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An analysis of the Liberal-NDP Accord 1985 in Ontario, Canada

                                                                              Tony Nguyen vinh Thuong

This political essay was written in December 1986. A very short information was added at the footnotes in 1995.The Liberal- NDP Accord 1985 was a great turning point of the history of  Ontario Government.

This article provides three parts: a brief history of the Liberal-NDP Accord, an analysis of the Accord, and a prediction of the fate of all three parties in the next election .

I. A brief history of the Liberal-NDP Accord 1985 in Ontario, Canada:

On 2 May 1985, the provincial election day, the people of Ontario voted and elected 52 Progressive Conservative (PC)members of Parliament, 48 Liberal members of Parliament and 25 New Democratic Party (NDP) members of Parliament; PC lost 20 seats. The Tories had only four more seats than the Liberals, and were 11 seats short of majority. The Liberals took 37.9 per cent of the 3.6 million votes cast, the PC took 37 per cent and the NDP took 23.8 per cent. No party had a majority in the Ontario Legislature. The NDP with 25 seats held the balance-of-power. So, the Liberals asked for the support of NDP in order to have a chance to form a minority government in Ontario after 42 years the Liberals had been an opposition party in the legislature; and the Conservatives also asked for the support of NDP in order to have a chance to keep power in Ontario; PC had ruled for 42 years, no political party in any democratic countries in the world had ruled  as long as 42 years. Vice versa, NDP had to decide whether to support the Liberals or the Conservatives. In other words, NDP had to decide how to handle their 25-seats-balance- of- power in Ontario.
On 6 May 1985, the New Democrats met all day in caucus to make the decision. It had been rumoured that there were two ideas : one idea favored to continue its pattern in earlier minorities of supporting the Tories on an ad hoc basis in exchange for legislative gains in 1975 and 1977; another idea was the thought of a possible coalition with the Liberals. At this time, the New Democrats didn't want to deliver power to  the Tories or the Liberals with just a smile and a handshake. So, the caucus decided to keep its bargaining power by asking both the Liberals and the Conservatives to negotiate a written deal that included : a timetable for bringing in certain legislation; sunshine reforms to open up the legislative process; a way to guarantee stability and no election for at least two years.
On 10 May, 1985, all three parties appointed negotiating teams. PC leader Frank Miller appointed Larry Grossman as Chief  Negotiator and Robert Elgie in favor of dealing with NDP in order to keep  42 years of Progressive Conservative rule over Ontario. Liberal leader David Peterson appointed Robert Nixon and Ian Scott in favor of dealing with the NDP in order to gain power. NDP leader Bob Rae appointed Ross McClellan. Both the Conservatives and the Liberals accepted the idea of a written agreement. So, the important thing was the contents of the Accord that should be negotiated.
On 24 May, 1985, at 12:15 P.M, McClellan called Grossman and informed him that NDP caucus had decided to support the Liberals. At 2:30 P.M Bob Rae announced publicly his party would support the Liberals. He said that the NDP wanted to try something new.
 On 28 May, 1985, the NDP and the Liberals signed " An agreement for a reform minority Parliament ". This historic Accord created an opportunity for a change that ended 42 years of Conservatives government, and gave the Liberals a chance to form a minority government in Ontario. This Accord was not a formal coalition as the NDP did not receive any Cabinet seats in the minority government. The two parties announced that they would defeat the Conservatives by 18 June, 1985.
On 30 May, 1985, Bob Rae visited Lieutenant Governor John Black Aird to inform him that the NDP would support a Liberal administration, and gave him a copy of the Accord.
One question was raised:  was the Accord legal ? - The answer was as follows:
" (...). The noose was now around Miller's neck, the non-confidence vote would take place in eleven days. He had publicly threatened a legal challenge to the constitutionally of the non-confidence vote section of the Liberal-NDP Accord. But the weekend before the vote, Donald Smiley, the York University expert he'd asked for an opinion, sent Miller ( Frank Miller ) his advice that the Accord was legal. "
Rosemary Speirs, The Tories' desperate bid to hang on, Toronto Star, October 15, 1986.
On 18 June, 1985, the Conservatives were defeated in the Legislature and fell from power after 42 years. Robert Nixon, a former Liberal leader gave a speech in the House that the Legislature voted 72-52 to tell the Lieutenant Governor that the Conservative government had lost the confidence of the House. The day after the vote, Frank Miller went to see John Black Aird, the Lieutenant Governor, and informed Aird that he had lost the confidence of the House and recommended Aird call on David Robert Peterson.
So, Aird would make a decision whether he found the Accord unparliamentarily and dissolved the house for an election, or he would ask Peterson to form a minority government. Aird issued a press release :
“... I have this day asked Mr. David Peterson to form a government, he’s having assured me that he can form a government which will have the confidence of the Legislature Assembly for a reasonable length of time. On the advice of counsel with whose opinion I agree, I have advised Mr. Peterson that the agreement between the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party has no legal force or effect and that it should be considered solely as a joint political statement of intent and that the agreement can not affect or impair the powers or privileges of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario nor the members of the Legislative Assembly. "
A week later, Aird issued a second statement that he had accepted the resignations of Miller and his executive council. David Peterson was the first Liberal Premier of Ontario in 42 years.

