Trudeau reaffirms his opposition to constitutional negotiations with Quebec

Trudeau reaffirms his opposition to constitutional negotiations with Quebec

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to reporters questions at a news conference at the Manoir Richelieu, Thursday, June 8, 2017 in La Malbaie Quebec. Trudeau visited the site of the 2018 G7 meeting. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot.

LA MALBAIE, Que. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has once again dismissed Quebec’s call for constitutional negotiations, saying future talks on Canadian unity need not take that route.

After curtly rejecting the Quebec premier’s offer last week to reopen constitutional talks, Trudeau said Thursday his government works regularly to ensure the province is happy within Confederation.

“As a Quebecer, I can certainly say the work that I do and the 39 other Liberal MPs from Quebec in our caucus do every day about increasing Canada’s impact in the lives of Quebecers, while at the same time bringing Quebecers to bear on the decisions Canada makes, is a very positive step,” he said.

Speaking at a news conference in La Malbaie, Que., Trudeau added he is “happy to see the strong affirmation Premier (Philippe) Couillard has put forward of being a Quebecer and being Canadian at the same time.”

Last week, Couillard announced his government would tour the country in order to discuss Quebec’s relationship with Canada, in hopes the talks would eventually lead to the province signing the 1982 Constitution. Quebec is the only province to have not done so.

Trudeau quickly responded by saying his views on the matter were clear and that the country was not reopening the Constitution.

Sovereigntist parties in Quebec suggested Trudeau’s quick rejection of Couillard’s plan was an insult to the province, while some pundits opined the provincial government’s proposed tour was likely for domestic consumption ahead of the 2018 election.

In addition to the cross-country tour, Couillard promised he would modify every department to include a unit of “Canadian relations,” which would have a mandate of ensuring Quebec had a presence from one end of the country to the other.

The Canadian Press has learned Couillard has already given the order for each department to create such units by the summer. Details about how they would function are still unclear.

Trudeau said he and Couillard have a great working relationship and he is happy to continue along those lines with the Quebec leader to improve relations between the province and the rest of the country.

But Trudeau said future discussions about Canadian unity need not take the form of official constitutional negotiations.

“I’m happy to talk about ways we can work together to continue to improve the way our country functions,” he said. “But as I’ve said many times — since the very beginning of my political career — I think those conversations need not go through constitutional negotiations.”

The Canadian Press

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