Friday, May 27, 2011

Splitting the Dippers

We finally got a bit of clarity from Jack Layton on an issue he has danced around for the better part of the past decade:



It’s official: Layton backs 50%-plus-one rule for Quebec secession

NDP Leader Jack Layton is once again stating that a straight majority would be enough for Quebec to legally secede from Canada in the event of a third referendum on sovereignty.

“What constitutes a majority is 50 per cent plus one,” Mr. Layton said after announcing his shadow cabinet on Thursday. “That’s been crystal clear for five years as the official policy of our party.”

Despite Layton's statement, the NDP is still somewhat bashful about its repudiation of the Clarity Act. Just watch this interview where Evan Solomon asks MP Peggy Nash about her party's position on the Clarity Act four times, only to have her dodge the question four times.

I just don't see how the NDP will be able to straddle the divide on issues of federalism for four years - the last time someone tried this, it exploded in Brian Mulroney's face, destroying his party and very nearly the country.

The fact of the matter is there are NDP MPs who are unclear how they'd vote in a referendum. The party opposes the Clarity Act. They want to expand Bill 101 to the federal workplace. Layton favours a round of constitutional negotiations to create "winning conditions".

In addition to the above, it seems certain other issues will emerge over the next four years - especially with the PQ poised to take power.

The NDP has taken great joy in dividing the Liberal Party at every opportunity during the minority years. Now, the Liberals have a golden opportunity to return the favour if they can bring what's left of their Quebec caucus onside. It won't be hard to toss federalism grenades into the NDP tent - a few mischievious opposition day motions should do the trick.

By returning to its strong federalist roots, the Liberal Party could in one fell swoop put the squeeze on the Dippers, score points outside Quebec, and become relevant in the West. And if you assume that more than 14% of Quebecers are strong federalists, there'd be little electoral backlash in La Belle Province.

It's abundantly clear the NDP's Beau Risque is going to give them headaches. The Liberals should position themselves so that they're the ones who benefit.

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42 Comments:

  • So, the Liberal's propose to create a national unity crisis, in order to revive their flagging fortunes? Canada thanks you.

    By Blogger Greg, at 9:16 AM  

  • I think we should take a page from Andrew Coyne and move that parliament recognize Canadians as a nation.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 9:21 AM  

  • If you don't think 50% plus 1 is a clear enough majority - then what exactly IS a clear majority in the eyes of the Liberal Party of Canada? I know that the Quebec Liberal Party says it is 50%+1 - so I guess we may see a major rift in the Liberal Party if the federal party says it has to be 52% or 55% or 60%. I suspect that a few of the remaining Liberal MPs such as Coderre would resign in protest if that were the case.

    By Blogger DL, at 10:23 AM  

  • Now, the Liberals have a golden opportunity to return the favour if they can bring what's left of their Quebec caucus onside. It won't be hard to toss federalism grenades into the NDP tent - a few mischievious opposition day motions should do the trick.

    No need for mischief. Stephane Dion had a few comments on the whole 50% + 1 rule that points out the problems of the position.

    From the article:
    Dion said the top court would have said so if it meant a bare majority would be good enough to trigger secession negotiations. Instead the court insisted, 13 times, that a "clear majority" would be necessary.

    "If (Layton thinks) 50 per cent plus one is a clear majority, what is an unclear majority?" Dion asked in an interview.

    Dion said the debate has been framed as though accepting a bare majority result would be showing respect to Quebecers. But determining something as momentous as the fate of the country on the basis of one vote, is "not respecting Quebecers, not respecting their rights to be Canadians unless they clearly decide to stop being Canadians."

    "You are in the situation to decide the choice of a country (based on) the results of a judicial recount or the examination of rejected ballots. It would be an absurd, untenable position," he added.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 10:29 AM  

  • Well, clear MINORITIES of Canadians can put a Prime Minister in power for 4 years, and the reaction is that many many people are not happy with that system. 50+1 percent of voters could be only 10% of the population. How reasonable is that? I mean, the Supreme Court just ruled that if you are unconscious, you can't give consent. The issue shouldn't be the percentage, but the number of people who have actually VOTED on the referendum. Without a mandatory vote as the Australians have, I don't this any percentage can be considered legitimate. If the NDP want to count 50+1, then it had better be 50+1 percent of everyone in Quebec.
    sm

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 AM  

  • Liberal arrogance simply reeks from your statement ...

    "The NDP has taken great joy in dividing the Liberal Party at every opportunity during the minority years. Now, the Liberals have a golden opportunity to return the favour if they can bring what's left of their Quebec caucus onside. It won't be hard to toss federalism grenades into the NDP tent - a few mischievious opposition day motions should do the trick."

