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Grimes Builds Alliance To Revise Constitution

Posted on Saturday, May 17 at 23:42 by polemarch1

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Few have dared even suggest reopening the Constitution since the debates over the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords opened deep divisions across the country in the late 1980s and early '90s. But Mr. Grimes said those days are over.

"Everyone says here in Ottawa that nobody has the stomach for a round of constitutional talks because it would be wrangling and gridlock and so on. That's a sentiment that's passé," he said.
"As equal respected partners, we should be able to have a sensible, grown-up, adult, mature discussion about whether or not we want to make some changes in our Constitution. A constitution should be a living document. We've changed it with respect to Newfoundland and Labrador three times in the last five years."
Mr. Grimes says that with Alberta and Quebec willing to go that route, Jean Chrétien will have no choice but to listen.
The Prime Minister has so far refused to consider any constitutional talks.

A resolution presented in the Alberta legislature this week lays out a detailed revision of the Constitution to change the Senate. Under the proposed changes, the Senate would have absolute veto power over legislation in areas of provincial jurisdiction -- such as natural resources.

The resolution also details provisions under which six senators would be elected from each province and two from each territory.
After meeting with East Coast MPs and senators in Ottawa yesterday, Mr. Grimes announced he will meet with every provincial and territorial leader in advance of the annual premiers conference in July to strengthen his case for constitutional change. He is convinced he will have the numbers to make Ottawa respond.

"Canada is a creation of provinces and territories voluntarily coming together of their own free will to create a bigger, stronger and greater country. Our creation is somewhat out of control. It's gone amok and we need to bring some balance back to that," Mr. Grimes told reporters after meeting with students from across Canada at Carleton University yesterday.

"There needs to be some redrawing of the lines of authority and the balancing of powers between Canada and the provinces and territories that put this country together in the first place. It's not Canada that has a God-given right to tell all of us what to do and how it's going to be done. We created the country so we should have a real say."
Mr. Grimes said he intends to meet with all three Liberal leadership candidates -- Paul Martin, Sheila Copps and John Manley -- to hear their views on constitutional change so that delegates from Newfoundland and Labrador attending the leadership convention on Nov. 15 can cast an informed vote.

Mr. Grimes began speaking publicly about constitutional change last week, but only on the issue of giving Newfoundland and Labrador more power to manage its depleted cod fisheries.
He said he sent Mr. Chrétien a letter yesterday detailing a resolution passed in the Newfoundland legislature on Wednesday pertaining to his province's demand for more control over its resources and requesting a meeting.

"They've been saying we don't want to talk about that. That's not good enough and not acceptable to the people of the province," Mr. Grimes said.
Mr. Chrétien, who has been ill with the shingles for almost a month, was at his Shawinigan cottage yesterday and did not meet with Mr. Grimes.
"The Prime Minister has made it clear we are not opening up the constitutional debate, but we recognize we have to work with the Newfoundland government and communities in Newfoundland to find a solution that works for everyone," said Jim Munson, PMO director of communications.

On Senate reform, Mr. Grimes said he supports an "effective and elected" Senate, but will wait until he meets with Mr. Klein before elaborating on a concrete proposal.
He said he has already spoken with and supports Mr. Charest, who wants the "fiscal imbalance" between Quebec and Ottawa corrected, as well as the establishment of a formal "Council of Premiers" that would have a "decision-making role" in running Canada.

On the fish file, Mr. Grimes met with Gerry Byrne, the Secretary of State for Atlantic Canada Opportunities, and George Baker and Bill Rompkey, Liberal Senators from Newfoundland and Labrador. Lawrence O'Brien, MP for Labrador and one of three East Coast MPs who threatened to leave the Liberal caucus over the government's decision to close the East Coast cod fishery. He said they indicated some progress is being made on a federal compensation package for affected fishermen and plant workers, but a lack of headway in convincing the federal government to at keep at least part of the fisheries open this summer.

Mr. Baker told the National Post he supports Mr. Grimes's demand for constitutional change despite opposition from his own government and has encouraged the Premier to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary.
He said Canada has been the "worst managers" of any coastal state in the world of its fishing resource and without constitutional change that would give Newfoundland more control over its resources, the province will have no choice but to separate.

Note: From the National Post

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