Sovereignty gambit exposes Mulcair
A fundamental requirement of the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is to always act in ways that demonstrate he or she is capable of being the prime minister. This week, New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair showed himself lacking in that quality.
On Monday, Mulcair threw his support behind NDP MP Craig Scott’s private member’s bill requiring only a 50-per-cent-plus-one majority to decide a referendum on Quebec separation. The bill seeks to counter a Bloc Québécois motion to repeal the Chrétien-era Clarity Act.
Scott’s bill requires a more straightforward question — “Should Quebec separate from Canada and become a sovereign country?” — than the nearincoherent questions asked in the 1980 and 1995 referendums. Nevertheless, the bill also betrays the NDP’s willingness to play selfserving political games with the fate of the nation.
The New Democrats are the official Opposition only because the Liberals suffered a neardeath experience in the 2011 election. Moreover, their elevation in the Commons depended on Quebec voters who’d grown weary of the Bloc. Recent polls suggest the party’s support is slipping in favour of the Bloc. Is Mulcair’s endorsement of 50-plus-one legislation a gambit to shore up the party’s fortunes?
The reality is, a 50-per-centplus-one vote would not demonstrate that a clear majority of Quebecers wanted to separate. There are too many variables to readily accede to such a scenario. What if, for example, the voter turnout in a referendum was, say, 40 per cent. Even if a slight majority supported separation, would it be legitimate to therefore claim a majority of Quebecers as a whole wanted to break up Canada? In 1995, the antiseparatist “No” vote prevailed against the separatists’ “Yes” vote by a razor-thin margin — 50.58 per cent to 49.42 per cent. At the time, there was some evidence of electoral fraud when it emerged that there’d been a deliberate effort to declare many “No” votes as spoiled.
Do you break up a country on the basis of a few thousand votes, some of which may be fraudulent? Mulcair appears willing to do so.
The Clarity Act of 2000 requires a “clear majority” in favour of separation. What constitutes that majority is not defined, but in accepting a much lower threshold Mulcair has played into the hands of the Bloc, revealing not only his party’s weakness, but also himself as a politician willing to place partisan interests ahead of the national interest.
And that, by definition, is an Opposition leader lacking prime ministerial qualities.