Canadian provinces split over federal reform deal

A TENTATIVE deal to reshape the Canadian federation, struck between Canada's nine English-speaking provinces and Joe Clark, the federal Minister Responsible for Constitutional Affairs, seemed to be falling apart yesterday even before it had been formally presented to the Canadian Parliament or the Quebec government.

The proposals had been developed through months of intense negotiation, but several of the most senior federal cabinet ministers attacked both Mr Clark and the proposed deal during a day-long meeting on Wednesday.

A special session of Parliament that was supposed to begin on Wednesday to discuss the deal was cancelled while Brian Mulroney, the Prime Minister, who was noticeably reticent about the compromises struck by Mr Clark, tried to find a new consensus.

Among the most contentious issues are proposals to turn the appointed Senate, or upper house, into an elected body with powers to block or delay federal legislation, and a scheme to give Canadian native peoples a measure of self-government.

Quebec's Premier, Robert Bourassa, has been boycotting the talks, arguing that it is up to the rest of the country to make Quebec an offer to replace the Meech Lake constitutional accord which failed to be ratified two years ago.

Failing an acceptable offer from the English-speaking part of the country, Mr Bourassa intends to hold a referendum in Quebec next October on the question of sovereignty or independence for Quebec. But he is now indicating his willingness to meet informally with other premiers and the federal government to modify the tentative agreement.

Last month, Mr Clark emerged from meetings with provincial premiers with an apparent agreement that would give all provinces equal representation in a new elected Senate, regardless of size. This had been demanded by several of the smaller provinces, such as Alberta and Newfoundland, as their price for agreeing to a wider constitutional package including the recognition of a special status for Quebec. The package would also restore a number of other conditions that would have applied to Quebec had the Meech Lake accord been ratified.

But giving a tiny province like Prince Edward Island with 100,000 residents the same representation in the Senate as Ontario with 9 million people would mean a massive reduction in the relative influence of the most populous central provinces, especially Ontario and Quebec.

Because of Quebec's hesitant response to the Clark deal, and Mr Mulroney's commitment that no amendments will go forward without Quebec's approval, the situation is now in flux.

Meanwhile, several federal ministers said proposals to shift powers and responsibilities to the provincial level of government (as demanded by Quebec) would so weaken the federal government's ability to manage the economy that it would become ineffective.

Ironically, the only group that appeared pleased with the tentative deal were representatives of indigenous Indians and Inuit, who effectively scuttled the Meech Lake Accord two years ago.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

LSA

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: To work as part of the Le...

KS1 Float Teacher needed in the Vale

£100 - £110 per day + Travel scheme plus free professional trainnig: Randstad ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...

KS2 Float Teacher required in Caerphilly

£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme plus free professional training: Randstad ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week