In a way I share an experience with the late Elijah Harper, who nixed the Meech Lake Accord. I have been airbrushed out of CKNW’s history – Rafe Who? – while the late Mr. Harper is a national non-event thanks to the Central Canadian Establishment.
The background to Meech is pretty straightforward. Brian Mulroney needed political help in Quebec and persuaded all the premiers to support a set of constitutional reforms – labelled the Meech Lake Accord – whereby all the other premiers would postpone their constitutional ambitions until Quebec was settled nicely away with its “Distinct Society” designation AND a veto over all future constitutional proposals. If you’ve advanced past Politics 101 you will see that once satisfied, Quebec could and would veto other changes such as Senate reform. It was a colossal mistake and one can only assume it was contracted on the back of an envelope during the cocktail hour.
It was agreed that every province had to ratify it by June 1990.
With a few hours to go, Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon moved that the Meech Lake Accord be debated and asked special leave, which was needed, to bring it forward. One has to ask why Filmon waited til the bitter end. The special leave was refused by Elijah Harper, who passed away last week, and Meech Lake was dead.
The Newfoundland and Labrador agreement was given under Tory Brian Peckford but rescinded by the Liberal government of Clyde Wells who had scheduled its vote to follow that of Manitoba. When Manitoba failed to ratify, Premier Wells canceled the Newfoundland and Labrador vote.
Mulroney was livid. He didn’t want to dump on fellow Tory Filmon and to criticize an Indian, as Harper was, was unthinkable. He therefore railed at Clyde Wells, whose decision to withdraw the motion was based on the very sensible view that he shouldn’t divide his province after the deal had failed in Manitoba.
The Meech Lake Accord failed and to many like me it was time to thank God for his blessing.
Mulroney tried again with the Charlottetown Accord but by that time Quebec and BC stated that they would hold referenda.
It failed – spectacularly. I did my best, from behind my microphone at CKNW, to help it go down in BC.
Charlottetown quickly became a non-event.
Mulroney’s press secretary, Bill Fox, wrote a book on the Mulroney years in which there was one sentence about Meech and not a peep about Charlottetown!
Thus, the way the people in charge deal with their losses!