associated with federal-provincial relations. Some of the records of the Federal-Provincial Conferences (RG 47) originated from the Department of Finance.

Another source of federal government records related to federal-provincial relations accruing to Library and Archives Canada are located in the Records of the Department of External Affairs (RG 25). Foreign Affairs generates a substantial body of records related to federal-provincial relations by virtue of provincial interaction with foreign governments. This activity in turn results in documentation of federal-provincial conferences (which often result in agreements defining the framework and protocol in which provinces will conduct their relations with foreign governments). The series is by no means a comprehensive source for all federal-provincial conferences.

Other Library and Archives Canada fonds where there is a limited extent of archival records include Department of Justice fonds (RG 13), Department of Insurance fonds (RG 40), Department of Transport fonds (RG 12), Department of Communications fonds (RG 97), Department of Citizenship and Immigration fonds (RG 26), Ministry of State for Urban Affairs fonds (RG 127), Department of Reconstruction and Supply fonds (RG 28), Canadian Forestry Services fonds (RG 39), Immigration Program sous-fonds (RG 76), Northern Affairs Program sous-fonds (RG 85), Indian and Inuit Affairs Program sous-fonds (RG 10), Department of Environment fonds (RG 108), Parks Canada Service sous-fonds (RG 84), Department of National Health and Welfare fonds (RG 29), Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce fonds, (RG 20), Emergency Preparedness Canada fonds, (RG 57) and Department of Labour fonds (RG 27).

Files covering federal-provincial relations may be incorporated into the more recent (post-1945) Library and Archives Canada holdings of the registry files from virtually any federal agency when the subject of the conference relates to the statutory mandate of the agency. These files will rarely constitute the official record of a conference, but they may contain pertinent and substantial information. The only way to ensure that you have accessed all possible references is to target the agencies which might conceivably have been interested in the subject focus of the conference and then use Library and Archives Canada inventory for the fonds of that agency to search for file series related to federal-provincial conferences that may have been transferred. You can use the ArchiviaNet general search tools to supplement the list of textual records below. The general inventory series in ArchiviaNet may also be searched to identify related private papers as well as sound, visual, graphic and photographic records related to various federal-provincial conferences.

The main central agency responsible for federal-provincial and other high level intergovernmental conferences since 1973 is the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. By and large, Library and Archives Canada holds very few records of this agency. The Secretariat's services are available to federal, provincial and territorial departments that are called upon to organize and chair such meetings. In addition to serving federal-provincial First Ministers' meetings, the Secretariat serves the Annual Premiers' Conference, the Eastern Canadian Premiers' and New England Governors' Conference and the Western Premiers' Conference. The core of the Secretariat's work, however, is providing services to multilateral meetings of Ministers and Deputy Ministers in virtually every sector of government activity. Although designated a federal department for the purposes of the Financial Administration Act, by an Order-in-Council on November 29, 1973, the organization is in fact an agency of the federal and provincial governments. Not only is its budget supported by these two orders of government, but its staff is selected from both federal and provincial governments, and the Secretariat reports annually to all governments that it serves. Partly due to this joint jurisdiction, Library and Archives Canada has not come to any agreement with the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat for the transfer of records. Apart from some sound, visual and graphic records, all the recorded information of the agency remains with the Secretariat.

The Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat maintains through its Information Services section, a separate and unique archives containing over 25,000 conference-related documents spanning every sector of conference activity since 1973. The information contained in the archives is made available, as appropriate, to government institutions at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, while unclassified material is also available to the public on request. The Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat contains a listing of the conferences served since 1997. As virtually all federal-provincial conferences use the Secretariat for their logistical and administrative support, the listings here can be treated for most purposes as comprehensive. The Secretariat has also published detailed listings of Federal-Provincial Conferences of First Ministers, 1906-1985, verbatim transcripts of selected Federal-Provincial Conferences since 1982, and selected documents from a wide selection of more recent conferences. These published sources are available through Library and Archives Canada and as well may be located in a local university or central public reference library.

The Bank of Canada Archives also has holdings related to federal-provincial conferences subsequent to the Bank's creation in 1935.

3. Selected Archival References

Government Records

General File on Federal-Provincial Conferences

Records of the Privy Council Office (RG 2)

  • Ca. 1950
    (RG 2, series I-A-1, vol. 2645, finding aid 2-11)

Records Relating to Indian Affairs (RG 10)

  • Federal-Provincial Conferences regarding Administration, 1945-1965
    (RG 10, finding aid 10-27, vol. 8572, reel C-14213 to C-14214;)
    (RG 10, finding aid 10-27, vol. 8575, file 1/1-2-2)

Records of the Department of Finance (RG 19)

Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch Series

This series covers records up to 1980. There are many unprocessed accessions with more recent material covering the period since 1980 and such accessions often have a separate finding aid. When consulting the inventory, the researcher may wish to consult registry files contained in other series of the modern file registry system where records related to federal-provincial conferences may be cross-filed in different sub-registries.

