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Who is seeking changes to the constitution and why?

Who is seeking changes to the constitution and why?

Recently in a radical shift far a separatist leader, Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard says he wants to open up the Canadian Constitution to give provinces more control over social programs. The idea could mean the launching of negotiations to reform a constitution that Quebec has never accepted. Separatists say it isn't worth bothering about.

On Nov. 4, 1998, Bouchard said he wants an amendment that gives the power to opt out of federal social programs, with financial compensation for those who set up similar ones of their own. "We would want to effectively constitutionalize the right of opting out programs with compensation, even if the other premiers haven't arrived there yet," Bouchard said.

The proposal came during a news conference and isn't included in the Parti Quebecois election platform. Liberal leader Jean Charest when asked about Bouchards' remark, said there is no proposed constitutional amendment on the table yet. Bouchard's proposal is sure to increase suspicions among separatists, who will question his readiness to negotiate with Ottawa, rather than get on with a referendum on sovereignty. The provincial premiers agreed to the idea last August, but so far they have only accepted it as an administrative agreement and not a constitutional amendment.

Even though Bouchard doesn't accept the constitution, he cut a deal with Ottawa last year to reform Quebec's school system. He also made it clear that he still wouldn't accept the 1982 Constitution, even if his social program amendment was passed.

Copyright 1998, Phil C. & Hussein B.