II. An analysis of the Liberal-NDP Accord :

The Accord guaranteed no election for two years from the day that the leader of the Liberal Party assumed the office of Premier, that was 26 June 1985; and set out an agenda of legislative reform proposals. These proposals contained many elements in common. Obviously, this deal does not expire until 26 June, 1987 in principle.
There were 3 documents in the Accord. Every document had many items. In each document, we will analyze every item of the Accord , that is Legislative Reform Proposals in the Accord, and the Action by the Liberal government in accordance with the Accord and which item has been implemented or which item has not implemented, and the purpose of each Bill.

*A -Document 1 :

A.1 - Legislative reform proposals in the Accord :
 1. Legislative Reform: Legislation on freedom of information and protection of privacy.
2. Reform of the House by strengthening and broadening the role of committees and individual members and increasing public involvement in the legislative process. Select committees will be established to investigate the commercialization of health and social services in Ontario and to study and report on bilateral environmental issues affecting Ontario.
3. Changes to broaden the powers of the public accounts committee and the provincial auditor to cover current and proposed expenditures, and to reiterate the authority of the committee to direct investigations of all aspects of public spending.
4.If Establishment of a standing committee on energy to oversee Ontario Hydro and other energy matters.
5. Establishment of a select committee on procedures for appointments in the public sector to recommend changes in the system of recruitment and selection of public appointees.
6. Election financing reform to cover spending limits and rebates, at both the central and local campaign level.
7. Re-definition and broadening of the rights of public service workers to participation in political activity.
8. Electronic Hansard (television in the Legislative, house of commons debates).

A.   2- Action by Liberal government

1. Bill 34: An Act to provide for freedom of information and protection of individual privacy. It was introduced on 22 April, 1986. It has been reviewed.
 2. This item has not  been introduced yet.
3. Bill 88 :  An Act to amend the legislative Assembly Act. It was introduced on 18 Dec., 1985. It was passed in early 1986.
    - Bill 89: An Act to amend the Executive Council Act. It was passed in early 1986 .
    - Bill 90 : An Act to amend the legislative Assembly Retirement Allowance Act. It was introduced on 18 Dec.,1985. It was passed in early 1986.
 4. This item was implemented.
5. This item hasn't been introduced yet
6. Bill 77 : The Representation Act, which increases the number of seats in the Legislature to 130 from 125, and eliminates or changes the boundaries of many ridings.
      It was introduced and passed in early 1986.
      - Bill 103 : The Election Finances Act, which puts limits on spending by candidates in provincial elections and forces candidates in party leadership conventions to disclose names of contributors. It was introduced and passed in early 1986.
7. Bill 85 : An Act to provide political Rights for public servants. It gives public servants the sane political rights that all other citizens enjoy in Ontario. It covers civil servants, crown employees of community colleges and people working for agencies such as Ontario Hydro, Workers' Compensation Board and the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, but excludes Deputy Ministers, officers of similar status in Crown agencies and other senior policy-making officials.
     It had been introduced on 17 Dec., 1985 and has been controversial.
8. This item was implemented.