    For Libs, it is obviously someone else's fault that they are floundering and in a near death situation. Liberals did this to themselves. You stand for nothing. The sooner your sorry excuse for a political party dies the better.

    By Blogger leftdog, at 10:59 AM  

  • leftdog - How is that arrogant? And how would the Liberals making the NDP take a clear stand on national unity be any different from the NDP making the Liberals take a clear stand on Afghanistan?

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:15 AM  

  • Greg - In my opinion, the larger national unity crisis would be created by repudiating the Clarity Act and opening up the constitution, which is what the NDP is proposing.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:16 AM  

  • the Liberal's propose to create a national unity crisis

    By calling attention to the NDP's policy on the issue?? Really??? That's creating a unity crisis?

    To quote your leader: "hashtag fail!"

    By Blogger Jeff Jedras, at 11:19 AM  

  • "what exactly IS a clear majority"

    I think that two referendums passed by 50%+1 of voters is a good method. That is what René Lévesque planned.

    By Blogger doconnor, at 11:38 AM  

  • Sorry, am I missing something CG has a referendum been called? I feel like I am watching an episode of "The Walking Dead -- 1990's edition". This is why the Liberal Party is dying, so by all means keep it up.

    By Blogger Greg, at 11:48 AM  

  • Actually Jeff, hashtag fail describes the current state of your party.

    By Blogger Greg, at 11:49 AM  

  • It won't be hard to toss federalism grenades into the NDP tent - a few mischievious opposition day motions should do the trick.

    If you think this will be contained within the NDP caucus, you are
    sadly mistaken. It is a cynical ploy and it will not enhance your standing. It will however cause some pretty bad blowback from Quebec. Not that you folks seem to care.

    By Blogger Greg, at 11:55 AM  

  • The federalist LIBERAL Premier of Quebec - Jean Charest and every single member of his LIBERAL caucus is ADAMANT that 50%+1 is a clear, binding majority in any referendum. Why isn't that good enough for the his federal LIBERAL brothers to accept?

    By Blogger DL, at 12:07 PM  

  • As a Tory supporter I am very happy that we got a majority without Quebec. Let Jack deal with those incessant whiners. Maybe he'll have better luck than Mulroney or Diefenbaker ever had.

    By Blogger Don Mitchell, at 12:21 PM  

  • I think most Tory supporters deep down WANT Quebec to separate - that way a Tory government can rule "TROC" forever and they no longer have to endure seeing any French on their corn flakes boxes!

    By Blogger DL, at 12:28 PM  

  • The blowback towards the federal Liberal party is unlikely but collateral blowback towards Quebec's provincial Liberal party is quite likely with that strategy.

    Mind you, if the federal Liberals are thinking long term, it's nigh impossible for them to get a majority without building themselves back up in Quebec.

    By Blogger C. Banana, at 12:31 PM  

  • The opportunity here, is for the Liberals and NDP to drop the partisan horseshit and team up for Canada to stop Harper.

    Isn't that what you're SUPPOSED to be doing? You know, SERVING CANADA?

    By Blogger BoredomCorner, at 1:22 PM  

  • Greg, your complete lack of argument has won me over. Well played.

    By Blogger Jeff Jedras, at 1:46 PM  

  • It wasn't long ago that I was your biggest fan and a member of the LPC. Between what you just wrote, and so much else, I'm pleased to turn my back on the divisive, self-destructive Liberals and join a party that actually stands up for Canadians.

    By Blogger AH, at 1:46 PM  

  • I've never heard a rationale of why the Clarity Act is bad. It makes perfect sense to me that a referendum question should be clear and unambiguous - especially when dealing with such an important topic as secession. Perhaps some of the many NDP supporters here can clarify their party's dislike of the Clarity Act?

    By Anonymous Jim R, at 1:52 PM  

  • @AH - I presume you are not referring to the NDP, as asymmetrical federalism, an official policy of the NDP, is guaranteed to be more divisive than anything we've seen for a long time.

    By Anonymous Jim R, at 1:57 PM  

  • Ask FEDERALIST LIBERAL Premier Jean Charest, why he and every single one of his MNAs opposed the Clarity Act - as did the federal PC party under Joe Clark

    By Blogger DL, at 2:43 PM  

  • @DL - are you not able to provide a rationale for your party's stance?

    By Anonymous Jim R, at 2:53 PM  

  • Going back to what may have started all of this -- Layton's attempt to straddle both sides of the issue on Tuesday:

    "Pressed about whether the NDP still recognizes the 50per-cent level, the furthest Layton would go was to say: "It's there in our declaration.

