Friday, November 10, 2006

Balance Of Power

As Michael Ignatieff is learning to his regret, there is a certain "n-word" that is especially offensive to say in public, indeed more so when coupled with a certain "c-word."

However, as long as one does not say the "n-word," in certain contexts, it may be permissible to say the "c-word," even in polite company.

Which is what Stephen Harper hopes he can do without causing too many ripples:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is discreetly sounding out some provincial premiers about setting formal limits on Ottawa's powers, even if it means possibly reopening the Constitution, sources say.

While discussions are at a preliminary stage, officials in Ottawa and several provinces suggested constraints on the federal spending power could eventually take the form of a constitutional amendment explicitly restricting Ottawa to its own areas of exclusive jurisdiction — a move that would reshape federal-provincial relations.

Under the Constitution, provinces have jurisdiction over areas such as education, social programs, municipalities and health, whereas federal responsibilities include foreign affairs, fisheries, defence and employment insurance, for instance.

Quebec and federal sources wouldn't speak for the record, but it's understood Harper has raised the topic of redefining powers in one-on-one conversations with several provincial leaders, even if it remains distant on the political horizon.


Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister BenoƮt Pelletier last week repeated the province's position that the time is not right to reopen the Constitution, and the official pointed out Charest remains adamantly opposed to constitutional talks in the short term.

But limits on Ottawa's spending power have been a key traditional demand of successive Quebec governments, who see it as a way to formalize the province's right to opt out of programs with full financial compensation from Ottawa.

It is also one of five key requirements for Quebec's acceptance of the Constitution.

"If we're going to look at (an amendment), it has to be a done deal, not a negotiation," said the senior official, who added the proposal could have considerable political allure in Quebec.

A thorough redefinition of ss. 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, putting to rest decades of squabbling over jurisdictional encroachment and the federal spending power, would put an end to much of the tiresome constitutional debate and remove one of the Quebec separatist movement's most powerful claims.

All without using the dreaded "n-word."

The time may not quite be ripe, but it has been 25 years since the patriation of the Constitution. A whole new political generation distanced from the rancour that followed from it has come into office. Surely it couldn't hurt to at least canvass opinion.

Source: Toronto Star

1 comment:

bigcitylib said...

Opinion says its bullshit.