Burned by the Belgian Waffle?
  Niagara Falls, Ontario,
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
by: Joe Hueglin

The new Conservative Party's breakthrough in the Quebec City region was based on expectations Stephen Harper's "open federalism" would further Quebec's position in international relations. The rules of UNESCO have prevented Quebec being able to be given a separate seat, instead it will have a representative on the Canadian delegation.

Though little reported in the English-language media Gilles Duceppe has raised the Belgian pattern as being applicable to Canada. His view, much covered in the French-language press, is that Quebec ought to have a veto should it not agree with a direction of the Government of Canada in matters under its competences - its powers or jurisdictions under the Constitution. (1)

The Harper government is vulnerable to this argument in that in 2004 the Prime Minister spoke of employing a Belgian model. (2)

Peter MacKay and Gilles Duceppe

In the recent election then Prime Minister Martin suggesting that Canada would continue to speak with one voice was attacked by the new Conservatives. To be seen is the nature of reactions in Quebec to these words of Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay which echo Martin's position "I can tell you that there will be one voice speaking for Canada and that voice will, of course, include Quebec," MacKay told reporters. (3)

Questions to be answered by the Prime Minister are: what are the competences he recognizes as those of the provinces under his "open federalism"; does Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay speak for the Government in saying Canada would continue to speak with one voice in international relations?

If MacKay is supported by Harper the Bloc's position in the battle for Quebce has been strengthened.


Joe Hueglin

1. Toupin, Gilles Le Quebec devrait avoir un droit de veto, dit le Bloc, April 11, 2006, La Presse, Ottawa (English translation of this story)

Radio - Canada , Le Bloc veut plus que de la figuration, April 10, 2006, Radio - Canada

Larocque, Sylvain, Le Bloc s'inspire de la belgique et reclame un veto pour le Quebec a' l'UNESCO, April 10, 2006, Le Presse Canadienne


2. Zolf, Larry, Haper's Belgian waffle, October 26, 2004, CBC News

3. Thompson, Elizabeth, Quebec's role will have limits, (pdf) April 11, 2006, Regina Leader Post



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