In these essays, written during the last fifteen years, Whitaker analyses the paradoxes of federalism and democracy in a society which is deeply divided by region, language, and class. He examines the thought and action of such diverse figures as Mackenzie King, Harold Innis, William Irvine, and Pierre Trudeau and evaluates their impact on Canadian society both then and now. With an astute critical eye he surveys constitutional reform and the question of Quebec sovereignty as it has developed from 1981 through Meech Lake and beyond, and explores federalism, democratic theory, and the practice of politics in the real world. In the final essay, "Quebec and the Canadian Question," written especially for this volume, he evaluates the major changes which have occurred in Canadian politics during the last fifteen years and assesses their resounding impact on the future possibilities for Canadian democracy. The dominant political discourse, Whitaker argues, is increasingly based on human rights.
This, in combination with the ascendance of free-market conservatism, the turn to continentalism under free trade, and the resurgence, since the failure of Meech Lake, of serious tensions between Quebec and the rest of Canada, has led to a compounded crisis that requires an examination not only of what Quebec wants, with or without Canada, but what Canada wants -- with or without Quebec. The Canadian idea of democracy is still evolving. Together in one volume for the first time, Whitaker's essays describe the process of that evolution and show what lies beneath the constitutional debate on the future of Canada.