Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tom Mulcair Schooled - By Stephane Dion

In a TorStar op-ed, former Liberal leader Stephane Dion brings a load of clarity to NDP leader Tom Mulcair's "50 + 1" test for Quebec secession.

Basically Mulcair, who I had thought was a lawyer, is being schooled on the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling that secession would require a "clear majority on a clear question."

I agree with Dion on this one.  Tom Mulcair, if he ever becomes prime minister, would take Canada down a dangerous path with potentially irreversible consequences.


CK said...

I agree there should be a clear question in the event of a referendum. I remembered the phrasing of the question when I voted in the 1995 referendum being ambiguous and confusing for many.

However, if we go back in history, Newfoundland decided to join Canada only after a second referendum of only 53%.

If one can "marry" with only 53%, why should secession be more than that?

Dana said...

Christ, the way I'm feeling these days I'd like to secede from the misbegotten place.

leftdog said...

It constantly amazes me that Liberals are obviously not aware what constitutes a clear majority. Let me assure you that New Democrats would not consider a vote where 17 percent of eligible voters turned to cast a ballot and of these 17 percent, 51% voted for secession as being a 'clear majority'. We would not. All New Democrats would agree that the threshold had not been met. But in a situation where the majority of possible electors cast a vote and a majority of those vote one way or the other, we would respect that vote.

Once again, Liberals are advancing a MAJOR NON-ISSUE considering the fact that no referendum is scheduled nor at the moment proposed by the PQ administration in Quebec.

For his part, the humourless Monsieur Dion, continues to sound like a Serbian Nationalist, who would set the mark so vastly high for secession that it would border on the impossible. That, sir, is not democracy. New Democrats love democracy .. we embrace it. We embrace it to the point that we have used the word to describe the kind of 'new democracy' that Canada deserves. The Liberal Party of Canada, with its adherence to 'first past the post' election results AND nearly 150 years of democratic abuse with a manipulated APPOINTED Senate, have NO moral authority to lecture Mr. Mulcair or ANY New Democrat on matters of democracy. Period.

Anonymous said...

I think that Dion is not only right, he's able to take on nationalists in debates.

Mulcair has pandered to the soft PQ/BQ nationalists for votes.

The PQ is trying to set up winning conditions with their divisive charter so that they can advance their agenda. The provincial Liberals are lost and the CAQ are right-wingers who want independence.

I'm guessing that leftdog, like many NDP lack self-awareness of their own partisanship...

leftdog said...

I will try and tackle at least one of your erroneous comments.

I am not an 'NDP'. That is the name of the political party that I support. 'I' am an 'New Democrat'
.... not an 'NDP'.

Intelligent discussion requires at least some minimal level of competent comprehension.

The Mound of Sound said...

Dog, chill. You're a partisan fundamentalist, we get that. Every party has and, indeed, counts on a cadre of the true believers. And they all come across sounding remarkably the same.

I am most astonished at New Dem fundies today, remaining so fiercely loyal after having to watch their party slip its moorings on the left to embrace corporatism and petro-statehood as Latter Day Liberals. Well, no point standing on principle these days, not when that stands in the way of a shot at power, non?

Anonymous said...

Poor leftdog, it would seem that you have the self-awereness of a gnat.

While I do like Mulcair - he does get the best of Harper in QP, this stance is pandering.

Dion was a poor leader but on Quebec secession questions, he's likely the best.

The BQ was actually quite progressive on most questions. Except when it came to their self-interest.

The NDP is filling a temporary vacuum in Quebec.

So leftdog, if you can get your blinders off, maybe we can have a semi-intelligent conversation. You have made it clear that your partisanship does get in the way of logic, facts and progressiveness.

Purple library guy said...

You know, I was all for the clarity act back when it was passed. But I did a rethink a while later, when someone pointed out to me that it really wasn't nearly as "clear" as it seemed to be.

It addressed a definite problem--mainly, to my mind, the tendency for the PQ to push for referenda with very unclear, carefully soothing questions. Basically, the problem was that a separation question could be whatever the Quebec government said it was, and they had an interest in obfuscating the seriousness of the issue.
But it addressed it by inverting it, and then adding unclarity to something which had previously been considered clear. Hardly an improvement.
That is, with the Clarity Act, it becomes the federal government that gets to unilaterally decide what does and does not count as a separation question, and they have an interest in disallowing everything short of "Do you agree that Quebec should cast itself adrift in the icy waters of international politics, easy prey for the sharks waiting to savage it?" There is nothing in the Clarity Act that tells us what the federal government will have to agree counts as a clear question.

