Change is coming, and Canadians shouldn't be afraid of it, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said at a press conference here Friday.
"What we're talking about is substantial change, but change doesn't have to be our enemy, change can be an ally. And I think the country is mature and modern enough to acknowledge that. The alternative to a fundamental reform in Canada is probably no Canada. And that's not a very attractive alternative," according to Mulroney.
Although he had no new initiatives to announce, Mulroney did hint at some directions. He said he would not negotiate a deal with Quebec that would not be offered to all provinces, and he ruled out a referendum on Quebec's separatism in 1991.
Canada's constitutional development underwent three years of scrutiny as the timetable on the Meech Lake accord expired last June.
The accord -- which transferred some powers to the provinces and recognized Quebec as a distinct society within Canada -- was designed to entice Quebec's signature on the 1982 constitution.
It was amended with the signatures of all nine other provinces. Parti Quebecois Premier Rene Levesque refused to sign it.
In the wake of the death of the accord, Quebec has established the Belanger-Campeau commission on Quebec's future, to report to its National Assembly in March. Ontario has established a committee on Ontario's future in Canada, to report in June. The federal government appointed Keith Spicer to head a Citizen's Forum on Canada's Future, to report by July 1.
Mulroney said he won't give Quebec any special powers in the new arrangement, and he said it was time the 123-year-old division of powers was revised.
The division of powers, delegated between the federal and provincial powers in 1867, gave the provinces health and education and left the federal government responsible for international affairs, tariffs and defense. Some areas, such as immigration, have evolved as a shared jurisdiction.