The Constitution: what should have been said - Macleans.ca
 

The Constitution: what should have been said


 

My heart warmed a little the other night when the issue of the constitution came up. Having been just a young-un during Meech Lake, I was more obsessed with Nirvana, fireworks, girls and beer than that darling little existential spat. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get our own kick at the can. One can only pray.

Anyway, you’ll note how all three federalist leaders winced when Gilles Duceppe brought it up the other night. Ignatieff fumbled, Layton too (for a moment; more on this is a sec), and you could practically hear Harper’s spackle makeup crack as he said he wanted nothing to do with it. It’s a classic move ripped out of Jacques Parizeau’s playbook: bring up the fact that Quebec never signed the constitution, compare the Liberal leader to Trudeau, and watch everyone squirm. Mission accomplished!

Wielding Quebec’s somewhat ambiguous constitutional status like a chunk of kryptonite is old hat for the Parti Québécois and the Bloc. It’s remarkably effective because it jolts awake the aging, increasingly listless nationalists, reminding them of a time when the battles between sovereignists and federalists were high stakes drama and not some dusty sideshow relegated to election campaigns and the occasional flag-waving ceremony. It awakens real enmity, not the fumes of enmity on which the sovereignist movement has been coasting for so long, and federalist leaders are at best hesitant and at worst downright queasy to venture into the constitutional swamp, if only because the chances of sinking into the muck are so high. Brian Mulroney, for all his faults, honourably tried like hell and ultimately failed. What happened next?  I can’t really remember—err, Nirvana, fireworks, girls and beer—but I’m told it was awful.

So how do we get around this?

You turn it around. One of those federalist leaders should have said something like, “Look, Gilles, you imply that you’d like to see Quebec sign the constitution—as if you and your party would negotiate in good faith with whatever federalist party in Meech Lake, part deux. But you don’t, and you wouldn’t. You bring it up, and I borrow a line from  grand poohbah Jacques Parizeau here, only to provoke a crisis so as to reawaken the sovereignist flame. Intentionally provoking a crisis on such an elemental issue is the nastiest and most cynical form of politics, and it’s sad to see the Bloc stoop this low. Quebecers deserve better.”

Layton came closest the other night: you don’t shy away from the constitutional debate, you take it on. But he didn’t go on the offensive. It’ll be interesting if and when he—or Ignatieff, or Harper—does so.


 
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The Constitution: what should have been said

  1. I hope someone, someday, is brave enough to use the exact words you provided, Mr. Patriquin.

  2. I hope someone, someday, is brave enough to use the exact words you provided, Mr. Patriquin.

  3. If it's one thing we DON'T need in this country, it's to refight yet another old battle.

    Separatists are aging, and dying off. Let them.

  4. If it's one thing we DON'T need in this country, it's to refight yet another old battle.

    Separatists are aging, and dying off. Let them.

  5. I'm not sure this is a particular bluff it's wise to try to call.

  6. I'm not sure this is a particular bluff it's wise to try to call.

    • Better to let Duceppe use the bluff and continue his extortion demands forever? I think it is time we had a federal leader with the cojones to say exactly these words. The $ this situation costs us as a country is incredible. Not only equalization payments. We have way more MP's than we need due to Quebec's guaranteed 75 seats. Can we ever find a way to address all the major problems in the constitution? Maybe right after we solve the Health Care problem, which will be right after we create peace in the middle east, H&*ll freezes over etc etc.

      • TL; DR

      • Since our senate is thankfully irrelevant Quebec should have a higher representation, just as rural areas are 'overrepresented' as well as (I believe) Atlantic provinces and the territories. As long as the west has less population than Ontario we should be somewhat 'overrepresented' as a whole as well. With no Aussie or US style senate to equalize the power of the provinces vs. the population centers we should actually have more Quebec seats per person than the Western/Atlantic provinces because of the more marked difference in character vis a vis Ontario as the biggest population. (…continued)

      • If you look at the Senate it actually is equal, contra Harper. The West, Ont, Quebec, and Maritimes all have equal representation. To actually put that principle into effect requires either an effective senate or extra seats per person for the less populated regions. Not enough to equalize the difference with Ont since that cuts into the representation of the majority too much but – I think – to split the difference.

  7. Should be "Weilding Quebec's somewhat ambiguous constitutional status like a chunk of kryptonite …" instead of "Yeilding …"

  8. Should be "Weilding Quebec%E2%80%99s somewhat ambiguous constitutional status like a chunk of kryptonite …" instead of "Yeilding …"

  9. Should be "Weilding Quebec's somewhat ambiguous constitutional status like a chunk of kryptonite …" instead of "Yeilding …"

    • Danke. Fixed.