Similarly there is nothing that tells what they will have to agree constitutes a clear majority.
So like, if a referendum happened and the separation side got 60%, the feds could say "Sorry, not clear, we want two thirds". If the separation side got two thirds, they could say "Not clear: Because voter turnout was only 60%, only 40% of eligible voters actually voted yes." This "We won't say what it is, but we'll know it when we see it" stance from an institution that is anything but disinterested is inevitably going to be seen by the other side as legalized cheating.

50% +1 at least has the advantage that it's the fundamental measure we take as constituting a majority. I can see reasons for requiring supermajorities for very serious questions (e.g. constitutional change, although we may have gone overboard there), but it takes a lot of damn nerve to say "We require a supermajority but we won't say how much of one" and then call it the "Clarity Act". If Dion wants clarity, let him say what kind of supermajority he actually wants and defend it.

leftdog said...

Purple Library Guy nails it. Bingo. Look ... we already have precedent in Confederation. 1949 Newfoundland referendum. 51 percent was sufficient to defeat those who did not want to be part of Canada .. and with 51 percent, Newfounland entered the Dominion of Canada.

A 2/3rds 'clear majority' indeed warrants the label of 'Serbian nationalist like' policy. I have thik skin and can take a fair bit of warranted criticism but 'anonymous' raises nothing of merit and also does not address my accusation against the Liberal Party of Canada as being historically 'undemocratic'. Wear it ... it fits you.

Anonymous said...

The 50%+1 is not good enough given the very real possibility of election fraud (as was the case in the past).

Mr Mulcair is pandering to his PQ/BQ affiliates within the NDP. I understand that he's likely taking a calculated risk to try and increase votes for his party.

leftdog said...

So ... anonymous .. enlighten us ... what's 'good enough'?

leftdog said...

Oh .. and for the record... when is the Quebec Referendum scheduled for???? This is all contrived Liberal Party nonsense. Smoke & mirrors.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm disappointed that so few of you recognize the distinction between voting to join or enter a union and voting to secede. Equating the two is sophistry.

Voting to join Confederation is one side electing to do something that both sides have previously negotiated and agreed to. That's patently different from one side voting to secede. A secession vote affects all parties' rights but one seeks to impose that decision unilaterally.

Once you have chosen to join something you take on rights plus
responsibilities to others just as they take on rights and responsibilities in respect to you.

It's genuinely dishonest for Mulcair and the NDP to ignore that distinction which is exactly the import of their "50 + 1" nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Poor "leftdog"... maybe you should change your name to "lapdog" for all that you bring....

leftdog said...

Mound .. tell that to the 49 percent of Newfounlanders who resisted entry into Canada and sought the possibility of their own nationhood.

And anonymous. You reflect the full depth of the LPC ... shallow and slippery. You've not answered even one of my questions. WHAT IS THE DATE of this referendum you are so concerned about?????

Liberal / Tory ... same old story.If you can't win an argument .. attack your opponents character.

The Mound of Sound said...

Dog, what can I say? You and I agree on a lot more than we disagree but, here, you're still skirting the point. Getting in and getting out are two very different things. I know it and I know you do too.

Purple library guy said...

But MoS, that still doesn't deal with the problems of the (un)Clarity Act.

And on that subject--OK, so it's different. How different? What supermajority would you require? And, what if a referendum took place and a majority short of your requirement voted for secession? What would you tell that majority, exactly? How would you plan to operate the country with a Quebec in it the majority of which didn't want to be?

I realize these questions sound like needling, but I'm not entirely closed to the idea that there can be sound answers to them. Currently, though, I have not yet seen such sound answers.

On a secondary, political note . . . Look, back in the 70s Francophone Quebecois had strong legitimate grievances. They were second class citizens, with the Anglo minority running things. They wanted to be "maitres chez nous". The PQ figured that meant separation, but while they worked on that they did a whole bunch of other stuff to make sure the francophones got in the driver's seat in Quebec. It worked so well that it turned out they could be "maitres chez nous" without separating. Ironic that the PQ effectively torpedoed their own cause by succeeding in their project. So now the younger generation don't care much and the immigrants of course really don't.
But Quebecois are still prickly about the federal government; they have a fierce pride and a knee-jerk resentment of anything they perceive as trying to tell them what to do, talk down to them or control them. The only thing that could conceivably push them to actually vote to separate at this point would be a federal government rubbing their noses in its power over them. Now, talking up the Clarity Act and rubbing Quebec's nose in the idea that we will be the ones to decide whether and under what circumstances they can separate certainly isn't enough to get us there, not these days. But it definitely doesn't help.
I like Stephane Dion. And I think he has the best intentions. And I wish he'd had the chance to put his Green Shift into practice. But he should probably shut up on this file.