*B -Document 2 :  proposals for action in first session from common campaign proposals to be implemented within frame work of fiscal responsibility.
B.1 - Legislative reform proposals in the Accord :
1. Begin implementation of separate school funding:
  -Release present draft legislation immediately.
  -  Introduce legislation upon a Liberal government meeting the Legislature and refer to committee for public hearings.
2. Introduce programs to create employment and training opportunities for young people.
3. Ban extra-billing by medical Doctors.
4. Proclaim the sections of the Environmental Protection Act dealing with spills.
5. Reform Ontario's tenant protection laws, including:
    - Establishment of a rent registry.
    - Establishment of a 4-per-cent rent review guideline.
     - Inclusion of the provisions of bill 198 as a permanent part of the Residential Tenancies Act.
    - Extension of rent review to cover post-1976 buildings.
    - An end to the $750-a-month exemption from rent review.
6. Introduction of a rent review procedure to deal with costs no longer born by landlords;
7. Introduction of enabling legislation to  permit demolition control by municipalities.
Contract law:
8. Introduce legislation for equal pay for work of equal value in both the public and the private sector.
9. Include a first-contract law in Ontario labor legislation.
10. Introduce reforms to the Occupation-al Health and Safety Act including toxic substances designation and regulations to give workers the right to know about workplace hazards.
11. Continue the pre-budget freeze on the ad valorem gasoline tax and establish an inquiry into gas price differentials between Northern and Southern Ontario.
12. Wind up  the royal commission on the Northern environment and obtain release of all working papers and reports.
13. Provide full coverage of medically necessary travel under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (0HIP) for residents of Northern Ontario.
B.2- Action by Liberal Government:
1.Bill 30 : An Act to amend the Education Act, which provides. for the extension of public funding to the final grades of Separate Secondary Schools ( Catholic schools ).
     It became law on 24 June, 1986, two years after PC former Premier William Davis announced the plan to fund grade 11,12,13.
2. The government established “Future” agency in order to offer employment and training opportunities for the Youth in late 1985.
3. Bill 94 : Heath care Accessibility Act: An Act bans extra-billing by Doctors. It regulates the amounts that persons may charge for rendering services that are insured services under the Health Insurance Act.
     It was introduced on 19 Dec., 1985. It was passed on June, 1986.
4. Bill 44 : Environmental protection Amendment Act.
     It was introduced on 26 May, 1986. It has been reviewed.
5. Bill 77 : An Act to amend certain Act respecting Residential Tenancies.
     It was introduced on 16 Dec,. 1985. It was passed in early 1986.
  -An Act established 4-per-cent ceiling on annual rent increases. It effects only one year then rent will rise in according to formula.
6. This item has not been introduced yet.
7. This item was implemented by Bill 11.
8. Bill 105:  An Act to provide pay equity for employees in predominantly female groups of jobs in the public service.
     It was introduced on 22 April, 1986. But this Bill has been controversial.
      Bill 105 proposes to provide equal pay for work of equal value to only 76,000 civil servants working in the Ontario Civil Service Commission and six Government Agencies, benefiting 29,000 women in "predominantly female groups of jobs.” But PC and NDP  wanted to force the minority Liberal government to extend its equal pay legislation to cover 650,000 Public Service Workers across Ontario.
9. Bill 65: An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act
       This Bill provides for first-contract settlements by the Labor Relations Board if it finds that bargaining between union and management has broken d own because one side has been unwilling to conclude an agreement.
      It was introduced on 26 Nov., 1985. It was passed on 26 May, 1986.
10.  Bill 99 : An Act to require disclosure of the use of hazardous substances. 
      It was introduced on 22 April, 1986. It passed on 06 Dec., 1986.
      - Bill 101: An Act to amend the Occupational Health & Safety Act.
       This Bill gives workers the right to know about workplace hazards.
       It was introduced and passed in1986.
11. Bill 51 : An Act to amend the gasoline tax Act.
      It was introduced and passed in 1985.
12. This item was introduced. It was passed.
13. This item was introduced. It was passed.

*C.- Document 3 : Program for action from common campaign proposals, to be implemented within a framework of fiscal responsibility.

