The Clarity Act debate

The NDP lines up in opposition to a Bloc bill

<p>Beatrice Landry, 3, waves the Quebec flag at the close of the Fete Nationale parade in Montreal on Saturday, June 24, 2006. (CP PHOTO/Ian Barrett)</p>

Ian Barrett/CP Images

Six hours or so after Claude Patry’s move from the NDP to the Bloc, the House moved to the second hour of debate on the Bloc’s bill to repeal the Clarity Act last night. No less than five New Democrats—Mathieu Ravignat, Robert Aubin, Nycole Turmel, Francoise Boivin and Craig Scott—stood to dismiss the Bloc bill and commend their side’s Unity Bill. The task of defending the Clarity Act fell to the Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia.

The following is from Mr. Aubin’s explanation of the NDP perspective.

What does the NDP bill say compared to the bill introduced by the Bloc? It says very straightforward things. An association, whether a business association, a constitutional association, or even a romantic association, is based on trust. It starts with trust. We will not change the ground rules along the way. It would therefore be rather silly to claim that 50% plus one is enough to join Canada’s Constitution, but that in order to leave, you need 66%. The rules for entry and departure should be the same. The NDP’s job is to make Quebeckers feel respected and at home in Canada, thereby ensuring that the question does not come up again. If it does, then these are the conditions that will apply.

The question could not be clearer. At the beginning, I said that Quebeckers will be able to decide their future at a time of their choosing. Naturally, they will also decide on the question. The NDP believes, however, that with their experience of repeated referenda, Quebeckers have also gained maturity. We believe that it might be possible, should a third referendum be held, to follow the example of the Scottish model and agree in advance on the wording of a question that would have everyone live with the results when the referendum was over. This is a very mature approach that Quebeckers are prepared to adopt, except perhaps for those who are spoiling for a fight.

And this from Mr. Scarpaleggia.

With regard to the threshold that would have to be met in a referendum to begin negotiating Quebec’s independence with the rest of Canada, the Liberal caucus fully supports, with the strongest and deepest conviction, the Clarity Act, based as it is on the Supreme Court opinion to the effect that the threshold must be much higher than the 50% plus one rule. There are number of reasons for this condition. First, the 50% plus one rule is not 50% plus one in reality; voter turnout at the polls is never actually 100%. We know that if you snooze, you lose, but do you deserve to lose your country and your citizenship forever if illness or some other situation makes it impossible for you to exercise your right to vote?

In the event that the “yes” side won a slight victory, would there be the broad popular consensus needed to move forward with the difficult negotiations with the rest of Canada? On the day after this kind of result, will Quebec fall into a bitter political deadlock that would undermine economic stability?

The Conservatives, meanwhile, were quite eager during QP this morning to suggest the NDP caucus was rife with separatists.