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It’s come to this


 

Belgian editorialist recommends Canadian model for fixing what ails a federation.

Luc Delfosse at Le Soir has been busy lately, bemoaning his lovely country’s latest national-unity crisis.

It’s complex. (It’s Belgium. You didn’t think it would be complex?) Yves Leterme, the hard-nosed Flemish guy who has resigned three times from the prime minister’s job, has been returned a fourth time by the head of state, King Albert the Not Very Flexible. But Albert has, at a minimum, clipped Leterme’s wings: His mandate now is to govern only on economic matters — to give Belgium the simple administrative government it has lacked during more than a year of excruciating attempts to square assorted communitarian circles. To handle that headache, Albert has appointed a three-person wise persons’ committee to contemplate (yet another) constitutional reform.

That’s where Delfosse comes in with his advice. “We cannot too strongly recommend that they come back on the 31st with a Canadian-type scenario,” he writes. “In that other divided country, the future of entities is discussed within a national Conference bringing together all the actors of the society.”

I confess I’m not entirely clear on what Delfosse is describing. I suspect he is referring to first ministers’ meetings from the late, decadent phase of Mulroney-era federalism, when not only provincial and federal governments but territories, the Assembly of First Nations, assorted other aboriginal groups, the Business Council on National Issues and just about everyone else with a nameplate and a sleeping bag would gather at the Conference Centre across from the Château Laurier for days stretching into weeks.

It has been a few years since “all the actors of the society” met to discuss the future of Canada’s entities. And indeed, Canada is noticeably less divided than it used to be. One wants to tell the Belgians, gently, that the (relatively!) healthy state of our federation has less to do with Trudeau-Mulroney-era constitutional grands-messes than with the fact that we don’t do that any more.


 
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It’s come to this

  1. “His mandate now is to govern only on economic matters — to give Belgium the simple administrative government”

    Speaking as a conservative, I would happily trade governments with Belgium. I wish our government of the day would concentrate only on economic matters, and a little bit of law and order, and stayed away from ‘culture’ issues.

    I have no clue about the set-up of Belgium government but I thought Delfosse was talking about Federalism. Maybe have national government deal with economics and the two regions control culture issues.

    Can’t remember where, but I read in the past few days that two country solution would have happened by now if they were not battling over who gets to have Brussels.

  2. Actually, jwl, the reason the King had to tell Leterme to keep an eye on the economy was that nobody had been doing it for almost two years.

    I read once that a catastrophic airline accident in the early 1970s happened because something went wrong in the cockpit and the entire flight crew was so preoccupied with figuring out what had happened that nobody thought to look out the window, and the plane flew into a mountain. So ever since, the standing orders for dealing with an instrument malfunction begin with Rule 1, which can be paraphrased as: “Somebody has to keep flying the plane.”

  3. Three wise men committee? who knew that Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand and Gerard Pelletier are alive and well and working for federalism in Belgium!

  4. okay. I’m not getting on a plane for another 10 years.

  5. I think it’s great that a Belgian editorialist is recommending the Canadian model for Belgium when it was just a few short years ago that then-LOLO Stephen Harper was recommending the Belgian model for Canada.

    Now that’s symmetrical federalism for you.

  6. If King Albert’s country is eventually dissolved, perhaps we could invite him over here to take up the Canadian crown. He’s got the experience and it sounds like the guy could use a break.

  7. PW says

    “One wants to tell the Belgians, gently, that the (relatively!) healthy state of our federation has less to do with Trudeau-Mulroney-era constitutional grands-messes than with the fact that we don’t do that any more.”

    “open federalism” it’s great..

    PW say’s

    “So ever since, the standing orders for dealing with an instrument malfunction begin with Rule 1, which can be paraphrased as: “Somebody has to keep flying the plane.”

    That is a old pilot joke. I was a so called ramp rat at Pearson for many years(1998-2005) while I went to school. I could tell you stories that would make you not fly ever again.

  8. And in a past life, PM Harper with his grand forsight thinks a ‘Belgian-style’ federalism to fix Canada woes.

  9. Oops I mirrored Dans post. Sorry Dan. Maybe it ain’t so bad that PM Harper has no ‘vision thing’ for Canada and Governs with little steps. His visions have been kind of freaky.

  10. Years ago my son was friends with a Belgian kid whose family was posted in Canada. I was talking to the kid’s father once and asked if he was Flemish or Wallon. (That’s what they’re called, aren’t they?) I can’t remember what he was, but I remember he seemed a bit insulted that the answer wasn’t obvious to me.

  11. R Keller – Was he perhaps a member of that elusive German-speaking minority? Does anyone know what role, if any, *they* play in all this?

  12. Hello,
    I’m from Belgium. From the Flemish part of the country (and no, I wouldn’t be insulted if this is not obvious to anybody else). I read most of the time Dutch newspapers, but given the recent problems in Belgium I follow the Le Soir website and newspaper as well. So through their reactions on the Le Soir article on the website I was redirected to this blog. Let me first make some minor subtle suggestions: Le Soir is a French newspaper and Luc Delfosse is French speaking. Belgian editorialists don’t exist, you know :-)). Furthermore, the entire construction with a temporary suspension of government talks on federalism reforms, and the construction of involving the three wise men in the reform process was thought of by policitians themselves. Our king does not govern the country, only in specific situations does he have some real power, but almost all of his actions need to be backed up by a member of the government. I had a good laugh with the conclusion that all is well given “the fact that we don’t do that any more”. To answer Jack Mitchells question: the German-speaking minority is a very small group, not involved in the entire process. They have cultural autonomy, have no financial woes and don’t bother in the process. Given their location, they are more related to the French community, the German part of the country (remember: only 73000 people !) is partly governed by some French administrations as well as being part of the Walloon Region. (Difficult, all very difficult). But, but … one of the three wise men is Lambertz, and he is the prime minister of the German Community government.

  13. karel – Many thanks for this info. Man, it makes me nostalgic for the angst of our own Meech Lake Accord crisis (1987-1990). Over the years, our main editorial cartoonist (Gable of the “Globe & Mail”) has had some wonderful drawings of a beaver (our national creature) reacting to the word “Constitution,” which I hope your government will take into consideration before embracing the Canadian model of constitutional free love.

  14. At http://www.theglobeandmail.com/cartoon I can find all recent Brian Gable cartoons, however, I did not find a site where some of these beaver-constitution cartoons are grouped. I’m certainly going to look into what the Meech Lake Accord crisis was all about ! Thanks !
    P.S. When I wrote yesterday that Le Soir was a French paper, I actually meant that it is a Belgian paper, written in French, just as the newspapers I usually read are Belgian papers, written in Dutch. I did not want to refer to the Netherlands (Dutch speaking over there as well) or France.

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