Scotian said...


Here is one way in which your point regarding entering and leaving are profoundly different. When entering Confederation Newfoundland did not create problems for other Provinces in terms of access to the rest of the nation, indeed all they did was expand it. However, if Quebec were to leave there is the direct impact on said Newfoundland, PEI, New Brunswick, and my home Nova Scotia. Have you ever noticed Mound whenever the topic of Quebec separation comes up there is little to no attention paid to how it will directly impact my region? That for Quebec to have the right to impose this disruption on me and mine down here that perhaps something more than 50%+1 might be appropriate (personally I would say super-majority levels should be required as opposed to clear majority which by any reasonable persons POV means a few percentage points over, like 53-55%), since its departure has far more meaning not just for it, not just for all the Provinces west of Quebec but also all of we Canadian citizens down here on the east side of Quebec.

I know this wasn't the main point of the article and what is under discussion, but I have to say I find it infuriating how rarely we are ever considered by anyone when it comes to the topic of Quebec separation. We are lucky if we are seen as an afterthought bu those that want to leave, or want to see Quebec leave. Our citizenship clearly has far less weight of merit to these people, which I would suggest is profoundly a anti-Canadian value regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum. So maybe whenever people talk about this issue and make comments about how Canada would be better without Quebec and such that they could consider what about those of us that are truly in the line of fire, who have done nothing to deserve being ignored as Canadians, and would be left in limbo for who know how many years in the aftermath of such a departure?

Sorry Mound, this is something of a sore point for me. Going back to your main point I was infuriated when I saw Layton pander to the soft nationalists in Quebec with the Sherbrooke declaration (and it was a clear pander, mind you it was just one of many ways that Layton moved the NDP from being a true party of principles to a party totally driven by expediency and lust for power) with the shift to suddenly claiming this represented true democracy (if the NDP really believed in democracy as it claims it would never have decided to work towards the destruction of a political party/rival, defeat yes but destruction, no) despite the fact that his own party Constitution requires far more than such to change and I think any political party Constitution is of less seriousness than a nation itself.

NDP partisans are unable to see these things for what they are because they are partisans, in too many way the NDP partisans are the other side of the coin to the CPC partisans when it comes to what they accept and rationalize, especially when it comes to their hated foes, the Libs. Anyone that can still say Lib Tory same old story in the Harper reality (leaving aside the point that the CPC are not Tories and to equate the two dishonours the legacy of true Toryism) has already demonstrated just how disconnected from reality they are for the sake of their political aims/goals. After all it is easier to lump your two main political rivals as the same than it is to actually deal with each on their own terms, which if they still cared about democracy would be the approach they would take, would it not?

What worries me about Mulcair on this point is that with Layton I knew it was pandering for tactical political positioning for a larger strategic goal of gaining government, but that he believed in a united Canada. With Mulcair I am forced to question that commitment, and therefore in the event of a successful separation vote how far could he be trusted to look out for Canada and Canadian citizen interests during such negotiation?

To be concluded:

Scotian said...


I would make this observation, it is interesting how the CPC and the NDP go after Justin Trudeau for being weak on policy and most recently regarding his views on mandatory sentences and say how that illustrates his unfitness for the Office of the PMO. Yet when it comes to an issue of truly serious concern (and those NDPers that claim this is an empty fear being exploited by Libs, I would remind you in the early to mid 80s that was what people thought after the clear defeat of the Yes side in 1980, yet 1995 happened, so making that assumption is clearly dangerous) and consequences for Canada like this one on the very fundamental policy issue of Succession from Canada and the requirements for it suddenly Trudeau and Lib policy position doesn't matter much. Nor can we read anything into Mulcair and the NDP support for a position that is not in agreement with the Canadian Supreme Court regarding Succession rules nor use it to raise questions about the motives and implication regarding the leadership of that party and its leader and their fitness for the Office of PM.

The NDP have morphed into that which they claimed to be opposed to (pre-Layton the party really did act on a principles first position, however Layton transformed the NDP into Lib light in so many ways, became a expediency for power driven party over principles, and worse marries it to their ideological POV as much as they can which in many ways is the worst of both worlds) about the Libs and CPC. This issue and the party policy and positioning on it pre-Layton and then the positioning from Layton onwards was and is clearly aimed at making the NDP the only national federal party for anyone with nationalist leanings to go to, and it shows a very serious question and flaw/concern about the NDP that they would be willing to court such voters and supporters within their party, especially after having seen how disastrously that can go wrong not just for a party but the nation after Mulroney made the same choice in the early 80s to gain his majorities.

