QUEBEC – Stephen Harper says people are “fed up” with the old constitutional battles that have been around his entire life.
The prime minister was making his first official visit to Quebec on Friday since allegations surfaced that Supreme Court of Canada justices intervened in the patriation of the Constitution.
When asked by a reporter about the controversy, Harper said his government’s priority is the economy of the 21st century and not the constitutional disputes of the 1980s.
“I think that the whole population is fed up with this discussion,” Harper said shortly after he announced 55 clean-energy projects at a hotel in Quebec City.
“We’ve lived with this for all my life, all our lives.”
Harper’s remarks drew applause from the dozens of people in the Tory-friendly audience, which included cabinet ministers, party staffers and partners in the newly announced energy projects.
The allegations over the Constitution stem from a new book by historian and journalist Frederic Bastien.
In the book, Bastien writes that Bora Laskin, then chief justice of the Supreme Court, gave information to the Canadian and British governments on the discussions among the justices about the legality of patriation.
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The federal New Democrats and Quebec provincial parties have been pressuring Ottawa to disclose documents pertaining to the alleged misconduct.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has stressed that Canadians have a right to know whether there was political interference in the Supreme Court’s deliberations on the legality of patriating the Constitution from Britain.
The Conservative government has reiterated it has no interest in reopening constitutional fights of the past.
The Supreme Court launched an internal investigation into the accusations, but reported that it had found no documents on the matter.
The 1982 patriation of the Constitution has always been a controversial subject in Quebec, whose separatist government of the day felt betrayed by other provinces.
Quebec was the only province that refused to endorse the document.
On Friday, Harper was also asked about the refusal of a growing number of his Conservative MPs to send their constituents the party’s latest attack against newly appointed Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.
The taxpayer-funded pamphlet – called a “ten-percenter” – features a message matching recent, negative TV ads about Trudeau that say he lacks the experience and judgment to govern.
The reluctant Tory MPs have said they don’t think this type of an offensive is appropriate.
Harper didn’t directly answer a question asking him whether he thought the reaction from his MPs indicated the campaign has, perhaps, gone too far.
“Obviously, the messages will speak for themselves,” he said of the flyers.
“I look forward to a vigorous debate over the next couple of years.”