Québec reopens the constitutional debate

Quebec has decided to relaunch the constitutional debate, according to La Presse canadienne.






The Canadian Press
Although determined to see its difference finally officially recognized from coast to coast, Quebec will launch a major offensive across the country to convince Canadians of the soundness of its claims.

The Couillard government is thus seeking to create favorable conditions for the resumption of any constitutional negotiations at the appropriate time. Eventually, if Quebec gets the desired recognition, it could then join the Constitution Act, 1982 and be part of the larger Canadian family.

The privileged approach is essentially pedagogical. No knife on the throat. No fixed deadline. One wants above all to communicate, to convince, to explain.

To achieve this, the Couillard government chose to melt the delicate and complex constitutional issue into a broader redefinition of Quebec-Canada relations.

Prime Minister Philippe Couillard took several years to back up his thinking on the subject, to clarify his arguments and to draft a brick of nearly 200 pages, a founding text describing in detail his government's position on Quebec's place within the Canada.

This document, which La Presse canadienne received a copy of, is called Québécois, it is our way of being Canadian, and is the Couillard government's first policy of "affirmation of Quebec and Canadian relations".

In becoming leader of the Quebec Liberal Party in 2013, convinced federalist Couillard committed himself to resuming constitutional "discussions" with Canada, with the aim of seeing Quebec "reintegrate the Canadian family." But since he was prime minister, the record had been set aside. It will soon be a thing of the past, because the Prime Minister must make the document public in the coming days on a solemn declaration.

"For a paradigm shift"

Above all, Quebec wants to break the "taboo" that surrounds the whole constitutional debate, since the October 1995 referendum failed because "Quebec and Canada seem ready for a paradigm shift" on this subject.

Quebec seeks to obtain from Canada the formal recognition of the Quebec nation, its own identity, a political gesture which, we read in the document, would "ensure that Quebeckers no longer feel exiled within their own Countries ".

In fact, Quebec wants to kill two birds with one stone: to display and explain its constitutional position with a view to possible negotiations, but also, from a broader perspective, to establish a much closer relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada. The future, in all respects. For Quebec, more than ever, wants to take its place in the federation, to be of all forums, to make its voice heard, to say who it is, what it wants. And hope to be accepted as it is, so that its difference will one day be officially embedded in the Canadian Constitution.

Same claims, another approach

In the document, launched on the occasion of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Canadian federation, the Couillard government took over all the traditional demands of Quebec and appropriated the five preconditions set by the Government of Robert Bourassa in 1986:

Recognition of Quebec as a distinct society;
Limits to the federal spending power;
Guarantee of a Quebec representation in the Supreme Court;
Veto on constitutional amendments;
And increased powers in immigration matters.
"While the political and constitutional context has changed considerably since their formulation, they [the five conditions] remain a concrete illustration of the constitutional guarantees that must result from an adequate recognition of the Quebec Nation," said Prime Minister Couillard, 30 years older later.

The claims are intact, but the political approach has changed. To the past strategy of the knife on the throat, in vogue since the 1970s, the Couillard government will thus oppose a hand outstretched. Far from the power struggles that have characterized Quebec-Ottawa relations in this field for decades, its approach will be essentially pedagogical, focused on dialogue and persuasion, to "make us better understand" the rest of the country. In short, we want to prepare the ground.

In keeping with this good-natured atmosphere, this spirit of exchange and mutual listening, there is no question that Quebec imposes itself or imposes on its counterparts a precise timetable.

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