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Ted Morton: After 40 years, the charter is still one of the worst bargains in Canadian history

National Post: 'The biggest losers have been provincial governments, and those of us (both in Quebec and in the West) who would prefer to be governed by legislators who live in our neighbourhoods, share our concerns, and are elected and accountable to us, rather than by distant, unaccountable judges in Ottawa.


'This risk was evident at the outset. The architect of the charter, Pierre Trudeau’s highest priority was to blunt the Party Quebecois French-only education and language laws, which were creating an exodus of anglophone voters (and Liberal Party supporters) out of Quebec. The more anglos that left, the stronger the separatists became. Trudeau understood this. So did PQ Premier René Lévesque. Which is why Quebec refused to sign the Constitution Act in 1982. And still refuses to this day.


'Western premiers had similar fears of a strongly centralist bias in charter interpretation. For a decade they had watched Trudeau’s hand-picked Chief Justice, Bora Laskin, strike down provincial laws for reasons of federalism. They justifiably feared a similar bias in Charter interpretation. They would never have agreed to the charter without the now infamous Section 33 notwithstanding clause. The notwithstanding clause allows a province to insulate a law from judicial veto if it deems the judges have made an incorrect interpretation of the charter and/or are mandating an unacceptable policy....'

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