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Marathon negotiations at Meech Lake

The Story


Brian Mulroney is in lockdown mode. The skilled former labour arbitrator is handling his toughest case yet with the Meech Lake accord negotiations. Ten premiers have come to Ottawa to hammer out a final agreement to bring Quebec back into the constitutional family. Two months earlier, all of the premiers displayed goodwill. But now, competing agendas arise and clash. This CBC News report examines the 19-hour long marathon negotiations involved in finally reaching a willing consensus. 

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: June 3, 1987
Guests: John Buchanan, Joe Ghiz, Howard Pawley, Brian Peckford, David Peterson, Bill Vander Zalm
Commentator: David Halton
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Jason Moscovitz
Duration: 5:18

Did You know?


• The Accord not only recognized Quebec as a "distinct society" but also allowed for greater power for the provinces. Under the agreement, the provinces were granted the unprecedented power to make nominations to the Senate and the Supreme Court of Canada. The provinces also had the power to opt-out of federal social programs with compensation under certain restrictions. A formula to amend the Constitution was devised and a new federal-provincial partnership was established with regards to immigration.

• The premiers agreed to take the Accord home with them and ratify the document in their parliamentary legislatures. Under section 42 of the Constitution Act of 1982, the Accord had to be ratified by Parliament and all of the provincial legislatures within a three-year time period.

• On June 23, 1987, Quebec's National Assembly set the proceedings in motion and became the first province to ratify the Accord. The other provinces accordingly faced a deadline of June 23, 1990. In order to be ratified, the Meech Lake Accord would have to be approved in each province and in the House of Commons with no changes or amendments.

The timeline for approval was as follows:
• September 23, 1987, Saskatchewan became the second province to approve the Accord.
• December 7, 1987, Alberta approved the Accord.
• May 13, 1988, Prince Edward Island ratified the Accord.
• May 25, 1988, Nova Scotia became the fifth province to accept the Accord.

• June 29, 1988, Ontario and BC approved the Accord.
• June 22, 1988, the House of Commons approved the Accord.
• July 7, 1988, Newfoundland becomes the eighth province to ratify the Accord. On April 6, 1990, Newfoundland rescinded its approval.
• On June 15, 1990, the New Brunswick legislature approved the Accord.
• The Manitoba legislature didn't approve the Accord.


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Constitutional Discord: Meech Lake more