CANADA

The talk of the land

June 6 1994
CANADA

The talk of the land

June 6 1994

The talk of the land

How soon they forget. After Canadians overwhelmingly rejected the Charlottetown accord in October, 1992, politicians across the land pledged to stop talking about the Constitution. But with the prospect of a separatist government in Quebec before year’s end, that promise has been wildly abandoned. Last week alone, Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow declared

that a Yes vote to sovereignty in Quebec would be no more than “an expression of opinion” and insufficient grounds for separation; Alberta Premier Ralph Klein mused aloud about a federation of western provinces following Quebec’s departure; and New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna drew the ire of many Acadians in his province by suggesting that they should boycott a speech in Shediac, N.B., by Bloc Québécois Leader Lucien Bouchard. In his speech, Bouchard

promised that an independent Quebec would help francophones in the rest of Canada to maintain their cultural and linguistic identity.

National unity fever also struck one of the most unlikely of victims: Reform party Leader Preston Manning. After months of insisting that the government should concentrate on economic issues, Manning lashed out at Prime Minister Jean Chrétien

for failing to provide a detailed federal response to the prospect of Quebec separation and predicted that Chrétien would have to resign if the province votes for independence.

In fact, the only politician sticking to his promise to keep quiet about such matters was Chrétien. Describing Manning as a “nervous Nellie,” Chrétien told an audience in Calgary that he wouldn’t be goaded into the debate. “Who wants to talk about the Constitution?” he said. “I’m fed up [with it].”