Canada is not just an economic union.

Never tell a Canadian they do not have a country worth fighting for—not unless you want to start a fight.

But we have many problems eating at our country and we need to find a way to fix them. You cannot write a constitution in the 1860s and expect it to meet the needs of an entirely different type of country in the 21st Century. We have left the country to fly on autopilot for far too long.

The changes made in 1982 did nothing more than remove Canada’s constitution from the British parliament and bring it home to Canada. It left us with impossible conditions for modifying the document and a country that is harder and harder to govern.

A paper written about 20 years ago makes the point that most of the formal discussions on the constitution have been about economic matters. Since the destructive effort of the Macdonald Commission was undertaken in 1982, Canada has had nothing but failed attempts at addressing our constitution. We had the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord, then the Beaudoin-Dobbie Report and the Allaire Report and proposals for co-operative federalism and asymmetrical federalism. Canadians had every right to be thoroughly disgusted with the business of trying to build a country. They feel it is not worth the hassle and the upsets watching politicians fight for territory.

And yet, the writer of the paper felt that Canadian voters had learned from it all and were using unemployment levels, the rate of inflation and the rate of economic growth to judge the performance of government. The writer, an academic and an economist, obviously knew nothing about government or voters.

Even those who understand voters find it easier to tell you what voters do not want than what they want. For example, Canadian voters do not want the constitution to be discussed behind closed doors. They do not want it left to politicians. They do not want it wrapped in academic mumbo-jumbo. What they might accept is an open and transparent process that ensures them a vote on any and all proposals.

What that process might be, needs to be debated. And we need to decide on the process before we get into the specifics of what needs to be discussed. We need to accept the premise that anything related to our country has to be free to be discussed. There are no sacred cows. The future makes no guarantees.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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