SUN OTTAWA BUREAU
OTTAWA-Canadians delivered a blunt No to their leaders in a massive rejection of the constitutional deal that was backed by most of the country's so-called elites.
The death of the Charlottetown accord was declared Monday on national television--blacked out in B.C.--around 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, 2½ hours before B.C. polls closed.
The stunning sweep of the rejection has shaken Canada's entire political system and leaves unanswered two of the country's most pressing issues--the demands of Quebecers and aboriginal people.
Quebec sovereignists such as Bloc Quebecois leader Lucien Bouchard declared the result a victory for their separatist cause. And native leaders said bitterly that they were rejected by Canadians.
"We have obviously been rejected, so what do we do now?" said an angry Ovide Mercredi1, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations. "Do we wait for another 125 years before you accept us? I don't think so."
But federal politicians--led by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney--tried to appeal for calm, saying the unity issue must go on the back burner in favor of the economy.
"The Charlottetown agreement is history," Mulroney declared solemnly after waiting for the results from B.C. before giving a brief message to Canadians.
But he did not shoulder any blame for the accord's failure. Instead, he praised the deal and warned Canadians that outstanding issues involving the West, Quebec and aboriginals must still be resolved.
He said Canadians must now turn to economic issues, and said the constitutional problems won't be resolvable in the "foreseeable future."
There were dramatically different emotions Monday evening.
"We were looking for parole and we got a further sentence to continued inequality in Canada," said despondent B.C. native leader Ron George, president of the Native Council of Canada.
He said he fears in[sic] an increase in direct action moves such as roadblocks.
But a joyous Izzy Asper, prominent in the broadcasting industry and a leader of the No campaign, said in Winnipeg the result is "a defeat for the elites of this country--the elites of big business, the elites of big labor, the elites of big bucks behind advertising, the big celebrities who were paraded in front of us."
The deal's defeat raises obvious questions about the future of a number of politicians but particularly that of Mulroney, whose government must call an election by next year. His already-weak public support fell even more during the campaign because of his hardball tactics, including his opening statement that "enemies of Canada" would oppose the deal.
Opposition in English Canada was fuelled by an enormous bitterness against Canada's elites on the "Yes" side--politicians, business and labor leaders, key interest groups and top media commentators.
Key elements that killed the deal in B.C. included the negative assessment of B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt's negotiating skills2, and effective opposition from Reform party leader Preston Manning, B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Wilson and open-line radio host Rafe Mair.
|PROVINCE / TERRITORY--||"YES" VOTE--||"NO" VOTE|
|PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND||73.6||25.9|
(text of October 27, 1992 Vancouver Sun front-page headline article)
1-ANOTHER STATEMENT BY THE NOW-FORMER GRAND CHIEF OF THE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS, OF RELEVANCE TO "ALL OF US" AS WE MOVE FORWARD INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM AND WHAT THE YEAR 2000 ALREADY WILL INCLUDE, CAN BE FOUND IF YOU TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
AND ON THE SUBJECT OF THE DIGNITY AND FUTURE OF CANADA'S ORIGINAL
INHABITANTS, TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
THEN, TO SEE MY REACTION TO THAT, TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
2-THOUGH I CERTAINLY DON'T HAVE TO SAY WHAT I DID AS A CANADIAN(-BORN) CITIZEN IN THE 1992 REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN, I WILL.
I FOLLOWED THE SUGGESTION PUT FORWARD BY THEN-MANITOBA PROVINCIAL PARLIAMENT MEMBER (AN ABORIGINAL CANADIAN) ELIJAH HARPER WHO URGED THAT THE ENTIRE PROCESS BE "BOYCOTTED."
I FELT THE "YES" SIDE WAS DELIBERATELY MISLEADING THE CANADIAN PEOPLE ABOUT THE WORTH OF THIS ACCORD, CLAIMING THE FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY HUNG ON ITS RATIFICATION WHEN, IN FACT, IT WAS A "NON-BINDING" AGREEMENT TO MEASURE PUBLIC SUPPORT ON CERTAIN ISSUES WITH "MORE THAN 40" CLAUSES REQUIRING ADDITIONAL NEGOTIATIONS.
AND IF YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT I HAND-DELIVERED TO THE VANCOUVER CABINET OFFICE OF THEN-PREMIER OF BRITISH COLUMBIA MIKE HARCOURT ON JUNE 5, 1992, IN ADVANCE OF THE OCTOBER 26, 1992 REFERENDUM--AFTER WE HAD WALKED SIDE-BY-SIDE FOR ABOUT ¾ OF A MILE DURING THE APRIL, 1992 VANCOUVER "WALK FOR PEACE"--TAKE A BRIEF SERIES OF SIDESTEPS HERE.
ON THE SUBJECT OF THE FUTURE OF CANADA, PLEASE NOTE THE RELEVANT ELEMENT OF WHAT YOU FIND IF YOU TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
..THUS, WHAT YOU FIND IF YOU TAKE YOUR NEXT FOOTSTEP HERE.