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By 1992, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was ready to take another run at a constitutional agreement which would formally bring Quebec into Confederation as a willing partner. Mulroney seemed to be desperate to succeed where he believed Trudeau had failed and prove himself as the great reconciler of Canadian confederation.

After the failure of his 1987 Meech Lake Accord, the nationalistic feeling in Quebec began to grown again. The Quebec government established several committee's to determine a course for the provinces future and define what it wanted from Confederation. Mulroney's government followed a similar path with the Beaudoin-Edwards and Spicer commissions. Former Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark was chosen by Mulroney to put together a deal which would include all provinces, native groups and the Federal government.

In August of 1992, after extensive discussions, presentations, compromises and concessions, the provinces, the Federalism government and the native groups came up with the Charlottetown Agreement. Rather then follow the process of having all of the Provincial Governments seek approval for the agreement, this time around, the agreement was to be submitted to the population of Canada as a national referendum.

The accord further defined the delineation of federal and provincial powers over various areas of overlap such as cultural issues and resource jurisdiction. Other areas of policy concerning immigration, labour issues and telecommunications would be negotiated. The federal government would give up the right of reservation by which a provincial Lieutenant Governor could ask the Federal Government to accept of strike down legislation already passed by provincial governments. In addition, the Federal power of disallowance, which allows the Federal government could strike down provincial laws, would have been extensively reduced.

The Federal government also agreed to guarantee funding for various programs which technically fell under provincial jurisdiction with no control over national standards required. These would in effect had over substantial Federal revenues to the provinces with no say in how the money would be spent or what results should be expected.

The accord also strove to eliminate cumbersome barriers and restrictions to interprovincial trade and commerce while promoting better health care, education and labour policies.

 

Two of he most important parts of the accord addressed the issue of recognizing Quebec as a distinct society, which had been included in the Meech Lake Accord, and a process which would recognize aboriginal self-government. In addition, Senate reform would mandate that 6 Senators would be elected from each province or appointed by the provincial legislatures. Special seats would be created in the Senate for first nations people. Any matters relating to francophone issues would require the majority of both the Senate as a whole and of the francophone Senators as a separate group.

A more refined system of seat distribution for the House of Commons would be instituted and Quebec would be guaranteed one quarter of all seats. Native representation would also be included in specified circumstances.

The process of a national referendum for approval was chosen by Mulroney as opposed to the simpler provincial agreement because of legislation passed by BC, Alberta, and Quebec which required referendums on constitutional change.

As the agreement was rolled out and presented it seemed that it would be passed across the country with all three major political party leaders supporting it as well as the ten provincial premiers. Media support was also in favour of the accord. The polls showed that the vote would be in favour for it across Canada and very close in Quebec.

The tide of approval was abruptly halted when former Prime Minister Pierre
Trudeau
came out against the accord. Trudeau argued that the basic structure of Canadian Federalism required a strong federal government and that the accord was essentially gutting the powers of that strong government. He also believed that the individual as the sole unit of democracy was being sacrificed to special interest and regional interests and forces which would result in a decay of Canada as a nation. His arguments found unlikely allies on the opposite end of the political spectrum who argued that the agreement did not go far enough. Trudeau's article in MacLean's magazine and an interview in a Chinese restaurant in Montreal started the process reversing the support for the Accord.

On referendum day the four western provinces, Nova Scotia and Quebec all rejected the accord and the overall national vote also rejected the accord.

 

Prov/Terr  Approval Rejection
Alberta 39.8 60.2
BC 31.7 68.3
Manitoba 38.4 61.6
New Brunswick 61.8 38.2
Newfoundland 63.2 36.8
Nova Scotia 48.8 51.2
Ontario 50.1 49.9
PEI 73.9 26.2
Quebec 43.3 56.7
Saskatchewan 44.7 55.3
NWT 61.3 38.7
Yukon 43.7 50.4
Total 49.6 50.4

Constitutional change was dead for the foreseeable future and nationalism in Quebec given a boost due to the constant debate and the offensive remarks and opinions voiced during the process. Mulroney had failed, substantially due to Trudeau's continuing ability to dictate opinion regarding Quebec and Federalism and partially due to his plummeting support in the polls. He would not run for office again and has generally been regarded with distain since leaving office.

By G Scott staff writter,  2012 - Canadahistory.com - section:eras, subsection PC's in Power




Source:
Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/eras.html