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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test