Quebec gets concessions from uneasy Canada
Wednesday 29 November 1995
The Prime Minister made his proposals on Monday night after suffering blistering attacks in Parliament and in the media for not moving soon after separatists came close to winning a referendum on 30 October.
"These three initiatives the government will undertake in the coming days are a tangible response to the desires expressed by my fellow Quebeckers during the referendum campaign," Mr Chretien said. The proposals were immediately blasted by the Parti Quebecois government in Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois, its separatist ally in the federal parliament, and the western Reform Party as unacceptable. "What we have on the table is clearly not enough," Louise Beaudoin, Quebec's intergovernmental affairs minister, told a Montreal news conference.
Mr Chretien said government was introducing a motion in the Commons recognising Quebec as a distinct society with a French-speaking majority. A bill would be introduced to give four regions a veto over any constitutional amendment - Quebec, Ontario, the Atlantic region and the Western region - thus meeting Quebec's demand to regain a constitutional veto without granting that right to Quebec alone.
Thirdly, the government would begin decentralising some of its functions, starting with getting out of the business of manpower training. "This is just the start of a process of change, not the outcome. What is important is that changes be innovative and realistic and respect the will of Canadians."
The separatists came within a percentage point of winning last month's referendum. A poll in Saturday's Globe and Mail said 54.8 per cent of Quebeckers would vote to leave Canada if a vote were held now.
Since the referendum, the Bloc's charismatic leader, Lucien Bouchard, has said he would seek the premiership of Quebec, from which he could launch another referendum in a couple of years. Rejecting Mr Chretien's proposals outright, Quebec's Ms Beaudoin said the distinct-society resolution was "just words" giving Quebec no real power and the proposals on worker training fell short of demands made by earlier Quebec governments.
Reaction from Quebec's Liberal Party leader, Daniel Johnson, who was official leader of Canadian unity forces during the referendum campaign, was reserved. Mr Johnson commended Mr Chretien for taking a "first step", but added that a resolution adopted by Quebec Liberals on Sunday called for Quebec's distinct-society designation and veto to be entrenched in the constitution. That would give them much more political weight.
Michel Gauthier, the Bloc's No 2 called the veto proposal "completely senseless". The Reform Party said Mr Chretien's policy was a rehash of past, failed ideas.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...