04.13.2012 10:27 AM

The Party of the Constitution


Her Majesty makes it official.

I was there, that cold April day – with my roommates Harold, Chris and Ryan. Afterwards, we went to Grad’s on Somerset to have what we described as “Constitution beers.” We had not a few, as I recall.

I also recall that we grumbled about the number of old white men onstage on the Hill, and how seats were reserved at the front for VIPs. We thought of the Constitution as the people’s document, not the personal property of the elites. But, in the main – and like everyone else on that blustery Ottawa day – we were happy. It felt like we were a new country.

In the intervening years, of course, quite a few other Canadians have come to be fond of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, too. Polls have shown that Canadians, everywhere, are proud of it.  Twenty years after that day, a national survey found that 88 per cent believed the Charter was a “good thing for Canada,” and 72 per cent said it adequately protects the rights of Canadians. Support for the Charter was strong in all regions, running from a high of 91 per cent in Quebec to 86 per cent in Western Canada.

Thirty years later, support for the repatriation of the Cosntitution – and the proclamation of the Charter – remains just as high.  Even with the mythology surrounding “the night of long knives,” Quebeckers remain enthusiastically onside.

Because they despise the notion of equality which it embodies, Stephen Harper’s Reformatories refuse to acknowledge the Constitution.  The New Democrats, meanwhile, have their Sherbrooke Declaration, which advocates for breaking up Canada with just one vote, contrary to a hallowed Supreme Court constitutional decision – and a new leader who passionately favours “asymmetrical federalism,” and constitutional inequality, and the Sherbrooke Declaration. 

In the United States, political parties jostle to be seen as the defenders of the Constitution.  To them, it is the supreme legislative expression of the nation itself. In Canada, the two (presently) leading federal parties regard it as inconvenience, or worse.

For Liberals – who repatriated the Constitution, and proclaimed the Charter – the path is clear: we need to renew ourselves as the party of the party of the Constitution.  Politically, it is the smart thing to do.

And, morally, it is our obligation.

98 Comments

  1. Ted B says:

    A strong central government, like MacDonald and Laurier and the Founding Fathers envisioned has to be one of our planks going forward.

    The contrast with the Conservatives could not be more stark.

    The Conservatives want to:
    – spend millions and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars celebrating Elizabeth becoming Queen 60 years ago over there
    – spend millions and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars celebrating a small war between Britain and the United States two hundred years ago
    – spend millions and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars changing the name of various institutions to include the word “Royal”
    – spend millions and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars celebrating Harper and expanding the size of the ever-growing PMO (one quarter of whom make over $100,000 a year.

    … but they won’t spend a time and will issue only a simple press release acknowledging the 30th anniversary of one of the core parts of Canada’s legal, political, social and even economic fabric.

    It is utterly disgusting, embarrassing and dishonourable.

    • que sera sera says:

      “It is utterly disgusting, embarrassing and dishonourable.”

      Pretty much like the Conservative government itself.

  2. Gregory Mawson says:

    I don’t find the lack of commemoration of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms all that baffling, sadly. I became politically aware in the era of Meech and Charlottetown, and the perception that came through the media in those days was that our Constitution was something that needed to be fixed, and the 1982 Constitution Act, while a good first try, was still grossly incomplete because the provincial government of Quebec hadn’t signed it. So why celebrate that rather than the true, final consitution which is yet to come? I can see how someone honestly could think the Constitution and Charter would be no big deal.

    Of course, people who believe that are wrong. I once foolishly believed that the Charter was a complete break with hundreds of years of parliamentary supremacy and needlessly tied the hands of Parliament to enact necessary legislation. With maturity I came to see the wisdom of what was signed that April day when I was 7, and that the check on parliamentary supremacy in favour of the rights of the individual was a necessary step for the preservation of individual freedom.

