Canada's Trudeau says nation decentralized enough

(c) 1995 Reuter Information Service

OTTAWA (Nov 6, 1995 - 15:48 EST) - Canada's former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on Monday threw cold water on proposals by Ottawa to give more power to French-speaking Quebec and said Canada should not further decentralize.

"You can't decentralize the country any further if you want a country, a people," Trudeau told a news conference to launch a book on foreign policy.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien is considering giving more power to the provinces following the narrow federalist win last week in Quebec's referendum on separation from Canada.

Trudeau, who remains influential despite being out of office since 1984, said any more powers the federal government gives the provinces would need to be balanced by powers from the provinces being given to Ottawa.

The former prime minister, who was a key architect of the country's constitution and a long-time advocate of a strong central government, said Canada is already the most decentralized nation in the world.

"If we decide to decentralize any more, the richest provinces will get the services because they have the tax base and the poor provinces won't. That will break up the country sooner," he said.

Trudeau also accused charismatic Quebec separatist leader Lucien Bouchard of falsifying the history of constitutional change in Canada.

Bouchard, the leader of the Quebec separatist wing in Canada's Parliament, is credited with giving the separatists a strong boost in the campaign for Quebec's Oct. 30 referendum.

Trudeau said the referendum question, which asked Quebec voters if they wanted to be sovereign after an offer of a new economic and political partnership with Canada, was not straightforward. A question on outright separation would have led to a wider vote in favour of staying in Canada, he said.