Canada’s Media Party flew into action today, attacking Tom Mulcair for stating the obvious: a majority is, well, you know, a majority. The NDP is supporting a private member’s bill setting out the rules for (an increasingly unlikely) Quebec secession. Obviously, agreed the wise heads in a far-from-unusual display of unanimity, Mulcair is opportunistically pandering to his Quebec base and threatening the Unity Of This Country.
Not “prime ministerial,” sniffed the Ottawa Citizen, which presumably considers Harper’s now-routine contempt for Parliament to be what Prime Ministering is all about. “Mr. Mulcair’s 50%-plus-one fiddling represents a stain on this nominally ‘federalist’ party,” shrieks the National Post, unable to resist one last drive-by shot at Chief Theresa Spence en passant. Even the token “progressive” Toronto Star got into the act.
The Post expands:
The existing law that Mr. Mulcair seeks to do away with, we hasten to note, is itself based on a Supreme Court decision indicating that a “clear majority vote in Quebec on a clear question in favour of secession would confer democratic legitimacy on the secession initiative which all of the other participants in Confederation would have to recognize.” The NDP talks up a good game about respecting the Supreme Court when it comes to just about every other area of jurisprudence — so why not here?
Of course, that is precisely what the NDP is doing.
The current Clarity Act sets threshhold conditions for the separation of any province from Confederation, including the requirement for a “clear majority” in favour of secession:
The Government of Canada shall not enter into negotiations on the terms on which a province might cease to be part of Canada unless the House of Commons determines…that there has been a clear expression of a will by a clear majority of the population of that province that the province cease to be part of Canada.
Failing any other definition, a “clear majority” means just that. If Parliament had meant a supermajority of some kind, or an absolute majority, it would presumably have said so.
The proposed replacement bill specifies in no uncertain terms what a “clear question” would look like, and it refers specifically to Quebec. A “majority of valid votes cast” in a referendum would be required to trigger negotations. Recall that such a vote does not provide an automatic mandate to secede, and a close vote provides a weak hand to Quebec in any subsequent bargaining process.
A majority, and a “clear majority”: that’s common-or-garden stuff. In fact it can be even lower than “50%-plus-one.” (Example: 999 people vote. A clear majority is 500-499. “50%-plus-one” requires a 501-vote minimum.)
But for pointing this out, the Leader of the Official Opposition is being excoriated as virtually a traitor to the country—by the same folks who almost unanimously endorsed Stephen Harper in the last election.
Opportunism? You bet. Plenty in evidence. But not on the part of Tom Mulcair.