    The poll numbers you quote are the key. The current lot may not celebrate it, may try to ignore the anniversary, but the support is still there for the Charter, and that isn’t going away. The leadership of Conservative Party, which is still emotionally wrapped up in the Constitutional battles of the 80s and 90s, wouldn’t be able to stomach celebrating a Charter and a Constitution they incorrectly see as a Liberal document rather than one for all Canadians. I hope that when the fiftieth anniversary comes around, whoever is running whichever version of the Conservatives exists at that point will be more objective than the current bunch.

  3. C Schnurr says:

    Yes Gord – and Stephen Harper has done so many things to bring Quebec onboard. And the last Conservative effort under Mulroney, was soundly rejected by a majority of Canadians.

  4. I don’t believe any party,Liberal,Conservative,NDP or whoever should claim they are the party of national symbolys or any national importance.The Livberals shouldn’t be for the flag,Canada Act anymore than the Conservative for 1960 Bill of Rights or the party of Confederation.You don’t see in Britain the Tories claiming to be the Party of the Act of Settlement or th Labour Party claiming to be the party of the Unioin Jack.In the USA the Democrats don’t claim the flag or GOP the Declaration of Independence.What other country does this?

  5. Dan says:

    I think you’ll have a hard time painting the NDP as anti-constitution when they took bolder stands for LGBTQ equality under section 15.

  6. Kelly Oh says:

    Making the constitution a central pillar of the renewal of the Liberal party is admirable (provided it doesn’t involve rebranding the party as the Constitution Party…it doesn’t work in America and probably wouldn’t work here). However, it risks being nothing more than an empty gesture and, possibly, abdicating responsibility for governing.

    On a policy level, being the party of the constitution does nothing more than guarantee that the policies proposed by the party will withstand constitutional muster. That is an empty framework that still requires an independent ideological foundation to flesh out. Absent that independent ideological framework, being the party of the constitution will not attract voters.

    My personal concern is that, taken too far, this idea could lead to the government referring more and more legislation to the SCC for its advisory opinion. I am opposed to that for the same reason that I am opposed to governing by referendum. Legislators are elected to legislate, not to campaign and then delegate decision making responsibility to some other group.

    All that said, the Constitution deserves public recognition and celebration.

  7. dave says:

    Small thing on numbers for me: If 2,000,001 vote ‘yes’ on a question, and 1,999,999 vote ‘no’ on that same question, the difference is made not by ‘1’ vote, but by 2,000,001 votes.
    If 50% + 1 is not enough to decide a question, what should be the number that would be called enough of a majority to decide the issue?

    Did not NDP support some (Lib government initiated)legislation in the 1990’s that declared that any referendum question about Quebec sovereignty had to be a clear as possible?

    • Ted B says:

      The NDP are trying to have their cake and eat it to on this issue.

      On the one hand, they say they support the Clarity Act which calls for a “clear majority” on a “clear question”.

      On the other hand, they say 50% + 1 single vote on any question the separatists put forward is clear enough for them.

      Which is utter bafflegab.

      First, 50%+1 is not a majority of voters but only a majority of those who voted.

      Second, with only one vote making the difference, the very real impact of Conservative-style election fraud or other voter suppression becomes that much more impactful and dangerous and a real risk. And who was sick that day and couldn’t make it to the polls? A country should not be broken up in such circumstances.

      Third, 50%+1 is not clear at all since even during the course of one campaign, let alone from year-to-year, the numbers go up and down and on such an important and irreversible question, it needs to be a lot more than just one person difference.

      Legislation can be reversed. And majority of one rule on legislation is less than ideal but we have to be practical in the day to day governing and legislating of the country.

      Breaking up a country, a vote on the very fundamentals of the country, needs more. There must be a clear sense of a desire of the province to leave, to destroy the country, if we are to accept it.

    • Michael says:

      It depends on what part of the country you are in dave.

      In Quebec the NDP support the Sherbrooke Declaration.Wherein Quebec may become sovereign with 50% +1.

      In the rest of Canada they support the Clarity Act, which has a higher threshold.

      • dave says:

        I guess I would have to look at how Slovakia nad the Czech Republic did it. (Or maybe go back to other changes in recent decades…Sudan, maybe.)

