National Newswatch
National Opinion Centre

I find it hard to believe that so many years have passed since Canadians were glued to their television sets awaiting the results of the national referendum on the Charlottetown Accord.  It was October 26, 1992 and I have never forgotten the night.

I had a few friends from my Ryerson Journalism class over to my student place off Parliament Street in Toronto to watch the results.  What I remember most was that all of us in my living room were left with the same feeling at the end of the evening: whether one voted “Yes” or “NO”, the future of our nation seemed so uncertain. I found the whole campaign was gut-wrenching as Canadians fought amongst themselves over the constitutional future of Canada.

I learned that fateful evening why referendums are so rarely used in our system. Thankfully.

While the Charlottetown Accord was defeated, there really were no winners. These decades later constitutional change has been largely frozen, Quebec remains officially outside the constitution, and many of the issues the Accord was designed to address, remain silent but open wounds that someday have to be faced by our leaders and citizens alike.

Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist.  He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy.  A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.

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