Poli 221 Lecture 9 Readings Notes:
The Failed 1987 Constitutional Accord (Meech Lake and Langevin):
• Meech Lake Accord was drafted in April 1987, Quebec was willing to sign and accept the
accord but only if 5 conditions were met:
• A formal voice for QC in supreme court appointments
• A say on Immigration policy
• Limits to federal spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction
• A veto on constitutional amendments affecting the province
Recognition of QC as a ‘distinct’ society
• Criticism of the accord: many believed that this accord would take away the necessary powers
that would maintain a strong federal govt.
• Seven main areas of change from Lake Meech Accord:
• Distinct society
The supreme court
• Spending Powers
• Veto Powers
• The Senate
• The Amending Formula
• However, many began to doubt the accord when the serious flaws in it became apparent —>
Within the HoC though the Liberals and NDP submitted numerous amendments to the accord,
none of these amendments were accepted and eventually through strong party discipline of
the government lead by Turner and Broadbent, parliament passed the Lake Meech Accord
with little dissent.
• However, because Lake Meech called for major constitution revisions, and required the
approval of parliament and all 10 provincial legislatures.
In the final analysis, Lake Meech was defeated because it required unanimity from the
provinces, and Manitoba and Newfoundland failed to pass the necessary deadline (June 23,
• Because the proposals did not gain unanimity, the whole package died and constitutional
matters became far more complicated.
• This did not alter life in the rest of Canada, but in QC, it caused Premier Bourassa to
announce he would not attend any federal-provincial conferences and the QC National
Assembly passed bill 150, required a referendum on sovereignty to be put to the people of QC
by October 26, 2013.
A New Constitutional Approach:
• Because Mulroney insisted it was lake Meech or death, he had to do some serious damage
control on Canadian parliament.
• After many months of deliberations, federal-provincial meetings between all provinces and
territories other than QC, an agreement was reached, inappropriately termed “Pearson
Building Agreement” • After Lake Meech, many distraught Quebecers formed the Bloc Quebecois in order to
represent the Quebecois nation federally.
• QC government then made bill 150 calling for the referendum on sovereignty
• The Allaire report was a very decentralized conception of QC and essentially turned quebec
into a federal system within another federal system. —> Many did not approve of this as it
would greatly weaken the country as a whole.
The “Pearson Building Proposals”:
• On July 7, 1992 the federal govt, 9 provinces, native leaders, and 2 territories came to a new
• This proposal would have given greater power to the provinces and weakened federal
• QC representatives had not attended meetings, nor agreed to proposals produced.
This proposal would have given QC all it wanted from the Meech Lake Accord and have given
Alberta the Triple E Senate it desired. Aboriginals too would have self-government.
• This failed attempt at constitutional reparation between the Federal govt and QC had a similar
“do or die” atmosphere as the Meech Lake Accord.
The Failed 1992 Charlottetown Accord:
• Pearson Building Agreement drew Rob Bourassa back to bargaining table on August 4, 1992.
• Along with PM and other premiers, and leaders of territories and aboriginals, they worked on a
complex and controversial constitutional deal known as the Charlottetown Accord (August 28,
• This accord consisted of an agreement on principles—not a legal text— about what changes
should be made to the constitution, further political accords to be negotiated, and an
agreement to put the tentative principles to the Canadian people in a country-wide referendum
Meech Plus or Minus: The Response To Quebec
• Same five parts of Lake Meech were present in Charlottetown, but taken even further —>
Included proposals to add definition for distinct society to the constitution in order to ensure
that “Quebec constitutes within Canada a distinct society, which includes a french-speaking
majority, a unique culture, and a civil law tradition” In addition, it looked to affirm the role of the
legislature and government of QC to “Preserve and promote the distinct society of QC”
• Immigration and other areas differed slightly between Lake Meech and Charlottetown
• Supreme court appointments did not change between Accords —> Ottawa would have to
select all judges from lists supplied by the provinces.