        My question remains: If 50% +1 is not enough, then what number is enough?

        • Ted B says:

          It really isn’t a question of a number.

          If it was 52% with massive questions of Conservative-like fraud and voter suppression and low voter turnout vs 52% clean, there is a difference.

          52% with an obscure 1980-like question on sovereignty-association is not the same thing as 52% separation or no question.

          There is in fact a danger to legislating an actual number. It legitimizes anything that follows, regardless of context.

      • dave says:

        I guess, Michael, that you are referring to the part of the Clarity Act that suggests that our parliament would demand a super majority of some kind before negotiating with a province looking to secede. You’re right: that clause is different than the 50% + 1.
        (What now crosses my mind is – Would the area wanting to secede have to be a a province? )

        For this, though, the NDP seems to have a fairly concrete policy. Libs, and, I guess, Conservatives, have the Clarity Act as their policy, including the possibility of asking for a super majority. Perhaps an NDP majority gvt would not ask for a super majority.

  8. WesternGrit says:

    YES.

    Thank you Warren. Not only does our party need this, but so does our Nation (one nation – strong and free… Well, at least free).

  9. Derek Pearce says:

    WK, just out of curiosity, who are the men besides Trudeau in the frame of the pic? I thought Chretien would’ve been in this pic since he was Justice Minister?

    • Merrill Smith says:

      The guy on the right is Michael Kirby. The person to his left is, I believe, Michael Pitfield.

    • Peter Wrightwater says:

      From left to right: Gerald Regan, Secretary of State for Canada; Michael Pitfield, Clerk of the Privy Council of Canada and Secretary to the Cabinet; and Michael Kirby, Secretary to the Canadian Cabinet for Federal-Provincial Relations and Deputy Clerk of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada

    • pomojen says:

      One of them (to the left) is, I think, Gerald Regan. He was a Liberal premier of NS til 1978 and was the Minister of Labour and Minister of State for International Trade in the Trudeau govt at the time of the signing. He’s Geoff Regan’s father, one-time minister of fisheries under Martin.

  10. Clive says:

    I would very much like to see the LPC enter the next election focused on nostalgia for a time 30 years ago, with a leader from 20 years ago. That does sound like a winning formula for Canada.

    • Ted B says:

      As opposed to focused on nostalgia for a time 60 years ago, with a sovereign who resides in another country and has no engagement with Canadians since the time she became a “leader” 60 years ago?

      Or focussed on a war between the British and the Americans 200 years ago?

      Not everything is about “a winning formula”.

      Sometimes it’s just doing what is right, honourable and recognizes that we are here today because of what came before us.

      And, for what it’s worth, honour and dignity are never a bad “formula” when trying to gain the trust of voters.

  11. CraigD says:

    Position your brand around a feature with debatable benefits and that you introduced 30 years ago. Interesting strategy. Good luck with it. You might want to step up your execution game a notch or two though. Here is a quote from Cotler’s Star piece: “Chief Justice Antonio Lamer spoke on the 10th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of it being a “revolution in law comparable to the discovery of Pasteur in science.” Cotler’s entire piece is pretty bad but this quote is a real howler and a keeper!

    • Ted B says:

      The Charter is now and always. It is our Constitution, supreme document. It affects us daily in our political, social and economic lives.

      There are some, like yourself, who think protecting rights is a debatable benefit.

      But I’d much rather be seen making rights a priority than adding “Royal” to here there and sunder and spending millions and millions and millions of dollars on a royal jubilee.

      In my book, individual rights trumps pageantry and colonialism, but, hey, to each their own.

  12. Anne Peterson says:

    This is a government that would rather celebrate an old war that makes no difference now, if it ever did, to Canadians, and the slaughter of young Canadians in a terrible war whose reason for happening no one understands, than the document that provides Canadians their rights and freedoms. They are not too keen on rights and freedoms and very keen on war and death.