Welcome to the new Canadian federal reality...we have two parties that are clearly soft on Succession (the CPC and NDP, although for different Provinces/regions obviously) and a centrist Lib party clearly opposed to easy Succession from Canada. So if separation is a serious concern/issue for you as a voter the Trudeau Libs really are your only choice between the three parties no matter what the defenders of the CPC and especially the NDP like to say. The NDP has shown in this issue just how far they have sold their souls and principles to their lust for power and government. The fact that I am these days more than a little angry with the NDP for the choices it made that enabled the rise of Harper to the PMO does not change this fact despite my feelings about the NDP being used by its partisans to dismiss the very real facts and realities I cite regarding this and many other ways the NDP went from being a true party of principles first to being what it always claimed to oppose. Me, if I am going to have to vote for a party that views expediency as a party of the process, I'll take the one that is open and honest about it as opposed to the ones that talk out of both sides of their mouth about such while claiming to place principle/ideology first. Especially when the honest about it party actually has a strong record for governing in a sane, centrist, and pragmatic manner which still managed to create a fairly progressive nation (well up until Harper started to wholesale wreck that aspect of Canada).

This point on the NDP and the issue of the Sherbrooke declaration highlights why the NDP these days is not the NDP of old anymore than the CPC is the PCPC of old. Ironically enough the Libs under Trudeau are still the most like the party they were of old, which makes them the party to trust to restore sanity to governing after the Harper CPC chaos, especially when it comes to issues like Succession. The irony of this given the NDP mantra about Lib Tory same old story is pronounced indeed.

Anonymous said...

The Fat Guy of Sound wishes everyone to know that on a clear day, from his little village near Victoria, he can see Quebec. When he's just another old loser like Dion.

PS but he does speak German.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon 3:22. If you bothered to read the comments given above you would see that there are people engaged in a thoughtful discussion here.

Then along comes you flinging poop from your diaper. You seem to have some serious emotional issues and I can't begin to help you with those. Your time, however, would be much better expended finding someone who can help you.

Good luck.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ PLG - I can't defend the Clarity Act for its certainty. It's a law that has to respond to a wide range of possible questions and an equally wide range of potential ballot outcomes. I think that was recognized in the SCC ruling.

The Mound of Sound said...

Scotian, I very much agree with your point. It was what I meant when I mentioned that, in uniting or confederating, each of the parties assumed responsibilities to all others. For Quebec that meant provinces east of them as well as those to the west.

It would be really helpful, in addressing what I consider Mulcair's folly, to revisit the history of this issue and what our leadership in those times said and wrote. Trudeau, not surprisingly, was the greatest source of insight on this problem.

Trudeau infuriated Mulroney with a pamphlet he released in the midst of the Meech Lake/Charlottetown Accord fiasco. I have a copy of that around here somewhere. As I recall it touched on the issue you have raised and other key points.

Scotian said...


I figured it was, not that it takes no great genius to have seen that. As you can tell this is a very real sore point for me, as ever since the rise of Quebec nationalism to power in Quebec my region keeps taking very real economic hits whenever the issue heats up. After all what businesses would want to invest infrastructure and other resources in a region that may not remain a part of the nation. Granted this is not the only major economic issue for us down here, but it is a real one and it has had over the last 40 years very real and serious negative economic impacts on us. Of course there is more than just the economic damages that comes from the issue, but it is simply another aspect of this whole business that is rarely if ever considered by those that argue in favour of letting Quebec go.

BTW, I've been debating about a slogan that fits the new political realities, how about Con Dipper same old trickers? Seeing as both parties appear more than willing to say one thing (Cons accountability and transparency, Dippers about their principles being first) to gain power yet once in power would prove to be something other than what they represented? I know, I know, that is to an extent how all political parties act, it is just that my patience is exhausted with the NDP holier than thou attitude combined with the clear deceit/willful blindness of Dipper partisans to the political reality when they try to claim Lib Tory same old story has any connection to reality. The way they try to argue this while embracing the Quebecois nationalists to their base support is yet another example of how the NDP has gone from being a truly principled party to one that embraces political expediency first. Is it really so hard to fight honestly? Is it really too much to ask from a party that claims to value principles that they practice what they preach?

