25 years ago, Charlottetown, failure which shook the government Bourassa

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The canadian Press
The prime minister Robert Bourassa in the national Assembly in June 1990

The day after his referendum defeat of 1992, the government Bourassa was completely distraught : the liberal Party found itself without constitutional position and unable to sketch one.


This is revealed by the records of the deliberations of the council of ministers of the time, which was consulted by The canadian Press.


Under the act, the discussion of firms, collected in minutes, can only be made public after 25 years.


This report lifts the veil on hours fateful to the liberal government at the end of the reign, after seven years in power, cash hard failure.


In short, it is a turning point, a trauma, which may explain why even today the reluctance of liberals to want to begin constitutional talks in good and due form.


On October 28, 1992, two days after the defeat of the Yes to the nationwide referendum on the Charlottetown Accord, the liberal premier Robert Bourassa meets his cabinet.


He had campaigned vigorously in favor of this agreement aimed at reintegrating Quebec into the canadian Constitution, on the side of its federal counterpart and partner, Brian Mulroney. They wanted to as well repair the affront of the patriation of the 1982 Constitution led by prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, without the approval of Quebec.


However, the Charlottetown Accord was rejected in Québec and in the majority of provinces and territories, the electors had voted 56.7 %, compared to 43.3 percent who were favorable.


The camp of the Non-gathered under the umbrella of the improbable allies, ranging from separatists and disgruntled who viewed the agreement below everything, even the federalists orthodox encouraged by Pierre Trudeau, who believed that it conceded too much in Quebec.


Two years after the failure of the Meech lake Accord of 1990, another attempt that was aborted, the government Bourassa wiped so another slap in the face, which he does not will not — the liberals will be ousted in 1994 by the pq members of Jacques Parizeau.


The council of ministers is faced with a vacuum. What to do ?


This referendum was “a mission impossible, it was necessary to realise,” conceded Robert Bourassa in front of his colleagues, can we read.


However, he remains “convinced that the agreement is constitutional was acceptable,” while acknowledging that it was ” difficult to be accepted by the population “.


However, it provides that a referendum on sovereignty, as requested, rather the opposition parti québécois, “would have weakened Quebec and would have made the next provincial election more difficult, “because the” results in favour of sovereignty would not have been higher, ” according to him.


“This solution [the sovereignty] would lead Quebec in a cul-de-sac,” says the prime minister further.


Note : the silence of the minister of intergovernmental Affairs, Gil Rémillard, one of the artisans of Charlottetown. Still, he had said, in a previous session of the council of ministers, that the legal texts of the agreement would help “fill that gap” one of the strategies of the camp of the Not, distribute an annotated text of the agreement.


Several ministers believe that the campaign has been difficult, ” enemies many “, said Mr. Bourassa.


A referendum campaign ” too hard “, will comment on the minister responsible for Finance, Louise Robic, while her colleague for cultural Affairs, Liza Frulla, add ” dirty “, with ” elements of blackmail “.


The holder of the Education portfolio, Lucienne Robillard, application, it, what is the ” forward-looking medium-term “, since the government will have to adopt a new constitutional position, while a federal general election and another provincial are in view.


His boss, wait and see, prefer to wait after the end of these electoral appointments.


The minister of Health and head of electoral reform, Marc-Yvan Côté — today accused of fraud and corruption — is heavily weighted to a meeting of the council of ministers during which everyone will be able to empty the heart “, as many of the issues facing the government and the party, according to him.


He already sees come the next election campaign, and warns his party against the consequences of this failure. “Hints of what the government has known prior to the election campaign of 1976” you see, he mentioned.


Lucid, Robert Bourassa finds the strength of a current of “dissidents” within his own party and said that he did not know the “tangent” that they will take to the next election.


Incidentally, the council of ministers has firmly held on 19 and 20 November next, presumably to ” empty the heart “.


The heading “referendum of October 26,” thus appears in the minutes, but the discussions have remained confidential, because unlike the memory of the October 28, where the point of view of each is reported in detail, one can read only this sentence : “the ministers are discussing among themselves of the findings and lessons to be drawn from the results of this referendum “.