PM nixes idea of reopening Constitution – national – PM nixes idea of reopening Constitution
April 9, 2008

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper threw cold water yesterday on suggestions by his Labour minister that a Conservative majority government might open the Constitution to give more meaning to the recognition of Quebeckers as a nation.

“I don’t sense among the Canadian population, or the population of Quebec for that matter, any desire to engage in constitutional discussions in the near future. And the government has no plans to do that,” he told a news conference.

“I think that’s been clear enough.”

When asked about constitutional change in an interview last month, Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said “when you’re a minority, you never know what can happen, so it’s not obvious to do that type of thing in the actual context.”

But “the recognition of the Quebec nation within Canada allows us to think that we can put some meat around it, and that a majority government is more able to do a number of things, while being respectful of all of the provinces.”

Those sorts of musings apparently did not extend to the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Our job as a federal government is to make federalism work and make it work well for all Canadians,” said Mr. Harper.

Tackling the fiscal imbalance is one step he said his government has taken in that direction.

“In terms of Quebec, we’ve done some things to make Quebeckers feel more comfortable with our style of federalism,” he said, “and my strong view is that most Quebeckers want to get beyond the old arguments of, on the one hand, the centralizateurs, and on the other hand, the separatists, and want to get on with building a stronger Quebec in a better Canada and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Most Canadians, he said, believe that it would not be a good idea to get into “contentious constitutional discussions that would divide the country all over the place.”

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