Sorry Mound, it is hard for me not to tend to get irked about all of this. The NDP have become something I do not recognize over the past decade, and their willingness to embrace Quebecois nationalists to their banner is one of the more profound examples of how this is true. I watched Mulroney make this choice, predicted at the time that it would not end well, and look how that ended up. Playing footsie to gain government with those that want to destroy our Confederation for their own aims comes perilously close to treasonous behaviour in my opinion, I thought so back then with the Mulroney PCPC and I have no reason to change my opinion about that now with the Layton/Mulcair NDP. The NDP have made their choice about which matters more to them, and it is one more example of the double standard approach to politics they have embraced over the past decade, and one more reason why they should not be allowed anywhere near the PMO while they believe such. Allowing those who would split us apart access to the powers at the heart of government has been proven disastrous once before, do we really need to allow history top repeat on that idiocy again, and only three decades later? I think not.

Purple library guy said...

"It's a law that has to respond"--No. It's a law that gives the federal government, and the federal government alone, the right to respond and define.

A situation where it was purely up to the province was unacceptable to Canada as a whole. It was appropriate for the federal government to do something about that. What the Clarity Act did, however, was to invert the problem rather than solve it. It is now purely up to the federal government, which is unacceptable to Quebec. That's the crux. You can say that we can't predict what the exact situation will be and so there needs to be flexibility, but that dodges the issue of just who gets that flexibility and who does not. If the Clarity Act handed the decision about what constituted a fair majority to some disinterested party (if one could be found), that would be one thing. But it doesn't. The flexibility both appears to be, and by and large actually is, for partisan advantage rather than for ensuring a fair decision.

It's like two guys are playing poker, and one guy says, "OK, here's the rules: I'll pick my cards after I see your hand." You can see why the one poker player wants "flexibility" since he doesn't know what the other guy's hand will be like. But you gotta expect the other guy is gonna say, "Fuck you!"

That would be why the NDP position calls for going to the courts to determine whether a question is fair. And, yeah, sets a specific majority threshold--I think asking the courts to decide who won a referendum which had no set victory conditions would be a bridge rather too far. This "flexibility" thing is a dodge, and worse it will inevitably be seen as a dodge not just by hard sovereigntists but by most Quebecois. If the intent is to have fair, clear rules then set some fair, clear rules. Otherwise, it's just "trust us", coming from people with a track record of untrustworthiness. Yeah, right--what if there's a referendum and someone like Harper is in office? You want the Quebecois should trust him to decide what a "clear" majority is?

Purple library guy said...

Scotian, there's a lot of anger there, and for strong reasons, and yet not a lot of actual points. You just repeat that certain policies are bad and cynical a whole lot of times, without actually defining what's wrong with them. So I'd respond, but there isn't much to say. And like MoS, you don't deal at all with the points I raised.

At least you're simply and flat out saying you'd favour a supermajority requirement. I can see good reasons for that, but I'll ask again: What would you want to do with Quebec if a majority voted to secede but they failed to get the supermajority you require?

Look, I don't want Quebec to separate. But I think the Clarity Act is a quite wrong way to go about trying to ensure that. It provides for situations where a majority of Quebecois vote to separate, they think that's good enough, and then the feds try to tell them it isn't based on whatever they then pull out of their butt. You think that would actually work? Of course it wouldn't, Quebec would still end up separating in that scenario, it would just be messier and more acrimonious and any chances of, say, negotiating guaranteed corridors for transport for the Maritimes would be lost. The rules must be clear going in if the results are to be accepted as legitimate. The Clarity Act obfuscates the rules going in.

As to Harper being in power--well, the Libs bear much more responsibility than the NDP for that. So that's hardly a basis for turning Lib, to my mind.

More broadly, I would certainly agree that the NDP has shifted way too far to the right ideologically. In that sense it is not the NDP of old and I am very unhappy about that. If you wanted to say Mulcair is dumping NDP principles in his refusal to consider higher personal taxes on the very rich, or his qualified support for putrid so-called "free trade" deals which hand our sovereignty over to multinationals, I would have no quarrel with you. But what you're upset about has nothing to do with NDP ideology and does not bother me at all.

Anonymous said...

leftdog....what happened in Newfoundland was totally illigal. The vote was 52%against and 48% for....it was a constitutional coup. Read Gregg Malones book..."Don't Tell The Newfoundlanders". As a matter of fact, it was illigal to the point that Newfoundlanders could go to the Supreme Court and have it recinded. That is why they have mentioned brake away from time to time....Learn your Canadian History dear boy.