13 September 2006

The Constitution is for Suckers

...or at least, re-opening it is. Nonetheless it's the talk of the town after Stephen Harper announced his plans to push through Senate reform (apparently without constitutional change) and Michael Ignatieff stated at QC that under his leadership we should take on that challenge.

Well, we shouldn't. There's a million reasons, but here are a few:

It will fail

It is unlikely in the extreme that any proposed changes will be acceptable to enough Canadians to pass the constitutional formula. If you actually think this isn't true, then please comment. But to be honest I take it a a given that such an attempt will fail, and if there is no reasonable prospect of success then we should stop wasting our time talking about it. The rest of my comments describe either why it will fail or why success will be a pyrrhic victory.

It won't help us in the sovereignty debate

The only advantage I have heard proposed to re-opening the issue is that it will somehow help bring Quebec into the Federation. Well Quebec is already in the Federation, and we need to worry about it leaving. Sovereigntists are not stupid. Adding warm and fuzzy language to the Constitution will only give them another legal and political tool with which to drive a wedge between Quebec and the rest of Canada. It will boost sovereign pride in Quebec and mistrust of Quebec in other (particularly western) provinces. Stirring up this issue will surely lead us to another referendum, just like it did the last time.

It won't help us with any other nations

Can you imagine recognizing a distinct 'nation' of Quebec without putting something in the constitution that's a little more robust than section 35? Forget the French-Canadians, it will be civil war with first nations if we don't take real steps on that front. The thing is we have no idea how to do that, and so any opening of the constitution will drag us into a debate we are ill-prepared for and that can only be divisive. I know slippery slope is not a rational argument, but I think I can say without fear of contradiction that opening up this highly emotional issue means we can expect some irrationality. Not just from francophones, or anglophones, or Quebecois, or westerners, but Cree and Inuit and Metis and Acadian and Newfoundlander. If you've ever been to Cape Breton you'll know that 'distinct society' is a phrase that can be applied liberally (no pun intended) to our nation's communities.

It won't help us renew our democracy

Putting aside Iggy's comments for a moment, Harper is trying to do something to our democracy by encouraging senate reform. I don't know what, exactly, but I know that he's going about it wrong. The Senate has relatively little influence and therefore tinkering with Senate reform will have relatively little impact. Major senate reform will require constitutional amendment...

On the other hand, much could be done to improve our democracy without constitutional reform, or senate reform for that matter. Some form of PR would be the most obvious, but there are others. Without discussing in detail, I will say that I am convinced there are methods of improving the Federation that will be both easier and more effective.

The way to the heart of Quebec

Now maybe I don't know the first thing about this subject. But you'll forgive me for imagining that the Quebecois are pretty much like people all over the world. They want their government to reflect their ideals and desires. They want it to be effective in providing the services thy expect. They want it to be efficient enough that it doesn't drain their resources. All this is to say that the best way to keep Quebec in Canada is good leadership. Quebec has long been a hotbed of great social programs, many of which the ROC is belatedly recognizing and adopting (childcare, now sadly on the back burner, and a fully-funded pensions scheme, as examples). A strong and socially progressive Canada is one that most Canadians, and most Quebeckers, would be proud to support. So let's worry about making our country a great place, instead of haggling over the contractual terms of our union for a year. We can do better.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is your humble opinion. We are never relaxed. There's always the separatists and a referendum hanging over our heads, the blackmail to appease them and the ridiculous cost to taxpayers to keep them happy.

Ya, it's just fine the way it is.

September 13, 2006  
Blogger CuriosityCat said...

Cogent reasoning. Well done!

September 13, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Neil said...

Anon - of course it's my humble opinion! I'm sorry that there's a 'we' that are never relaxed. Try thinking of sovereigntists more like the national canary, so whereas other Canadians strike or vote for opposition parties or whatever, Quebecois just try to cobble up a vote to leave.

What I mean is, we live with the prospect of heart attack too, and that's pretty awful, but right-living is the way to deal with it, not worry.


P.S. "They" don't cost "us" (and I assume that at this moment "us" is we people in Alberta and Ontario) any more than anyone else does, or has.

September 14, 2006  
Blogger fifi said...

The passion you have for Canada and politics makes me quiver with delight. It was a pleasure reading this amongst your other blogs and I hope you continue writing with such straight forward rigour and opinion.

You end off this blog with, "So let's worry about making our country a great place, instead of haggling over the contractual terms of our union for a year. We can do better."

Je suis d'accord. If you have any suggestions, I'm up for the challenge.


September 21, 2006  

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