      • Also, it should be "Quebec's totally unambiguous but in some circles unpopular constitutional status".

    • Since you're busy correcting syntax, you might learn how to spell. It's "wielding" and "yielding".

  10. Better to let Duceppe use the bluff and continue his extortion demands forever? I think it is time we had a federal leader with the cojones to say exactly these words. The $ this situation costs us as a country is incredible. Not only equalization payments. We have way more MP's than we need due to Quebec's guaranteed 75 seats. Can we ever find a way to address all the major problems in the constitution? Maybe right after we solve the Health Care problem, which will be right after we create peace in the middle east, H&*ll freezes over etc etc.

  11. Danke. Fixed.

  12. Where can I find a non-translated transcript of the French debate (i.e. a french transcript)?

  13. Where can I find a non-translated transcript of the French debate (i.e. a french transcript)?

    • I second this request, in case the weight of popular demand will help encourage someone to answer.

      Also, a translated transcript would be acceptable in the interim.

  14. Well said, I also hope to hear Gilles taken to task someday.

    The NP had a good article along this topic – the photo of Pauline Marois is almost scary!!!

    "During the French-language leadership debate Wednesday, there was one reality that nobody seemed interested in addressing. Whoever is prime minister after the May 2 federal election, odds are he will be faced with a separatist government in Quebec City before his mandate is up.

    The Parti Québécois, high in the polls, gathers in Montreal Friday for a three-day convention to adopt the platform it will defend in the next election. And its preferred strategy, if it wins power, will be to pick as many fights as possible with Ottawa."
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/04/14/gr

  15. Well said, I also hope to hear Gilles taken to task someday.

    The NP had a good article along this topic – the photo of Pauline Marois is almost scary!!!

    "During the French-language leadership debate Wednesday, there was one reality that nobody seemed interested in addressing. Whoever is prime minister after the May 2 federal election, odds are he will be faced with a separatist government in Quebec City before his mandate is up.

    The Parti Québécois, high in the polls, gathers in Montreal Friday for a three-day convention to adopt the platform it will defend in the next election. And its preferred strategy, if it wins power, will be to pick as many fights as possible with Ottawa."
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/04/14/gr

  16. Well said, I also hope to hear Gilles taken to task someday.

    The NP had a good article along this topic – the photo of Pauline Marois is almost scary!!!

    "During the French-language leadership debate Wednesday, there was one reality that nobody seemed interested in addressing. Whoever is prime minister after the May 2 federal election, odds are he will be faced with a separatist government in Quebec City before his mandate is up.

    The Parti Québécois, high in the polls, gathers in Montreal Friday for a three-day convention to adopt the platform it will defend in the next election. And its preferred strategy, if it wins power, will be to pick as many fights as possible with Ottawa."
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/04/14/gr

  17. Quite right. The creeps whimpering about poh widdle Kay-beck feeling all lonely and excluded are the very creeps making sure inclusion will never happen.

    Vous êtes une gang d'hypocrites honteux, monsieur Duceppe et compagnie.

  18. Quite right. The creeps whimpering about poh widdle Kay-beck feeling all lonely and excluded are the very creeps making sure inclusion will never happen.

    Vous êtes une gang d'hypocrites honteux, monsieur Duceppe et compagnie.

  19. Would've also been nice to have had one of the federalist politicians call out the sovereignists on the economic and political damage they've wrought. Quebec has languished relative to the other provinces because the sovereignists would rather place blame on Ottawa than address structural problems.

  20. Would've also been nice to have had one of the federalist politicians call out the sovereignists on the economic and political damage they've wrought. Quebec has languished relative to the other provinces because the sovereignists would rather place blame on Ottawa than address structural problems.

  21. Patriquin,

    is that the best you got?

    Duceppe would love respond to your silly argument. He could respond that for such an "elemental issue" as you put it, it is cowardly to ignore it rather than tackle it and solve it. He would remind them that the federalists had more than 30 years to find a way to accommodate Quebec's unique situation into the Constitution and failed. The message received about the federal leaders ignoring this "elemental issue" is that Canadian federalism cannot accommodate Quebec's aspirations and the federal leaders don't have the courage to admit that.

    The only solution is a sovereign Quebec.

  22. TL; DR

  23. I think you're thinking of homophobes. Quebec sovereignty is more popular among the young, not less.

  24. Also, it should be "Quebec's totally unambiguous but in some circles unpopular constitutional status".

  25. I second this request, in case the weight of popular demand will help encourage someone to answer.

    Also, a translated transcript would be acceptable in the interim.

