Vive Le Canada

Motion Doesn't Have Legislative Teeth
Date: Friday, November 24 2006
Topic:


Because it has no teeth makes ALL the federalists look like opportunists of the sleeziest kind. If Quebecers cannot see through this kind of gamesmanship they have lost my respect. 4 Canada

Nov. 24, 2006. 01:00 AM
THOMAS WALKOM

CALGARY—Relax. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's promise to introduce a resolution in the Commons Monday affirming that Quebecers form a nation within Canada won't destroy the country. It won't do anything.

That's because Harper's motion, as written, doesn't have any legislative teeth.

It's not a proposed change to the Constitution. So it won't affect the basic law of the land. That means it won't affect how the Supreme Court interprets other laws.

It's not an overriding piece of legislation like, say, Quebec's charter of human rights and freedoms. That particular piece of provincial legislation supersedes all other Quebec laws that are not specifically exempted.

(It was this law that the Supreme Court cited last year when it struck down Quebec's ban on the purchase of private insurance for so-called medically necessary services.)

But Harper doesn't propose to introduce this kind of overarching law. He doesn't propose to introduce any kind of law at all.

A resolution declaring that Quebecers form a nation inside a united Canada is like a resolution declaring that the weather should be nice. It is at the very most a statement of well-meaning intentions. But it does not commit the government, or anyone, to actually do anything.

In this sense, it promises to join a host of meaningless resolutions passed in the Commons.

In the wake of the 1995 Quebec referendum on separation from Canada — a referendum that the separatists almost won — the Commons hastily passed a resolution declaring Quebec a distinct society.

The ironies in this were rich. Two attempts to entrench Quebec's distinct status in the Constitution had already failed. A 1992 national referendum on the second of these attempts indicated clearly that the Canadian public did not want to grant Quebec special constitutional status. And the Liberal prime minister of the day, Jean Chrétien, had specifically opposed giving his home province that status.

Yet none of this stopped the Liberal-dominated Commons from passing a resolution affirming Quebec as a distinct society — for the simple reason that MPs knew their action wouldn't really matter.

Four years later, the same Liberal-dominated Commons passed another resolution calling on the government to tax speculative international capital flows. Then-finance minister Paul Martin voted enthusiastically for this so-called Tobin tax (named after the U.S. economist who thought it up).

Yet even as Martin voted for this resolution, favoured at the time by critics of globalization, he made it clear he wouldn't pay any attention to it when he wrote his budgets.

And he didn't.

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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 27, 2006]

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