    "We'll follow the decision of the Supreme Court judges," he reiterated. "We think that's an appropriate framework. We don't need to be revisiting legislation."

    This was enough to get the PQ and the Quebec Liberal party to get irritated at him for not appearing not to to support the 50% plus one position, and the Montreal Gazette got on Layton's case for not supporting The Clarity Act. Well, he did bring both sides together in an odd way.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 2:56 PM  

  • Ask FEDERALIST LIBERAL Premier Jean Charest, why he and every single one of his MNAs opposed the Clarity Act - as did the federal PC party under Joe Clark

    And the NDP at the time supported the Clarity Act. And Jack Layton reversed his anti-Clarity Act position in 2005. Why?

    "In 2004, Layton dismissed the Clarity Act as unhelpful. He said the law outlining rules for Quebec secession "accentuates division in our country, and I think it's time to move beyond that."

    Layton said he changed his mind because of the Supreme Court decision and the consensus that has emerged over the years. Even former sovereigntist leader Lucien Bouchard accepted the law as set out by the Supreme Court, he said.

    "The Supreme Court has laid out the principles that should be followed," Layton said.

    "The Clarity Act falls from that. It has been accepted quite broadly from Mr. Bouchard right on through. We think it can be a basis."

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 3:01 PM  

  • As Stephane Dion said yesterday, if 50% + 1 is a clear majority, what's an unclear majority?

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:18 PM  

  • I say this as a longtime and proud New Democrat: from his comments about the Clarity Act a decade ago to his 50%+1 a day ago, Jack Layton has consistently pursued a tactic without a strategy. There's an obvious dovetailing of purpose between the NDP and those Quebec nationalists who are such because they believe Canada will never elect a government left-wing enough for their tastes. To harness some of those votes, Jack tells them what they want to hear - he parrots their articles of faith back to them. I don't think in his heart of hearts he has any strong opinion about any of these issues.

    But Dan, your thinking here is likewise tactical without strategy. Yes, it would be a goo thing for the Liberal Party and for Canada if the NDP was clear on these issues. At the same time, the last thing Canada needs is to regrow the BQ caucus out of Jack's Quebec wing. Further, sovereignty issues tend to have a shockingly fast acceleration rate, and no one wants to start anything that's going to become the ballot question come referendum day.

    By Blogger Don, at 3:21 PM  

  • Boredom Counter - The opportunity here, is for the Liberals and NDP to drop the partisan horseshit and team up for Canada to stop Harper.

    The fact is the Liberals and NDP are two separate parties, so there's nothing wrong in pointing out where they differ.

    The NDP ran attack ads against Ignatieff's voting record last election. I think that's more a case of "partisan horseshit" than taking issue with a policy position of theirs.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:22 PM  

  • It wasn't long ago that I was your biggest fan and a member of the LPC. Between what you just wrote, and so much else, I'm pleased to turn my back on the divisive, self-destructive Liberals and join a party that actually stands up for Canadians.

    AH - What party would that be? And what specifically about the LPC has turned you off? The above is just my position - sadly, the LPC has not given much indication they intend to adopt this position.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:23 PM  

  • Ask FEDERALIST LIBERAL Premier Jean Charest, why he and every single one of his MNAs opposed the Clarity Act - as did the federal PC party under Joe Clark

    Joe Clark didn't support the Clarity Act, but his opposition caused a rift in the Progressive Conservatives, or at least between Clark and Elsie Wayne.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 3:28 PM  

  • Don - fair enough on all counts. But I don't think it's unfair for the LPC to try and lock down Layton's position on the issue if he continues to dodge it.

    If Layton continues to straddle the line, it will eventually blow up in his face, like it did for Mulroney. In my opinion, raising expectations and failing to meet them has been the most damaging thing for national unity in the past.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:30 PM  

  • "As Stephane Dion said yesterday, if 50% + 1 is a clear majority, what's an unclear majority?"

    As I say today, if 50% + 1 is an unclear majority, what's a clear majority?

    By Blogger DL, at 3:33 PM  

  • Dan, I suspect the LPC gets further down this road by offering the contrast - by offering some old-timey, one Canada, stare-down-the-sovereignists Trudeau-style federalism. You probably only do that by electing a leader with strong federalist cred.

    So, what's Stephane Dion doing these days?

    By Blogger Don, at 3:41 PM  

  • It’s kinda remarkable to read the irate ND comments. Wow, wow, wow. Dan, are you seriously suggesting a third party criticize the Official Opposition instead of the Government on a matter of principle to poach soft support?