  26. Young people are involved in a wider world than Quebec.

  27. Young people are involved in a wider world than Quebec.

    • I can't argue with that. If only because I have no idea what your point is.

      • It means they are more global than tribal.

        • So they're globally-minded Quebec sovereignists. They're still Quebec sovereignists.

          • Well that would be tribal, not global.

            So unless they feel the ROC is holding them back….

          • So… you're saying that even though they say they're Quebec sovereignists, they're really not?

          • Quebec soverignty is at it's heart a racist political movement….white, pur laine, catholic Quebecois….wanting to be free of anglo domination etc etc.

            Youth around the world is going in the opposite direction

            Perhaps any young person in Quebec who considers himself a soverignist is more concerned with connecting with that wider world, instead of anglo Canada….in the same way that Ireland is happy to be part of the EU, but wants no direct connection to the UK.

  28. Since our senate is thankfully irrelevant Quebec should have a higher representation, just as rural areas are 'overrepresented' as well as (I believe) Atlantic provinces and the territories. As long as the west has less population than Ontario we should be somewhat 'overrepresented' as a whole as well. With no Aussie or US style senate to equalize the power of the provinces vs. the population centers we should actually have more Quebec seats per person than the Western/Atlantic provinces because of the more marked difference in character vis a vis Ontario as the biggest population. (…continued)

  29. If you look at the Senate it actually is equal, contra Harper. The West, Ont, Quebec, and Maritimes all have equal representation. To actually put that principle into effect requires either an effective senate or extra seats per person for the less populated regions. Not enough to equalize the difference with Ont since that cuts into the representation of the majority too much but – I think – to split the difference.

  30. I am curious, what do you think of my thoughts on parliamentary representation? The Senate actually is equal with identical representations for the West, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes (and fairly large seat blocs for the territories). Because the Senate is ineffective, as it should be, this principle of equality should be done by splitting the difference in parliament between the number of seats each region would have by population and what the largest region has. This is actually the current set up as I quickly check for Quebec and Ontario. Ont has about twice the population but only about 1/4 more seats. In any case, do you find having close to double representation for population acceptable as it is, or what is still 'not enough' to you about that? (that question sounds more loaded than I mean it to)

    The most interesting part of Mulroney's memoir to me was about the constitutional negotiations. So many premiers were pushing for a senate with equal seats per province. It's just obviously impossible to swamp Quebec like that.

  31. I am curious, what do you think of my thoughts on parliamentary representation? The Senate actually is equal with identical representations for the West, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes (and fairly large seat blocs for the territories). Because the Senate is ineffective, as it should be, this principle of equality should be done by splitting the difference in parliament between the number of seats each region would have by population and what the largest region has. This is actually the current set up as I quickly check for Quebec and Ontario. Ont has about twice the population but only about 1/4 more seats. In any case, do you find having close to double representation for population acceptable as it is, or what is still 'not enough' to you about that? (that question sounds more loaded than I mean it to)

    The most interesting part of Mulroney's memoir to me was about the constitutional negotiations. So many premiers were pushing for a senate with equal seats per province. It's just obviously impossible to swamp Quebec like that.

    • "close to double representation" That is quite wrong, I meant close to 50% extra representation but it came through as double.

    • "The most interesting part of Mulroney's memoir to me was about the constitutional negotiations. So many premiers were pushing for a senate with equal seats per province. It's just obviously impossible to swamp Quebec like that."

      That is not true. Quebec is the only majority francophone province in Canada while the rest are anglophone. Combine all the seats in ROC and they would swamp Quebec. There is Quebec and there is ROC, not 10 provinces.

      What Quebec nationalists want is a completely decentralized federalism that butts out of provincial affairs completely and which recognizes Quebec's unique situation in the Constitution.

      • well, you might say the rest are majority anglophone. When I lived in Edmonton I did some work in Beaumont nearby which is quite french.

        That is what I meant by it is impossible to have a senate with equal seats per province. It completely ignores the Canadian reality unless you contemplate having fracophone seats set apart in each province. As far as parliament goes, from the perspective of a westerner the country does not look like Quebec and the ROC, it looks like a country with 4 main regions including Quebec and I imagine it looks similar in the Maritimes as well. However I do believe that 1 of 4 is still a difficult position if Quebec is treated as simply one of the four, yes.

