In response to a recent report by Quebec's governing Liberal Party calling for the transfer to the provinces of most federal powers, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said Tuesday that the government does not intend to negotiate the separation of the province from the rest of the country. ``We have every intention of restructuring Canada. We have absolutely no intention of dismantling it,'' Mr. Mulroney said in an emotional speech to business clubs in Toronto.
Mulroney said the social and economic consequences of a national breakup would be enormous.
It was his government's first response to the province's radical plan calling for the transfer to the provinces of most federal powers, including authority over communications, energy, industry, and commerce.
Some Canadians have said the plan, which would leave the federal government controlling only a few areas such as currency and the national debt, would result in the breakup of Canada.
The Quebec proposals came in response to last summer's collapse of the Meech Lake accord that would have given Quebec more power to protect its French-speaking culture and made it a signatory to the federal Constitution.
Mulroney, a Quebec native, said he is prepared to consider changes to the federal system, but only under certain conditions.
He said the changes must be economically sound, reduce bureaucracy, and maintain national standards in such areas as the environment and health care.
``If it can be demonstrated that a transfer of some federal jurisdictions to the provinces will enhance the prosperity of Canadians, the federal government will not hesitate to agree to it,'' he said.
Were Quebec to separate from Canada, Atlantic provinces would be cut off from the rest of Canada and Western Canada would be overwhelmed by the huge economy and population of Ontario.