Constitution talks, anyone?

ADQ - De l'identité à l'autonomisme - La souveraineté confuse

Who wants to start another round of constitutional debates? The answer is simple: nobody except the sovereigntists (and maybe political scientists).
The issue resurfaced with last week's 25th anniversary of the repatriation of the Constitution. Despite the shock of having been reduced to third-party status in Quebec, the Péquistes found enough energy to urge the Charest government to call for a revision of the Constitution aimed at granting Quebec more powers.
"The ball is in the federalists' camp," Parti Québécois MNA Diane Lemieux said. "Well then go, go, go, GO!"
The tactic is transparent: The sovereigntists know that the negotiations, if they ever took place (which is very unlikely) would end up with more nationalist disappointment. Either Quebec's demands would hit a wall or the province would have to make serious concessions, in exchange for a few symbolic tokens.
In any case, the long, exhausting and divisive process would once again lead to abject failure, and this would provide the sovereigntists with a golden opportunity to paint Quebeckers as victims of yet another attack by English Canada. The hope being, of course, that the humiliation would rekindle the sovereigntist flame.
Sovereigntists believe the demise of the Meech Lake accord would have led directly to Quebec's secession if premier Robert Bourassa had been audacious enough to call for a referendum on sovereignty. At the time, polls showed the sovereigntist option to be favoured by as many as 60 per cent of the voters - an all-time high.
This is an illusion. A more realistic view is that Quebeckers allowed themselves to express a desire for separation precisely because they knew it wouldn't lead anywhere and that the government wouldn't act on their wish. Had Quebec been led by a sovereigntist party, the anger at Meech Lake's demise would have been much tamer. It is a constant trend that Quebeckers feel freer to support the vague ideal of sovereignty when they are sure that there is no risk of such a thing happening - as when the federalists are in power in Quebec City.
Still, another failed constitutional round would at least make the pot boil again. This is why Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, flatly rejected Ms. Lemieux's call, saying that yes, ideally, it would be better if Quebec could be brought into the constitutional fold, but that "the fruit is not ripe enough" for this to happen.
"At this rate," complained PQ Leader André Boisclair, "the fruit will rot on the tree."
Actually, it's not the PQ but the Action Démocratique du Québec, the province's new Official Opposition, who chose to revive an issue that the vast majority of Quebeckers don't care about. As he was being sworn into office, ADQ leader Mario Dumont mentioned that Quebec should use the window of opportunity provided by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "open federalism" to negotiate things such as the limitation of the federal government's spending power in provincial jurisdictions.
There is a possibility that the ADQ and the PQ could vote a motion calling for the reopening of constitutional negotiations, to embarrass the minority Liberal government. The two opposition parties, though, are in no position to push hard on the issue because neither of them wants to go back to the polls. The PQ is in total disarray and the ADQ needs time to establish its party on a solid basis.
Still, the PQ's strategy is transparent: It wants to bring Mario Dumont into a replay of the Meech Lake episode. Mr. Dumont is ambiguity personified and he certainly has his own agenda, although nobody knows exactly what it is.
The sad irony is that the two opposition parties are completely ignoring the major message of the last election: that voters were fed up with constitutional squabbling and wanted their politicians to care about their daily problems.

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