        • I agree that Canada has different regions. Like you I consider the Maritimes, Prairies, Quebec, Alberta, Ontario, BC as different regions in certain areas but when it comes to language these different regions tend to unite in one way against Quebec. In terms of language, which is very important in Quebec considering the precarious situation of French on the North American continent, I and most Quebecers view only two regions in Canada: ROC and Quebec.

          Furthermore, these regions, with the exception of Alberta and Quebec, want a strong federal government and weak provincial governments. That is a big issue in Quebec.

  32. "close to double representation" That is quite wrong, I meant close to 50% extra representation but it came through as double.

  33. Please remember that Quebec sovereignty is not just an issue of interest to Canadian politicos.
    In a very real way, parts of the world are watching us on this one.
    The people of the Catalan, Basque and other 'regions within regions' are actually quite interested to see how a big, new country like Canada – once respected and admired internationally – deals with this internal sovereignty issue.
    And also, let's try not to always forget our First Nations peoples' implicit role when we start bringing up the Constitutional debate.

  34. Please remember that Quebec sovereignty is not just an issue of interest to Canadian politicos.
    In a very real way, parts of the world are watching us on this one.
    The people of the Catalan, Basque and other 'regions within regions' are actually quite interested to see how a big, new country like Canada – once respected and admired internationally – deals with this internal sovereignty issue.
    And also, let's try not to always forget our First Nations peoples' implicit role when we start bringing up the Constitutional debate.

  35. I would remind Antonio that Monsieur Duceppe has had twenty years in Ottawa to propose ways to tackle the constitutional and has never done so for a very simple reason:

    The Quebec people have been sending to Ottawa for twenty years a majority of MPs who want Quebec to leave the federation, MPs who would oppose any constitutional propositions between the federal and Quebec governments. C'est pourtant clair comme de l'eau de roche, but Quebeckers can't admit that. Quebeckers should be happy that Canadians don't give a damn.

  36. I would remind Antonio that Monsieur Duceppe has had twenty years in Ottawa to propose ways to tackle the constitutional and has never done so for a very simple reason:

    The Quebec people have been sending to Ottawa for twenty years a majority of MPs who want Quebec to leave the federation, MPs who would oppose any constitutional propositions between the federal and Quebec governments. C'est pourtant clair comme de l'eau de roche, but Quebeckers can't admit that. Quebeckers should be happy that Canadians don't give a damn.

    • "I would remind Antonio that Monsieur Duceppe has had twenty years in Ottawa to propose ways to tackle the constitutional and has never done so for a very simple reason: "

      Why should Duceppe want to do that? He is for sovereignty of Quebec, no matter what, like me. He, and I, are trying to convince Quebec nationalists (who are in the majority in Quebec) that reform of the Constiution to take into account Quebec's unique situation in the Canadian federation is useless because Canada is hostile to this.

      It is the onus of federalist leaders to convince Quebecers that reform of the Canadian federalism will happen immediatly or as soon as possible, not Duceppe. I have to admit that Mulroney had the courage to try, but the other federalist leaders are sweeping it under the carpet. By doing that, they are admitting that reform is impossible and don't have the courage to admit that explicitly.

      The Bloc is there to remind Canada that Quebec is not happy with the status quo of Canadian federalism. Canada continues to ignore this. It doesn't matter to me because I still think the best solution is sovereignty of Quebec, no matter what. It gives Quebec full freedom and responsibility to do what it wants without "chicanes".

  37. "I would remind Antonio that Monsieur Duceppe has had twenty years in Ottawa to propose ways to tackle the constitutional and has never done so for a very simple reason: "

    Why should Duceppe want to do that? He is for sovereignty of Quebec, no matter what, like me. He, and I, are trying to convince Quebec nationalists (who are in the majority in Quebec) that reform of the Constiution to take into account Quebec's unique situation in the Canadian federation is useless because Canada is hostile to this.

    It is the onus of federalist leaders to convince Quebecers that reform of the Canadian federalism will happen immediatly or as soon as possible, not Duceppe. I have to admit that Mulroney had the courage to try, but the other federalist leaders are sweeping it under the carpet. By doing that, they are admitting that reform is impossible and don't have the courage to admit that explicitly.

    The Bloc is there to remind Canada that Quebec is not happy with the status quo of Canadian federalism. Canada continues to ignore this. It doesn't matter to me because I still think the best solution is sovereignty of Quebec, no matter what. It gives Quebec full freedom and responsibility to do what it wants without "chicanes".

  38. "The most interesting part of Mulroney's memoir to me was about the constitutional negotiations. So many premiers were pushing for a senate with equal seats per province. It's just obviously impossible to swamp Quebec like that."

