Author Topic: For Canadians: My plan for 'open federalism' by Stephen Harper  (Read 320 times)

Lincoln

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For Canadians: My plan for 'open federalism' by Stephen Harper
« on: October 28, 2004, 05:52:17 PM »
My plan for 'open federalism'
National Post : Stephen Harper
Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The new Conservative Party of Canada was officially founded less than one year ago but, as we enter our first grassroots policy process, we should build on the roots of our party.

Some of these roots stretch back to Confederation. It was Conservatives, led by John A. Macdonald, George-Etienne Cartier and their allies in other provinces, who laid the foundations of Confederation in the East. These structures, including those designed specifically for Quebec, for the most part still govern us today.

We also have our roots in the populist tradition that later arose in Western Canada -- a tradition that stresses democratic reform and the accountability of government to the people. In recent years this has had significant influence on public debate, including demands for an elected, equal and effective Senate; the legal equality of the provinces; the "clarity" approach to separation; and renewed respect for the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. On this last point, Conservatives seek to re-establish a strong central government that focuses on genuine national priorities like national defence and the economic union, while fully respecting the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.

Our challenge as Conservatives is to stay true to our own traditions and policies, while supplementing them with new ideas that address Quebec's unique demands in ways that strengthen its place in Canada.

I have labelled this approach "open federalism," and it is not entirely new.

At many times in our history, Canada has developed new approaches to dealing with the changing realities our federal system has faced.

During the last 11 years, the federal Liberal government has presented virtually no new ideas about anything, but especially in areas like democratic reform and the evolution of federalism.

In a recent speech in Quebec I suggested that as we move towards our policy convention, we should be developing alternatives to the status quo.

For example, rather than simply devolving more authority to provinces in areas like cultural affairs and international relations, I believe the federal government, working with interested provinces, could establish francophone and anglophone community institutions to share responsibility.

The Quebec Liberal Party has already proposed something along these lines for UNESCO, suggesting "a Francophone sub-commission that would act under the aegis of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO" on which "Quebec, and Canada's Francophone and Acadian communities would be represented."

This is not a proposal for constitutional change, but a practical proposal on how the federal government could lead other levels in working together to advance the unique needs of English and French speaking Canadians in all provinces. Obviously Quebec, as the home of the majority of Canada's francophones, could play a large role in any new francophone institution -- but francophones outside Quebec could be represented as well, as could anglophones in Quebec in any parallel anglophone institution. In areas of cultural policy, this could also provide meaningful voice to English-speaking Canada where, in an environment dominated by the United States, the challenges are different from those faced by Canada's francophone communities.

Non-territorial institutions are not without precedent in Canada. We already devolve authority within provinces along linguistic lines to entities such as school boards. In Ontario and Quebec, for example, all residents self-identify as belonging to one of the two language groups to participate in decision-making exclusively for that group.

I have referred to the Belgian experience as it has evolved since the 1970s, because that country has formed a federation that recognizes cultural communities, as well as regions, both of which possess extensive powers and formal governmental structures. While these arrangements go well beyond anything I have advocated, we should look at experiences in other federations, rather than just having the same debates -- unity versus separation, centralization versus decentralization -- over and over again.

The Liberal hysteria over the use of a Belgian example is just the usual hypocrisy. Even a study of federal systems displayed on the Privy Council Office Web site states that "the Belgian experience can be instructive for Canada in terms of how constitutional and institutional reform has been employed to govern a bilingual and multicultural society." In a 1996 speech, Stephane Dion, in his former role as intergovernmental affairs minister, went much farther than me when he called Belgium a model for constitutional language guarantees.

This latest reaction does underscore how dangerous it is to leave these issues to the drift and dishonesty of the current federal Liberal government. With this debate returning to Quebec, Conservatives must offer an alternative to a party that veers from naysaying all proposals to embarking on ad hoc arrangements after chaotic intergovernmental meetings.

The latest Liberal proposal is that Quebec could be at UNESCO alone, without any true national representation. That follows the mother of all Liberal federalism ideas, the sponsorship program, which descended into a cash-for-loyalty scheme.

On the other side, we should take great encouragement from the rejection of our "open federalism" ideas from the Bloc Quebecois as well. Both the Martin Liberals and the separatists have a vested interest in the same old unproductive arguments, but Quebec provincial parties, and most Quebecers, have expressed an overwhelming interest in exploring new ideas.

This interest is our opportunity not just to broaden our appeal among Quebecers, but to advance our wider program of institutional and democratic reform, which the federal government so badly needs. This can only be accomplished if we are prepared to reject empty rhetoric in favour of new ideas that are as relevant in Quebec as they are throughout the rest of Canada.

Stephen Harper is leader of the Official Opposition.

Most hip-hop is now keyboard driven, because the majority of hip-hop workstations have loops and patches that enable somebody with marginal skills to put tracks together,...

Unfortunately, most hip-hop artists gravitated towards the path of least resistance by relying on these pre-set patches. As a result, electric guitar and real musicians became devalued, and a lot of hip-hop now sounds the same.

Paris
 

Lincoln

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Re: For Canadians: My plan for 'open federalism' by Stephen Harper
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2004, 05:53:49 PM »
Personally I feel Harper's just trying to barter with the Bloc. A risky but smart move.

Most hip-hop is now keyboard driven, because the majority of hip-hop workstations have loops and patches that enable somebody with marginal skills to put tracks together,...

Unfortunately, most hip-hop artists gravitated towards the path of least resistance by relying on these pre-set patches. As a result, electric guitar and real musicians became devalued, and a lot of hip-hop now sounds the same.

Paris