         C.1 - Legislative reform proposals in the Accord:

 1.Affirmative action and employment equity for women, minorities and the handicapped and expansion of the role and budget of Human Rights Commission to deal with workplace and housing discrimination.
2. Establishment of an Ontario housing program to fund immediately 10,000 co-op and non-profit housing units, in addition to those provided for under federal funding arrangements.
3. New enforceable mechanisms for the control of pollution to enable Ontario to deal effectively with acid rain and to establish the principle that the polluter pays.
4.Reform of services for the elderly to provide alternatives to institutional care and a reform of the present nursing home licensing and inspection system.
5. Reform of job security legislation, including notice and, justification of lay-offs and plant shutdowns and improved severance legislation. 
6. Farm financing reform, including low-interest loans for farmers.
7. Workers’ Compensation reform.
8. Private pension reform based on the recommendations of the Ontario Select Committee on pensions.
9. Reform of day-care policy and funding to recognize child care as a basic public service and not a form of welfare.
10. An independent audit of Ontario's forest resources, and additional programs to provide for on-going regeneration of Ontario's forests.

C.2.-Action by Liberal Government:

1. Bill 100 : An Act to provide for the employment of disabled persons.
       It was introduced on 14 January, 1986. It had been reviewed. 
    - Bill 7 : An Act to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code, which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
        The amendment would guarantee homosexuals the same protection against discrimination as people who are handicapped or of a different color, race or creed.
        It was introduced in 1985. It was passed in November, 1986; Ontario is the second Province which banned discrimination against homosexuals. Firstly, Quebec banned discrimination against homosexuals in December, 1977.
2. It was passed in 1986.
3. Bill 112 : The Environment Enforcement Statute Law: This Bill calls for increased fines and imprisonment for polluters and would allow the courts to strip offenders of profits obtained by the Commission of their offences.
      It was introduced in early 1986. It had not been passed yet.
4. Bill 92 : An Act to amend the nursing homes Act.
    This Bill requires the financial statements of licensed nursing homes to be tabled in the assembly and made available for public inspection.
    It was introduced on 18 Dec., 85. It has been reviewed.
5. A proposed Bill : On December 3, 1986, ( Toronto Star, p, A 7 ) , Labor Minister Bill Wrye said his Ministry's review of the Act is almost finished "the government reform job security legislation". This would include notice and justification of layoffs and plant closings and improved severance payments, and the government will move to protect workers in a way that will be “realistic”  but better than anywhere in Canada. No other province has legislation dealing with plant closings.
6. This item had not been introduced yet.
7. Bill 81 : An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.
                This Bill provides the automatic annual adjustment of benefits payable under the Act, retroactively to the year 1941. The " cost-of-living-increases" for pensions and supplements had been the second point of the four-point program of the Union of Injured Workers since 1974.
      It was introduced in December, 1985. It was passed in early 1986.
         There are proposals such as  disability pensions reform, rehabilitation reform for injured workers, job security or full compensation that had not been introduced yet.
8. Bill 137 : An Act to amendment Pension Benefits Act. This Bill had this purpose : Private Pension Plans provide for bridging supplements, members of the pension plans would benefit from changes in the Canada Pension Plan providing benefits to persons before they reach 65.
             It was introduced on 20 Oct., 1986. It had been reviewed.
9. This item has not been introduced yet. But the Liberals has borrowed this item as their policy. Premier David Peterson announced this issue at the meeting of Premiers in November 1986 in Vancouver.
10. This item had not been introduced yet.

