Canada, Senate Debates, “Meeting of Provincial Premiers—Tentative Agreement on Amending Formula”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (25 March 1981)

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Date: 1981-03-25
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 2142-2143.
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SENATE DEBATES — March 25, 1981

[Page 2142]



Hon. Jacques Flynn (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I have a question for the Leader of the Government, and, depending on his answer, I suppose the deputy leader might say that something dramatic has happened which has led to a decision not to sit at other than our usual hours.

It is reported that the representatives of the eight provincial governments opposing the constitutional resolution reached a tentative agreement on an amending formula at their meeting in Winnipeg yesterday. Is the government considering suspending the debate on the resolution in either the other place or this house in order to give the Prime Minister an opportunity of meeting with the provincial premiers to discuss the consensus that may have been arrived at?

Hon. Raymond J. Perrault (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, there is no intention to suspend the debate.

Senator Flynn: Does the leader mean to say that, even if there is the possibility of reaching an understanding or agreement with all of the provincial governments, the federal government has decided that it will not change its stance?

Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, the question, in its present form at least, is hypothetical. It presumes that some

[Page 2143]

sort of agreement has been achieved. The Leader of the Opposition is alluding to various news reports, but I must remind him that over the past 50 years or so a number of agreements have been reported which never came to fruition. For example, an agreement was reputed to have been achieved in Victoria in the spring of 1971, but that was a spring of doomed hopes, because the premiers ultimately agreed to disagree, one of the major provinces pulling out of the agreement just a few days after that conference had concluded. So, on the basis of the truncated news reports brought to this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, one cannot expect the government to be inspired to respond in a positive way.

Senator Flynn: The Leader of the Government speaks of several years of frustration and of the 1971 meeting at Victoria. However, it seems to rne that, if the matter is so urgent, the government has missed many opportunities over the past ten years to take the action it is taking now. I suggest to the Leader of the Government that there be a month‘s delay to enable all parties concerned to come to a consensus. Such a delay would probably resolve a fairly difficult problem, and avoid division within this country.

Senator Perrault: To be fair to the Leader of the Opposition and to the premiers, if there is an official communication on the way to the Right Honourable the Prime Minister from the premiers, then perhaps we should await official receipt of that communication. Should this event transpire, Senator Flynn’s question will be taken as notice.

Senator Flynn: Thank you. I prefer that answer.

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