Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dion roundtable - Federalism and Quebec

I participated in the conference call held earlier today with Stephane Dion and undecided bloggers. It was a worthwhile event and I was greatful for the opportunity. Due to a lack of time, I'm only going to record my questions and his responses. I assume the others involved will do justice to their own questions.

This post refers to a question I asked Dion regarding federalism. Sometime soon I will follow up with a question I asked him about resolving First Nations land claims.

You've always struck an interesting balance with regards to federalism and management of the federation. The Clarity Act, on one hand, is seen as almost Trudeauvian. SUFA, on the other, is very amenable to the provinces and decentralists. How would the federalism of PM Stephane Dion be unique or distinctive?

The Clarity Act is not a tough law. It is a fair law. It's unfair to accept our country to be broken without the will of the population. It is unfair to remove Canadian citizenship and the right to be Canadian from the Quebec population unless we are sure it's what they want.

It's impossible to succeed in seccession without sufficient consent. Respect for the rule of law was necessary...

I don't know if it makes me a "tough" federalist. It's not the dimension of the problem that I see - I see that it's a fair decision because otherwise we're not respecting the people.

No other Canadians in our history has been Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs longer than I have. 7 years - can you imagine? During these years I've been able to have a strong federal government, strong provincial governments, and after lots of discussions strong agreements betweent the two orders of government.

SUFA (the Social Union Framework Agreement) gives the federal government the capacity to use the federal spending power, which I believe in, but in a way that will help provinces, not in a way that will disturb what they are doing. I think it is a fair balance. We've improved the capacity of both levels of government to work for the provinces.

If Stephane Dion is Prime Minister, the federal government will be stronger in its own jurisdictions. Par example, we will have better immigration policy, better Aboriginal policy - I have ideas about that. In this way we will help provinces in their own jurisdictions. With my three pillars agenda - strong economy, strong environment, strong social justice policies - we will have so many things to do in the federal jurisdiction that we will not have time to enfringe in provincial jurisdiction.

The next blogger asked how Dion would contend with a new referendum. I'll include his response because it flows logically from the above discussion.

You have the easy and wrong path and the more difficult but right path. The easy and wrong solution is to say to the people what we think will please them, hoping they will support us. The more difficult one is to say to them what we think is right and to have an open and frank dialogue and conclude that at the end of the day we will agree.

The wrong way is to say to Quebecers that this federation is too centralized, that the provincial governments need a lot more power, that they need more revenues. This kind of talk may win to you short-term gain but it will lead you nowhere. Because you are reinforcing the separatist myth. If Canada is unfair for Quebec, do you really think that choosing a candidate rather than another one will change anything? People will not believe it...

We need to come with a different dialogue than the one that says, "you are right, you are the victims."

Stephane Dion is saying to his fellow Quebeckers that this federation is already very decentralized. I have ideas to improve it. But above all, I see the big challenges that Quebeckers are facing and they are the same as other Canadians...

- Mike (SCG)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, this Dion guy is no pushover, eh?
I like his Canada a lot better than Stephen Harpers.

Thanks for the post - great reading.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Good question.

I like his answer on Quebec, its encouraging. It seems Ignatieff has been sticking to a similar script about staying in federal jurisdiction. I don't see where these intrusions have been so rampant in the past, but perhaps its just politics. Still, he responds to the assertion that the Clarity Act is too tough very strongly, while you weren't really making that point, but not enough to the decentralist idea of SUFA, which it would seem you were saying. Its certainly decentralist I wish he had responded to that. Since Kennedy seems happy to absolutely sit out the contest so far as to these things, it doesn't appear much divergence. I don't know. I'l have to digest this though

10:49 PM  

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