• Main difference between accords was the constitutional veto:
• Charlottetown would have given all provinces a veto over future constitutional changes to
the country’s major political institutions.
• This differed from the Lake Meech Accord as it fell short of Qc’s demands. —> Veto would
have only applied after the Charlottetow changes were made part of the constitution
QC wanted to ensure the veto could prevent a senate reform of which it did not approve.
• QC also wanted to veto the creation of new provinces, however, Charlottetown would have
allowed the federal parliament to create new provinces through bilateral agreement with
Ottawa. • Every province would have a greater capacity to veto further constitutional proposals due to
the proposed changes in the amending formula. —> If this change had been accepted, it
would have been almost impossible to correct any deficiencies in the constitution at a later
• Most offers made to QC in Lake Meech were present in Charlottetown, but some watered
• Deal found opposition inside and outside QC, called for major innovation in the way Canada is
• Major changes to the constitution included:
• Canada Clause
• New division of powers
• New Native self-government clauses
• A social and economic union
• Institutional changes in the HoC and Senate
The Canada Clause:
• To be included in the constitution to express fundamental canadian values
• Extremely important as it would've been justiciable—the courts would have been able to use
the Canada clause to guide all interpretations of the entire constitution. —> As an
interpretative provision it would have been binding on the courts in every constitutional case.
• Eight fundamental rights expressed in the Canada Clause:
• Democracy, Aboriginal rights, the distinct society of QC, linguistic duality, racial and ethnic
equality, individual and collective human rights, the equality of female and male persons,
and the equality of the provinces.
• Revealed several errors in consistency and fairness —> proposed a hierarchy of fundamental
Canadian values. —> it appeared the government would be prepared to defend/take action—
and presumably spend money— to defend some groups but not others.
• Some Canadian groups were out of the Canada Clause altogether. The proposed Canada
Clause looked over equality for physically or mentally disabled individuals and possibly
discriminated against age.
Division of Powers:
• Called for the decentralization of many federal powers
• Job training and culture were to be given to the provinces
• Federal govt would have been excluded from a meaningful role in retaining workers for the
new global economy.
Culture would have been divided artificially between the two levels of government —>
Provinces had culture within the province and the federal govt had powers over national
• Also called for federal government to withdraw from forestry, mining, housing, recreation,
tourism, and municipal and urban affairs.
• Native self-government not addressed in Lake Meech proposal and this omission lead to its
• Naitve Leader and MPP Elijah Harper lead to manitoba’s legislature to reject the accord. • Natives would be able to promote their own langauages, cultures, traditions and ensure the
integrity of their cultures and society and their government would constitute one of the three
orders of government in Canada.
The QC govt did not like these rights being given to the natives as they believed it would be
the most profound change to the political structure of canada since 1867.
• It may be too costly for native self-government in addition, many small governments may
emerge if native self-government were to exist and be placed in the constitution.
• Treaty rights in section 35 (3)…
Social and Economic Union:
• Country would've enjoyed a social and economic union
Social union on health care, education (secondary and post secondary)
• Also called for free movement of persons, goods, services, and capital, full employment, and a
reasonable standard of living.
Proposed Institutional Changes:
• HoC would have increased to 337 —> QC and ontario with additional 18 seats, BC with 4 and
• QC would be guaranteed no less than 25% of HoC seats.
• Senate would be elected by people of province or territory or by a legislative assembly
• 62 senators, 6 from each province, 1 from each territory
• Senate would not be able to force the resignation of a govt
• Senate would gain authority and power over legislation:
• Delay revenue and expenditure bills for 30 days via suspensive veto
• Have veto power on legislation on natural resources
Via majority vote, can trigger a joint sitting with HoC on all ordinary legislation
• On french language or culture, a double majority of anglophone and francophone senators
would be required.
