Reopen the constitution? Just kidding

If Blackburn's musings were a trial balloon, it must have been made out of lead

PCC - "ouvrir la constitution", vraiment?

It's a good thing the Globe and Mail didn't report its interview with Conservative Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, which apparently took place on Monday, until two days later.
Because if it had reported the interview in the following day's editions, people might have dismissed the story as just another newspaper April Fool's Day joke, this one played on Quebec sovereignists.
In the interview, Blackburn hinted that if the Conservatives won a majority in the next federal election, they might launch a new round of constitutional negotiations to recognize Quebec as a nation.

There was an immediate outcry in English Canada. Fears were raised of another national-unity crisis over recognizing Quebec in the constitution as something more than just another province. And the Conservatives were criticized for raising expectations here.
Here in Quebec itself, however, it appeared that most people didn't take Blackburn's musings seriously.
To begin with, it seemed odd that what looked like a major political overture toward Quebec would be announced in a Toronto newspaper, by a relatively minor minister with no responsibility for either federal-provincial relations or Quebec political affairs.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant is Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon. And while Rona Ambrose holds the title of minister of intergovernmental affairs in the Harper government, everybody knows the real minister is Harper himself.
And most Quebecers are realistic enough to realize that there's no hope for sweeping constitutional reform on their terms in the foreseeable future.
For one thing, federalists remain traumatized by the sovereignists' near-victory in the 1995 referendum resulting from the failure of the Meech Lake accord five years earlier. For another, the next negotiations would not be a "Quebec round" limited to this province's concerns, but would have to address the often irreconcilable positions of all parties on such questions as Senate reform.
For a lot of Quebecers, constitutional reform has become like heaven: They might want to get there, but they don't expect to do so in their lifetime.
Foremost among the skeptics in this province were Premier Jean Charest and his minister for Canadian intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier.
Officially, the Quebec Liberal Party has no constitutional position, since, at its policy convention last month, it allowed time to run out before one could be debated.
So in September, the party's general council is to consider a proposed seven-point constitutional policy, which includes recognition of Quebec's "specificity." But the policy wouldn't commit a Liberal government to making a constitutional proposal to the rest of the country, and does not indicate at all when constitutional negotiations might begin.
Pelletier said that before the Conservatives make any new promises, they should start by keeping one they've already made, to limit the federal spending power, which allows Ottawa to intervene in supposed provincial jurisdictions.
And Charest advised reporters to "go ask Mr. Harper what he thinks" about Blackburn's comments, saying later that Harper's government hasn't approached his about constitutional negotiations.
Some commentators speculated that Blackburn must have been launching a trial balloon or making a pitch for nationalist votes in Quebec on Harper's instructions, such is the prime minister's reputed control over his ministers.
But it was hardly necessary to float a trial balloon to know that nobody except Quebec sovereignists wants another national argument over giving this province special status in the constitution.

And Quebec voters hardly had time to notice the balloon before the Conservatives - including Harper's press secretary, Cannon and Blackburn himself - shot it down. Where the line out of Quebec City was that "the fruit isn't ripe," the one out of Ottawa was that "the ground isn't fertile." Not this week, not for Quebec sovereignists counting on federalists to do their work for them.

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