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A better way to fix Canada Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 December 2005

What about Ottawa?

The federal government, being the clear loser, would want nothing to do with any of this. But if the strongest provinces united, they would force the federal government to the table.

Two factors have arisen in the past generation which would tilt the odds in favor of the provinces: growing separatism, and constitutional referendums.

With the Charlottetown Accord in 1992, the precedent was set that major constitutional proposals go to a national referendum. Even if Ottawa refused, provinces themselves could hold them, and Ottawa could not afford to ignore them.

The steady rise of separatism in Quebec and the West, especially Alberta, would heavily influence the result.

In Quebec, 40% voted for more sovereignty in 1980, and 49% in 1995. It now appears likely that within four years the Parti Quebecois will have regained power and will fight a third referendum, with renewed hope of success.

The same mood is rising in the West. Though a straight question about separatism usually gets only 10% to 15% support in Alberta, a poll in July found that 43% of Albertans (and 36% of westerners) think it’s time “to explore the idea of forming their own country.”

Confronted with a choice between watching Canada break apart, or preserving it as a looser union of provinces, most Canadians would probably vote to save it. And Ottawa would have no choice but to accept, as it did when the public rejected the Charlottetown Accord.

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