    Because no one seems to be mentioning it now I will, even if it’s off topic, though I’m not sure it is, in the broader sense. And even if I am repeating myself. Election fraud has been committed in this country and it has apparently been forgotten. I don’t see the government trying to get to the bottom of it. And I don’t see the media trying to get to the bottom of it. Only two brave journalistic souls have done any digging into it. The rest have forgotten apparently. The media has forgotten it is supposed to help guard our democracy. Instead it sits around and talks about baby owls. And here I thought journalists were supposed to be fearless people who never give in to bullies.

    • smelter rat says:

      Bingo.

    • Ted B says:

      It has not been forgotten.

      Elections Canada has not dropped it.

      And if you have followed the developments in the last week, you will know that it appears that “Pierre Poutine” has been identified and EC is building its’ case as it has for the last 10 months.

      This is not going away. Someone is or someones are going to be charged for the election fraud.

      But it is also not the only thing that shows the Conservatives incompetence and corruption.

      The shift to the AG finding that the Conservatives are both is not only appropriate, but very much part of the same story. They messed up and they lied to Parliament and they lied to the Canadian people to get elected.

      These stories are only just developing.

      • pomojen says:

        I’ve seen that the unfuckwithable.ca guy identified him…..but did anyone else officially? Was sort of waiting for a bigger noise about that.
        I have also been fearful about the election fraud stuff disappearing. And at some point I might start to wonder who remembers the F-35 stuff too.

        The overall abiding concern I have these days has to do with whether a sufficient amount of outrage will be expressed by Canadians about any of this stuff. I used to think that the guilty charge in the in-and-out thing would stick, the contempt of parliament stuff, the gazebos, the helicopters….And now I am wondering what we will all effectively let them get away with next.

    • Inge says:

      The Council of Canadians has not forgotten. They are supporting court cases dealing with election fraud in seven ridings. You might like to find out about them and support them.

  13. Monica says:

    Yes. Absolutely!

  14. Brine says:

    “Election fraud has been committed in this country”

    Really?

    As Gord would say, proof or it didn’t happen.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      No need to prove it. The Cons admitted to it when a) they admitted to it and were convicted of overspending and b) when they fired Michael Sona.

  15. smelter rat says:

    You’re new here aren’t you? Using Gord to make your point doesn’t add to your credibility.

    • Bill says:

      The majority or the time Gord is very correct, owning you about 80% of the time. Sucks for you, the only response when you have been intellectually defeated is to name call or type some sort of profanity.

      • Cam Prymak says:

        You mean like he ‘owned’ the discussion on neo-liberalism?

      • Tim Sullivan says:

        Gord has seldom been correct, but he does seem right. He continually fails to back up his views with a modicum of fact. He uses false comparisons. He will “squirrel” the debate which argument more semantic than real.

        The best is when he is silent (in more ways than one). Browse through the posts and look for “Where’s Gord” in the discussion. That’s when we know he is correct because he cannot defeat the argument so makes no comment one way or the other.

        He does provide some colour to the postings, though.

        • The Doctor says:

          I always have a problem on internet comment boards with people who think there’s some duty on other posters to respond to comments or threads. #1, it’s a free country, #2, posters are entitled not to make posts any time they want and, you know, have a life outside of posting on the internet.

          • Chris says:

            Sure, but Gord has shown himself to be so willing to throw himself into any argument by spouting the con party line that his absence in any given thread speaks volumes.

            (well, per-bannination that is)

      • smelter rat says:

        Well, there is certainly no topic that he’s not an expert on, that’s for sure.

        • Yes, he certainly avails himself of (b) and I suspect all the other clauses,

          2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
          (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
          (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
          (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
          (d) freedom of association.

          Too bad he thinks it’s a ‘deeply flawed’ document.

      • Philip says:

        Like the times when Mr. Tulk insists on placing the word “black” in front of the phrase “President Obama”? I’m fairly certain President Obama knows the colour of his own skin. I’m sure anyone who has seen pictures or news reels of President Obama knows the colour of his skin. I’m just not sure why Mr. Tulk feels the need to point out the colour of the President of the United State’s skin on a regular basis.