  • (RG 19, microfilm reels T-3435 to T-3438, finding aid 19-16,vols. 3838-3919;)
    (RG 19, microfilm reels T-3435 to T-3438, finding aid 19-16, vols. 4718-4777;)
    (RG 19, microfilm reels T-3435 to T-3438, finding aid 19-16, vols. 4853-4888;)
    (RG 19, microfilm reels T-3435 to T-3438, finding aid 19-16, vols. 5305-5333;)
    (RG 19, microfilm reels T-3435 to T-3438, finding aid 19-16, vols. 5489-5571.)

Economic Development Division Series

  • (RG 19, vol. 4966, finding aid 19-16)

Records of the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce (RG 20)

  • 1964-1970
    (RG 20, series A-3 and A-4, vols. 1657 and 2812, files 20-243 and 453-2, finding aids 20-5 and 20-6)

Records of the Department of External Affairs (RG 25)

  • Dominion-Provincial Conference, 1933
    (RG 25, series D 1, vol. 716, file 11, microfilm reel T-1745, finding aid 25-3)
  • Federal-Provincial Conferences, General, 1945-1958
    (RG 25, series G 2, vol. 3676, file 5281-40, finding aid 25-6)
  • Federal-Provincial Wildlife Conferences, 1948-1962
    (RG 25, series G-2, vol. 4108, file 11580-AR-40, finding aid 25-5)

Records of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (RG 26)

  • 1949-1967
    (RG 26, vols. 79-80, 83 and 145, files 1-19, 1-24 and 3-41)
  • Material related to Federal-Provincial Conference on Indian Affairs, 1965-1966
    (RG 26, finding aid 26-3)

Records of the Department of Labour (RG 27)

  • 1972-1982
    (RG 27, series B-3, vols. 4506 and 4507, files 44-4-3, finding aid 27-5)

Records of Department of National Health and Welfare (RG 29)

  • (RG 29, vols. 1543, 1545 and 1546, files C-1006-1, finding aid 29-33)
  • 1973-1975
    (RG 29, finding aid 29-61)
  • 1963-1978
    (RG 29, vols. 2669-2676 and 3440, files 801-2, finding aid 29-143)
  • 1971-1989
    (RG 29, acc. 1995-96/224, box 159, file 6040-M6, finding aid 29-191)
  • (RG 29, acc. 85-86/063, box 1)
  • Fitness and Amateur Sport, 1962-1970
    (RG 29, acc. 84-85/594, boxes 1-13;)
    (RG 29, vols. 2173, 2243, 2479 and 2480, files 220-2 and 220-3, finding aid 29-109.)
  • Emergency Services and Drug Quality Assessment, 1965-1977
    (RG 29, acc. 1983-1984/292, boxes 3 and 4, file 580-5, finding aid 29-138)
  • Health Education, 1945-1957
    (RG 29, vols. 110 and 111, file 181-1-9, finding aid 29-1)

Records of the Canadian Forestry Services (RG 39)

  • 1927-1939
    (RG 39, series A-1, vol. 458, file 46819, finding aid 39-1)

Records of the Emergency Measures Organization (RG 57)

  • 1981-1982
    (RG 57, series A-2, acc. 1989-90/216, box 15, file 2300-9)

Records of the Immigration Branch (RG 76)

  • Dominion-Provincial Conferences on Agriculture, Farm Labour and Tourism
    (RG 76, series B-1, vols. 781 and 782, file 538 (inter-war years), finding aid 76-12)
  • Dominion-Provincial Conference on Immigration
    (RG 76, series I-A-1, vol. 625, file 951760, finding aid 76-5)

Records of Canadian Parks Service (RG 84)

  • Federal-Provincial Conference on Historic Resources, 1961-1972
    (RG 84, series A-5-a, vols. 2338 and 2348, file C1180-106, finding aid 84-14)

Records of the Northern Affairs Program (RG 85)

  • 1927-1949 and 1963-1967
    (RG 85, vols. 294, 1451 and 1899, file 1006-1, finding aids 85-1 and 85-8)
  • Federal-Provincial Wildlife Conferences, 1922-1968
    (RG 85, series D-1-a, vols.148-150, 294 and 1426, files 400-11)
    Finding aid 85-1 covers most of the volumes.

Records of the Department of Communications (RG 97)

  • (RG 97, acc. 93-94/231, box 3, file 5250-4)
  • 1974
    (RG 97, acc. 1993-94/148, box 57, file 5877-5, finding aid 97-50)

Records of the Ministry of State for Urban Affairs (RG 127)

  • 1972-1978
    (RG 127, vols. 74-75 and 141, files 150-26 and 220-1-I, finding aid 127-3)

Records of the Department of Environment (RG 108)

  • Federal-Provincial Conferences, 1971-1974
    (RG 108, finding aid 108-11, vol. 29, file 1180-38;)
  • (RG 108, finding aid 108-11, vol. 228, file 1180-6;)
    (RG 108, finding aid 108-11, vols. 124 and 229, file 1180-38)

Covered are such topics as Federal-Provincial Conference on Orderly Increase in Food Supplies, 1973 and Federal-Provincial Wildlife Conference, 1980-1981.

