Compromise and Public Debate in Processes of Constitutional Reform : The Canadian Case

LEYDET, DOMINIQUE: art3], « Compromise and Public Debate in Processes of Constitutional Reform : The Canadian Case », Social Science Information (Numéro spécial : Compromise : Exploring Theory and Practice), Vol. 43, No 2, juin 2004, 233-262.

Abstract

In this article, I concentrate on one central issue that has arisen since the 1987 Meech Lake Accord and the 1992 Charlottetown Accord failed to secure sufficient popular support to allow their ratification. Many theorists have argued that there exists an unavoidable disjunction between the kind of compromise agreement that can come out of complex intergovernmental negotiations and the type of outcome that a majority of citizens might be made to support. Any agreement produced by formal talks can be presumed to have involved significant logrolling and be made of various, mutually dependent, sets of compromises. Such a composite agreement, it is argued, has but little chance to stand the test of public debate and attract sufficient popular support to ensure ratification. In the present article, I want to revisit the story of the failed Charlottetown Accord to show the ways that the risks of disjunction can be alleviated. More specifically, I attempt to show that referendums, if properly integrated in the process, can have positive effects both on the negotiations themselves and on the ability of the parties concerned to rise to the challenge of public justification.

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