Sunday, April 09, 2006

Everytime He Lies, His Chin Gets a Little Longer

I'm a little late on Stephen Harper's Constitutional musings, but it's the type of story that no self-respecting Canadian political blog should let pass without comment. And, even though my blog's relationship with itself has been more sado-masochistic than self-respecting of late, I'm not going to let it pass without comment either.

The easy comparison to make here is the one with Brian Mulroney - Stephen Harper's going to produce a package of constitutional reforms that will blow up in his face and help destroy his Prime Ministership. In fact, I think it's a pretty apt comparison (though I'm far from persuaded of Harper's commitment to following through on his musings). The comparison can't end there, however: if I made no further comment, I'd be opening myself up to questions about why, exactly, it's okay for Pierre Trudeau to roll the dice on constitutional reform, but not for Stephen Harper to do the same.

The answer can be found in another similarity between Harper and Mulroney: motivation. While Trudeau sought to bring Canada formal constitutional independence and, secondarily, to constitutionally entrench fundamental individual rights, Mulroney sought to make everybody happy. Harper's motivations, at first glance, appear to be the same.

Ideologically, I have no problem with this: if a group as a legitimate grievance with the structure of the federation, it's quite correct for the federal government to take the lead on making the necessary alterations. The problem here is that Harper hasn't identified either who has the legitimate grievances or what these grievances might be, let alone how they might be fixed. In that sense, he is taking a very Mulroney-esque approach to constitutional reform; he's creating expectations in advance of making any specific proposals, such that the expectations might later crush him.

Which brings me to a far more pragmatic objection - attempts constitutional reform in Canada have had many effects, but happiness on anybody's part has never been one of them. Bitterness, yes. Separatism, of course. But happiness? I think not. We'll hold up Mulroney as a poster child again.

But wait, you say. Aren't I being too harsh on Mulroney? Wasn't his aim not to make everybody happy, but rather to bring Québec, which had hitherto been left out of the constitutional fold, on board as a full partner in confederation? Nonsense and/or hogwash and/or poppycock and/or bullshit. That Québec was the only province not to endorse the 1982 accord no more leaves Québec out than does gay marriage leave Albertans (outside of Edmonton Centre and Calgary Centre-North) out. There was a vote. Québec voted no. The required majority voted yes. The Constitution was adopted, and it applies equally to everybody, and everybody has equal ownership over it.

Of course, Harper does not want only to placate Québec. He wants "also to accommodate demands we have from the West and from other parts of the country." And he wants to do it with a minority government, which makes him look perhaps a little more like Joe Clark than like Brian Mulroney. And not in a good way.

If Stephen Harper came out and said "I'm going to open up the Constitution to pursue a Triple-E Senate. I'm going to be prepared to consider various compromises along the way in order to gain the necessary support, but the focus will remain on the Triple-E Senate, because that's what I believe would be best for this country," that would be a worthy constitutional position. Aiming to replicate the errors of his predecessors does not meet that standard.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

We interrupt this bout of extended blog silence. . .

. . . to advise you of an impending month-long blog silence. In May, when I'll be participating in National Novel Writing Month. Those wishing to participate should contact me, while those wishing to track my progress over the course of the month should check out our home page for the month.

I'll try to get a post together about Harper's constitutional musings and/or the Liberal leadership race and/or Preston Manning within the next couple of days or so.


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