    That is not true. Quebec is the only majority francophone province in Canada while the rest are anglophone. Combine all the seats in ROC and they would swamp Quebec. There is Quebec and there is ROC, not 10 provinces.

    What Quebec nationalists want is a completely decentralized federalism that butts out of provincial affairs completely and which recognizes Quebec's unique situation in the Constitution.

  39. I can't argue with that. If only because I have no idea what your point is.

  40. It means they are more global than tribal.

  41. So they're globally-minded Quebec sovereignists. They're still Quebec sovereignists.

  42. Well that would be tribal, not global.

    So unless they feel the ROC is holding them back….

  43. So… you're saying that even though they say they're Quebec sovereignists, they're really not?

  44. Quebec soverignty is at it's heart a racist political movement….white, pur laine, catholic Quebecois….wanting to be free of anglo domination etc etc.

    Youth around the world is going in the opposite direction

    Perhaps any young person in Quebec who considers himself a soverignist is more concerned with connecting with that wider world, instead of anglo Canada….in the same way that Ireland is happy to be part of the EU, but wants no direct connection to the UK.

  45. As it was on that day – So it is on this day. – On the 30th Anniversary – April 17, 1982 – Let it be said…Let it be so.

    " I speak of a Canada where men and women of aboriginal ancestry, of French and British heritage, of the diverse cultures of the world, demonstrate the will to share this land in peace, in justice, and with mutual respect. I speak of a Canada which is proud of, and strengthened by its essential bilingual destiny, a Canada whose people believe in sharing and in mutual support, and not in building regional barriers.

    I speak of a country where every person is free to fulfill himself or herself to the utmost, unhindered by the arbitrary actions of governments. The 'Canadian Ideal' which we have tried to live, with varying degrees of success and failure for a hundred years, is really an Act of Defiance against the history of mankind.

    Had this country been founded upon a less noble vision, or had our forefathers surrendered to the difficulties of building this nation, Canada would have been torn apart long ago. It should not surprise us, therefore, that even now we sometimes feel the pull of those old reflexes of mutual fear and distrust. – Fear of becoming vulnerable by opening one's arms to other Canadians who speak a different language or live in a different culture. – Fear of becoming poorer by agreeing to share one's resources and wealth with fellow citizens living in regions less favoured by nature.

    The Canada we are building lies Beyond the horizon of such fears. Yet it is Not, for all that, an unreal country, forgetful of the hearts of men and women. We know that Justice and Generosity can flourish only in an atmosphere of Trust. -For if individuals and minorities do not feel protected against the possibility of the Tyranny of the majority, if French-speaking Canadians or Native Peoples or New Canadians do not feel they will be treated with Justice, it is useless to ask them to open their hearts and minds to their fellow Canadians.

    We now have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which defines the kind of country in which we wish to live, and Guarantees the basic Rights and Freedoms which each of us shall enjoy as a citizen of Canada.
    It must however be recognized that no constitution, no charter of rights and freedoms, no sharing of powers can be a substitute for the Willingness to share the risks and grandeur of the Canadian Adventure.

    Without that collective act of the will, our Constitution would be a dead letter, and our country would wither away. It is true that our Will to live together has sometimes appeared to be in deep hibernation; but it is There nevertheless – Alive and Tenacious, in the Hearts of Canadians of Every province and territory"

    * Excerpt paragraphs from Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, ALL Canadians…and the Entire World at the True Birth of Our Nation – 30 years ago to the day – April 17th, 1982 *

  46. Since you're busy correcting syntax, you might learn how to spell. It's "wielding" and "yielding".

  47. well, you might say the rest are majority anglophone. When I lived in Edmonton I did some work in Beaumont nearby which is quite french.

    That is what I meant by it is impossible to have a senate with equal seats per province. It completely ignores the Canadian reality unless you contemplate having fracophone seats set apart in each province. As far as parliament goes, from the perspective of a westerner the country does not look like Quebec and the ROC, it looks like a country with 4 main regions including Quebec and I imagine it looks similar in the Maritimes as well. However I do believe that 1 of 4 is still a difficult position if Quebec is treated as simply one of the four, yes.

  48. I agree that Canada has different regions. Like you I consider the Maritimes, Prairies, Quebec, Alberta, Ontario, BC as different regions in certain areas but when it comes to language these different regions tend to unite in one way against Quebec. In terms of language, which is very important in Quebec considering the precarious situation of French on the North American continent, I and most Quebecers view only two regions in Canada: ROC and Quebec.

    Furthermore, these regions, with the exception of Alberta and Quebec, want a strong federal government and weak provincial governments. That is a big issue in Quebec.