    By Blogger Matt Grant, at 5:28 PM  

  • I'm not going to vote for the Liberal party because they've successfully attacked another party. I'll vote for the Liberal Party when a) they give me a strong and credible candidate for MP in my riding (not a party hack, btw!) and b) they've developed a coherent, consistant, and acheivable policy platform that consists of more than "We're Canada's 'natural governing party' and therefore should be in power" .

    Stand for something positive, dammit, rather than bitching and moaning about other parties!

    By Blogger Party of One, at 6:37 PM  

  • Party of One is parody right? Can't have voted NDP (Brosseau), CPC (Hillyer), or GPC (most ridings) last time, given their notoriously weak incredible candidates, policy incoherence, and negative campaigning. Kinda hope isn't parody, the blind self-parody would be even better.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 PM  

  • Anon 7:33, not parody (although I can see why you would think that!), the reality is I live in Alberta and the non-Conservative parties seem to have given up for the most part.

    This time round, the NDP finally gave me a credible candidate in Lewis Cardinal; previously they've offered me 18-year old high school students! (I have nothing against "kids", per se, but I do have difficulty imagining what experience they can bring to bear on issues they're not yet very familiar with, such as taxation, health care). So I was happy to vote FOR Lewis.

    Previously, I was happy to vote for Anne McLellan and the Liberals. She did a hell of a job for her constituency and Edmonton, probably because she was one of only a few Liberal MPs from Alberta.

    I wouldn't have voted for Brousseau if I lived in that riding, nor Hillier if I lived in his. I HAVE voted GPC a couple of times because, frankly, I wasn't impressed with ANY of the candidates on offer, and because I believe in maximizing choice, and often I don't see much difference between the Liberals and Conservatives. I figured the GPC was as good a place to "park" my vote as any other.

    This time around, the Liberals offered up Mary MacDonald, but her CV had far too many references to paid employment with the Liberal Party for my liking. Yes, she might have been well connected with the Liberal apparatchik, but it doesn't speak well of her connection to groups outside of the establishment, which Cardinal DID have.

    Laurie Hawn for the CPC? I think his stature in the party is not what it could be, I think he's another bland, unremarkable placeholder. Presumably the CPC feels the same way; after serving as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, he was ignored in the latest Cabinet shuffle, and someone else got "Junior" Minister of Defence.

    And no, I NEVER base my vote on the "leader" of ANY party because, without joining the party in question, I have no say as to who that leader is, AND that can change quite quickly.

    By Blogger Party of One, at 12:15 PM  

  • The NDP ran attack ads against Ignatieff's voting record last election. I think that's more a case of "partisan horseshit" than taking issue with a policy position of theirs.

    Do you mean the LPC's consistent support (via explicit votes and abstentions) of the Harper government since 2008 or earlier?

    Well, let us know when the Liberals figure out what they stand for and how to articulate it. Perhaps at that point these kinds of tactical partisan games will seem less odious.

    By Blogger Josh, at 9:55 PM  

  • Unless Quebec decides to have a huge fine for not voting in a referendum, will it be 50% plus one of voters or of population. And what about those under 18 whose lives will be affected by said vote.
    Maybe everyone should be allowed to vote.
    Hey, just trying to get your thinking caps on. Could someone 14 decide to sue the province in later years for said decision of vote as they were not allowed a voice. I am sure some lawyer would take the case.

    By Blogger maryT, at 11:25 PM  

  • A Clear Majority is a majority over which a reasonable person cannot reasonably argue that the results of the vote are unclear as to intent.

    There is no magical number which meets that test. Even 99% voting for something doesn't necessarily represent a clear majority if the question is particularly occluded (or, say, the tabulation is faulty).

    50%+1 out of a sea of millions of votes is a standard over which nobody can reasonably argue that the "true" answer is one result or the other.

    To put it as a sports analogy, the NFL lists a number of tie-breaking rules which it can employ, including a coin toss, which can determine which team makes the playoffs and which team's season ends: their rules allow that if teams are so close, the answer is determined randomly.

    But this is not an acceptable process for determining the future of our country.

    As for declarations of nationhood, I don't see a problem with recognition of Leafs Nation and Nation Canadiens within a United Canada. (That's the part that Coyne refuses to acknowledge, by the way: the HoC voted down a resolution to recognize Quebec as a nation. What it passed was a resolution to recognize Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada. Very different. And the contrast is clarified by the different results on the different motions.)

    By Blogger Paul, at 12:52 PM  

  • It cannot succeed as a matter of fact, that's what I suppose.

    By Anonymous tablet pc tienda, at 5:32 PM  

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