Specific Conferences or Themes

Records of the Privy Council Office (RG 2)

  • Meech Lake Agreement, 1987
    (RG 2, vol. 5935)
  • Charlottetown Agreement, 1992
    (RG 2, acc. 1997-98/077)
  • Federal-Provincial Agreements [to reduce duplication and overlap in programs], 1994
    (RG 2, vol. 6280)

Records of the Department of Transport (RG 12)

  • Federal-Provincial Conferences and Ministers Meetings with Premiers on Regional Transportation, 1966-1974
    (RG 12, acc. 1980-1981/303, file 100-5;)
    (RG 12, acc. 1981-82/195, box 15, file S1200-21-2, X1200-41-4;)
    (RG 12, acc. 84-85/219, box 1, file X1200-5;)
    (RG 12, acc. 84-85/655, boxes 27 and 28, file X1200-41;)
    (RG 12, acc. 1985-86/531, boxes 1, 3 and 4, file 100-5-9 and X1200-41;)
    (RG 12, vol. 4725, file 1200-41-4, 1972-1978, finding aid 12-23;)
    (RG 12, vol. 2363, file 200-44;)
    (RG 12, vol. 2622, file 1000-23;)
    (RG 12, vol. 2786, file 104-77-6.)
  • 1970-1976
    (RG 12, vol. 2835, file X1200-41-2, finding aids 12-1 and 12-2)
  • 1971-1978
    (RG 12, vols. 5026 and 5265, file 1200-22, 1971-1978, finding aid 12-25 and 12-112)

Records of the Department of External Affairs (RG 25)

  • Dominion-Provincial Farm Labour Conference, Ottawa, December 9, 1943
    (RG 25, vol. 3261, file 6042, finding aid 25-5)
  • Federal-Provincial Conference, 1941
    (RG 25, vol. 2845, file 1512-40)
  • Federal-Provincial Tourist Conferences, 1943-1963
    (RG 25, vol. 3246, file 8883-40, finding aid 25-5)

Records of the Department of National Health and Welfare (RG 29)

  • Federal-Provincial Conferences on Venereal Disease Control Officers, 1923-1953
    (RG 29, vols. 493-497, file 311-V3, 1923-1953, finding aid 29-1)

Records of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (RG 40)

  • Constitutional Conference of 1970
    (RG 40, vol. 86, file 1922-03-1 and book pockets containing working documents, finding aid 40-2)

Records of the Department of Federal-Provincial Conferences (RG 47)

  • Dominion-Provincial Conference, 1927
    (RG 47, vols. 57 and 58, finding aid 47-2)
  • Dominion-Provincial Conference on Road Transport, 1933
    (RG 47, vol. 66)
  • Dominion-Provincial Conference, 1934
    (RG 47, vol. 67)
  • Dominion-Provincial Conference, 1935
    (RG 47, vols. 59-64, finding aid 47-3)
  • National Finance Committee, 1936
    (RG 47, vols. 73-74 and 76, finding aid 47-6)
  • Federal-Provincial Conference, 1941
    (RG 47, vol. 76, finding aid 47-7)
  • Dominion-Provincial Conference on Outstanding Debt, 1944
    (RG 47, vols. 77-79, finding aid 47-8)
  • Dominion-Provincial Conference on Reconstruction, Ottawa, Ontario, August 6, 1945
    (RG 47, vol. 80, finding aid 47-9)
    Consult main inventory series in ArchiviaNet for visual records related to this event.
  • Dominion-Provincial Conference on Reconstruction, 1946
    (RG 47, vols. 68-72, finding aid 47-5)
  • Dominion-Provincial Conference on Correctional Reform, 1958
    (RG 47, vol. 81)
  • Resources For Tomorrow Conference, 1959-1962
    (RG 47, vols. 1-56)
  • Federal-Provincial Constitutional Conferences, 1969-1971
    (RG 47, vols. 82-86, finding aid 47-10)

4. Selected Bibliography

The following texts are not studies of federal-provincial conferences per se, but instead represent broad studies of the underlying context in which federal-provincial conferences evolved into a fundamental element of governance for the Canadian Confederation.

Armstrong, Christopher. The Politics of Federalism: Ontario's Relations with the Federal Government, 1867-1942. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1981

Harrison, Peter. The Constitutional Conference Secretariat: a unique response to a public management challenge. Ottawa, Canadian Centre for Management Development, 1992

McWhinney, Edward. Quebec and the Constitution, 1960-1978. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1979

Savoie, D.J. Federal-Provincial Collaboration. Montreal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1981

Simeon, Richard, ed. Must Canada Fail? Montreal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1977

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