Canada, Senate Debates, “The Constitution—Meeting of Premiers of Western Provinces”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (5 May 1980)

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Date: 1980-05-05
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1980 at 184.
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SENATE DEBATES — May 5, 1980

[Page 184]



Hon. Royce Frith (Deputy Leader of the Government): I now come to a question by the Honourable Senator Asselin on national unity. The question is as follows:

Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government. At the conclusion yesterday of a meeting of the four western premiers held in Lethbridge, a call went out for a permanent conference of first ministers to deal with the Constitution, with the first meeting to be convened soon after the Quebec referendum. I should like to know whether the government is receptive to the request of the four western premiers for such a conference?

The answer is as follows:

The federal government has not heard of a request to have a permanent conference of first ministers to deal with the Constitution. Nor has there been any formal communication with the government in regard to constitutional reform arising out of the recent conference of the premiers of the provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

We have, however, received texts of communiqués and have noted the wish expressed in one of them that a meeting of the continuing committee of ministers on the Constitution (CCMC) be convened by the federal government soon after the Quebec referendum, and in that way to resume the constitutional review process.

As honourable senators are no doubt aware, on April 24 the Prime Minister was asked a similar question during a press conference. His reply was that in the event of a “no” vote in the forthcoming referendum there would be a need to continue the constitutional conferences as soon as possible. As well, he expressed the hope that, with a “no” vote. Mr. Lévesque would feel that he must participate in earnest in these conferences.

In the hypothetical case of a “yes” vote in the referendum, the Prime Minister stated that it would have to be determined whether the Premier of the Province of Quebec would be willing to participate in a federal-provincial conference on the renewal of federalism. If Mr. Lévesque refused, it would have to be decided whether a conference could be held without him. However, such a decision could only be made at the time.

Those are the answers I have been furnished with today, honourable senators.

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