Commentary on Canada’s Constitution often elicits derision and eye-rolling. The failed Meech Lake Accord of 1990 and Charlottetown Accord of 1992 left the nation with constitutional fatigue and politicians hesitant to open the Pandora’s box again. The drama surrounding Quebec’s potential separation was intense, but the nation eventually settled down. Now, Canada is facing a new set of issues, with the West increasingly unhappy with the Laurentian elite and an equalization formula that appears to favour Quebec. Discontent is in the air, and many are saying “Canada is broken.”
In this context, constitutional reform could be a viable solution. Taking another look at the Meech Lake Accord could help, as Quebec accepted it and the symbolism of getting them to sign on would be a major accomplishment. It could also strengthen provincial powers, particularly in the health care sector. Health care is the most expensive portfolio, but provinces have inferior taxing power. Giving them the necessary taxing powers could help them introduce private clinics and private funding.
In addition, a constitutional change could help address Canada’s long-standing indigenous poverty issue. Tons of money and catering to the victim mentality has done nothing to help the chronically unemployed indigenous underclass, so slowly and carefully abolishing the Indian Act and merging the smaller reserves with existing municipalities could be a step in the right direction. Educational and training programs could also help ambitious young people move from remote, uneconomic communities to urban centres.
Ultimately, constitutional reform could make Canada a better country. We should consider taking a look at updating our constitution to prepare for an uncertain future.
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