III. Conclusion :

From the day  Liberal leader, David Peterson, assumed the office of Premier, 26 June 1985, many items of the Accord were implemented significantly. In practice, the NDPs have fought hard to make the Accord a reality and gained many advances such as rent control 4% of compulsory rent increasing per year, banning extra billing by medical Doctors, etc... But many other promised reforms have yet to become law. Most likely the Liberal government was truly committed to  those items. There are 7 months left to go in the Accord, the Accord will expire on 26 June 1987. Can the Liberals keep their promises ?  Although the Liberals have addressed many important issues in the Accord, but it does not mean that  the Liberals did not break  promises in the Accord or fail to deliver on commitments. In fact, Bill 51, the Residential Rent Registration Act was passed on December 3, 1986, will replace the 4-per-cent ceiling on annual rent increases of the document 2, item 5, of the Accord. Bill 51 was supported by Progressive Conservatives, Bill 51 provides a new system of rent review in Ontario. A new formula based on the consumer price index will be used to determine what rents Ontario landlords can charge their tenants. When Bill 51 was voted on 3 December 86, NDP Leader Bob Rae said : " ... the Liberals have clearly broken their word by promising both tenants and his party that the ceiling on annual rent increases would remain at 4 per cent. It has to be an election issue, and voters will get a chance to speak about a government that breaks its word to tenants."
Bob Rae took the leadership of the Ontario New Democratic Party in early 1982. Tragically, it was he who raised the idea to support the Liberals in the caucus of the NDP on 6 May, 1985, and paved the way for Liberal Leader, David Peterson, a chance to form a minority government in Ontario. It was also he who on 14 December, 1979 moved the motion in Parliament of Canada that defeated the short-lived minority government of Joe Clark and paved the way for Pierre Trudeau's return to power.
I remember that in the history of Viet Nam war, there were two international Accords : the first was the Geneva Accord signed by France, Vietnamese communist guerillas and other nations except the U.S and Saigon government on 20 July, 1954. The second was Paris Agreement signed by four sides : the U.S, Hanoi government, Saigon government, Vietnamese guerillas in south Vietnam, on 23 January 1973. And then many of promised items of these Accords were broken by related sides.
So, I don't think all the rests of the Liberal-NDP Accord will be implemented before the expire date ,on 26 June, 1987. Indeed, the Accord has been a political card that the Liberals had  to use  as a chance to gain power in Ontario. Now, the political circumstance of the Liberals has changed: Liberal MPP Christine Hart won the York East by election in April, 1986, after Liberal government appointed the PC MPP  Robert Elgie as the Chairman of the Workers' Compensation Board. The Conservatives lost that seat; - New Democrat MPP David Ramsay who won the Northern Ontario seat, Timiskaming, on 2 May 1985, crossed the Legislature to join the Liberals in October 16,  1986. The NDPs lost one seat.
The current party standings show that:  the Progressive Conservatives with 51 seats, the Liberals with 50 seats, the NDPs with 24 seats. Not longer than one and a half years, Liberals won two more seats in the Legislature.
From the day Liberals took over the government in Ontario, they have put their people in many higher positions in government offices, even at many Appeal Tribunals of many Ministries in order to change the Conservatives people. In addition, the Liberals' strategy is that Liberals get along not only with employers but also with employees, they also get along with landlords and with tenants and so on.
I believe that the next election will turn the minority Liberal government to a strong majority Liberal government. And then, the NDP would be one of the opposition parties to the Liberal government. Political game has been indeed a dirty game in the history of the world .
 I believe the Accord had been a very good political initiative that NDP utilized to support the Liberal minority government.

                                                                                          Toronto,  December 1986.
                                                                                       Tony Nguyen vinh Thuong

*Foot notes:
Additional information  was written in 1995:
After the expiration of the Liberal-NDP Accord  in June, 1987, the Liberals called another provincial election on 10 September, 1987. The Liberals won the second largest majority Government in Ontario’s history. The people of Ontario voted and elected : 95 Liberal members, 19 NDP members, 16 PC members.
The Tories did not return to power in Ontario until  the 1995 provincial election. PC leader Mike Harris became Premier.

1.An agenda for Reform – Proposals for Minority Parliament. That is the Liberal-NDP Accord dated May 28, 1985.
2.Bills were introduced at Queen’s Park, Ontario Parliament from June 26, 1985 to Jan 31, 1987.
3.Newspapers: Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun in Toronto from May 02,1985 to May 10, 1987.
4.Hale, Ken, Bill51-Residential Rent Regulation Act: How it Affects You, Toronto: Tenants Bulletin Published by the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association, Winter 1987.
5.Speirs, Rosemary, Out of the Blue: The Fall of the Tory Dynasty in Ontario, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1986.
6.Story, Jane, Rent Reform’s Exclusive Accord, Toronto: Now-December 4-10, 1986.