        Any ideas, Bill? Or is that just another example of Mr. Tulk “owning” the discussion around here?

        • Bill says:

          My point was only to say, Mr. Tulk, on average has valid points and consistently wins arguments. It is most evident when individuals can only respond with insult or name calling.

          Does that mean I agree with everything he posts, absolutely not.

          • Philip says:

            Perhaps you could actually point to a discussion which Mr. Tulk “owned” everyone?

          • Bill says:

            Pick 10 discussions, 8 of those will display him making a lot more sense of a topic and basically winning arguments that arise during the discussion.

        • Philip says:

          I tried Bill, I really did.
          I picked 10 of the most current discussions (including this one) and have yet to find one single thread where Mr. Tulk “owned” anyone, never mind winning. At best Mr. Tulk came across as ill-informed or confused. Thus, I can only assume that your bar for winning arguments is much lower than mine. Or Charlie Sheen’s.

          As a Conservative, I realize that you are comfortable with diminished expectations but never stop striving for mediocrity. Embrace the power of hope, Bill. Embrace it.

          • Bill says:

            At best, you have RED beer goggles on and that is why your search was in vain.

            My son has used the term “owned” on occasion and I thought it was funny, this was a good time to use it.

            As a Conservative, I have to tell you my hope meter is very high. We have a majority, the country is being managed extremely well. Positive changes are being introduced and more to come.

          • Tim Sullivan says:

            We are not being managed very well.

            This Conservative Stable Majority Government cannot get the price of plans right, even when they are told what to include, they cannot pass their surveillance bill although they are dying to, there is not long-term plan or even a short term plan enunciated in the budget. Price of gas is very very high. The government caused a deficit before the downturn and now has to cut things that save money (meat label pre-clearance is but one example).

            Ministers lie to parliament and no one loses a job over it.

            We lose the means of determining if things are being well managed by canceling the data collection.

            I’m wondering not IF we are managed well, but really, WTF? Why are we being managed so poorly (other than the fact that very few ministers held government positions before, and the PM himself has not really managed anything like a business or produced anything, accomplished anything before becoming leader of the party).

          • Bill says:

            Tim, that is your point of view. The majority don’t see it that way. Was the sponsorship scandal, downloading to the provinces and slurping up the EI fund good management? I don’t think so.

          • Tim Sullivan says:

            What majority? The under 50% who voted Cons?

          • Tim Sullivan says:

            Bill, if you want to compare the few millions of (illegal) lost sponsorship to the billions of incompetence in military hardware, any day, Chum.

          • Bill says:

            Tim, 166 seats is a majority in Canada. You might not like it, but that is a majority. How many billions was that EI fund?

            I have no issues with money being spent on the Military, this is sound investment for the future. Any country that has international
            power to influence, also has a strong Military. We don’t need to be an aggressive country and use it, but to be taken seriously we need to have one.

  16. Tiger says:

    Makes sense to make your stand here.

    It’s also the biggest roadblock to a Liberal-NDP merger — constitutional policy.

    Well, could end up an interesting debate.

  17. Tim says:

    Hear Hear.

    It’s a marvelous constitution. The best part is assholes can’t mess with it.

  18. Tybalt says:

    I was there, I was nine. One of the great things I have seen.

  19. Steve T says:

    The only part I don’t like is the Queen signing it, as though that gives it some greater power or nobility. Yes, I know we are a “constitutional monarchy”, but to me (and many Canadians, I believe) the monarchy needs to be completely removed from our government – even in a ceremonial context.

    If we want to hold parades in honour of the Queen, great – let’s do it. They do the same thing in the U.S and other countries. But to suggest, even in a ceremonial way, that the Queen (or the GG, or the provincial LGs) have ANY power is sickening and undemocratic. Toss the monarchy, and let’s move forward.

  20. patrick deberg says:

    Tulk is a paid media consultant. Pay his opinion no heed….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*