Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quebec's Premier Both Warm and Cool on New Canada Plan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quebec's Premier Both Warm and Cool on New Canada Plan

Article excerpt

CANADA'S provincial premiers broke a months-long deadlock early last week to arrive at a constitutional-reform deal that would both dramatically change the structure of Canadian government and at the same time appeal to Quebec.

But after two days of silence, Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa, who has a reputation for blowing with political winds and keeping his options open, showed Thursday how inscrutable he could be during a nationally broadcast press conference.

"We find that there is an undeniable effort that is being made by our partners to meet Quebec's demands," Mr. Bourassa said optimistically, before countering: "It is true that in certain cases it doesn't seem to be satisfactory. And we have to look at that. I've indicated a certain number of hesitations."

Waxing warm, then cool on various parts of the plan, Bourassa refused to be pinned down on whether he favored the agreement's overall thrust - or even whether he would now meet with other premiers to craft it into a national unity plan to present to Quebec for approval or rejection in an Oct. 26 referendum.

Bourassa has boycotted all constitutional discussions since June 1990, demanding that the other nine provinces put forward a final offer for Quebec to consider. At a minimum, he has said, it must provide the substance of the failed 1990 Meech Lake Accords by recognizing Quebec as a "distinct society" and giving it a veto over future constitutional changes.

But the new plan would do far more, many analysts say, including carving up federal powers over culture, housing, tourism, immigration, forestry, mining, and job training. Bourassa worried some by describing the hard-fought plan as a "preliminary text" that needs more discussion on issues including:

* Senate reform and Quebec's loss of seats under the plan.

* When and how a constitutional veto granted Quebec and other provinces could be used.

* Under what circumstances new provinces could be created, and whether or not such creation would be subject to the constitutional veto held by each province. …

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