• Senate would ratify appointment of the governor of the Bank of Canada and other key
Ten ways proposed institutional arrangements were inadequate
1. Unfair to give QC 25% of seats in HoC
2. Equal provincial rep in senate would lead to constant irritation
3. National standards should be maintained in federal institutions
4. Appointed senators from QC or elsewhere would make no sense
5. Too many ways for senate to tie up the govt and prevent it from acting
6. Senate working with HoC may be controversial
7. Double majority of anglo and franco senators could cause trouble rather than solution
8. Senate was to be the only with suspensive veto power
9. If senate delayed legislation of a minority govt the situation would be destabilizing for
10. Costs of parliament would be far too expensive
The Charlottetown Senate: A Fatal Attraction? • Mulroney sought to strengthen the senate but would have actually given the provincial
governments more power than before.
• Senate would've consisted of a hodgepodge of elected and appointed members because rules
would be different for each province
The 1992 Constitutional Referendum:
Referendum on Charlottetown Accord on October 26, 1992.
• Real leader of no side in this referendum was PE Trudeau
• Six provinces voted against the deal —> only Newfoundland, PEI, and New Brunswick voted
strongly for it.
• Ontario narrowly supported the deal
• No (54.4) defeated yes (44.6) in the referendum. This killed the Charlottetown proposal.
• The defeat lead many to believe that it was time for a moratorium on constitutional
• Leaders returned to “politics as usual” due to impending elections federal in 1993 and
provincial in 1994
• In 1993 Chretien and his newly elected liberal government suggested that many arrangements
between the federal govt and the provinces could be dealt with through administrative
arrangements outside the constitution.
Peach: The Death of Deference: The Implications of the Defat of the Meech Lake and
Charlottetown Accords for Executive Federalism in Canada
• Significant shifts in political values have taken place, beginning in the 1980s
• These shifts have represented a generational and transitory change.
• Decline in deference seems dramatic in Canada due to the image of the country as, formerly a
political community that was highly differential to elite election.
Long, slow march to the Charlottetown Accord was seen as the funeral procession for
deference. —> burial the defeat of the accord in October 1992 referendum
• The charter opened up new avenues for a qualitatively different form of political participation,
avenues that rely less on the rugged political arithmetic of majoritarianism and give Canada’s
courts a more prominent role in resolving policy disagreements.
• There were many non-governmental actors that played a formal and influential role in the
creation of the 1982 constitutional amendment.
• There was a great sense of attachment and empowerment to the Canadian people due to the
• The Charter both responded to and nurtured an emergent rights agenda —> gained loyalty of
many Canadians in every province.
• After 1982, Canadians viewed their constitution as a culturally significant document rather
than a guide to the allocation of governmental authority —> gave a human/cultural face to the
constitution for the people of Canada.
• Bourassa’s Liberals had great plans to seek constitutional reform with the federal govt.
As mentioned previously, there were 5 major conditions that would allow QC to adhere to the
Constitution act of 1982.
• Explicit recognition of QC as a distinct society
• Increased immigration powers • Veto on legislation that would affect the province
• QC’s participation in appointment of SC judges
• Limitation on federal spending power.
• Democratic critique on Meech Lake —> critique of executive federalism itself, challenged
governments to find more open, democratic, deliberative ways of making constitutive
• Other challenge from a challenge to the process of intergovernmental negotiation and the
inadequacy of Mulroney’s conception of who had a legitimate place in these discussions.
• Additional challenges came from Aboriginal peoples.
• Public opinion towards the accord were good initially, but as the Accord dragged on, due to
the two challenges many Canadians began to no longer favour the accord and lead to its
• Its very possible during these negotiations that the first ministers and Mulroney had no idea
the impact on federalism they would have.
• Egregious Errors…?
• To some the Meech Lake Accord was a seamless web that could not be changed.
• Opposition to the Accord took greater significance when P.E. Trudeau publicly opposed it.
• Level of support for Trudeau’s liberal democratic vision, in a country whose political history
was much more consistent with Mulroney’s vision of elite accommodation reflected just how
much the public’s defence to political elites had declined in 5 short years.
• Yukon government was not pleased with several policies in the Accord and openly opposed it.
• Many Aboriginals saw the accord as deeply offensive to their desire of self-g