Fact Check: NDP position on Quebec referendum
"Jack Layton is under fire for balking when asked about the NDP’s position toward the Clarity Act. Layton quivered when asked about his party’s position to endorse 50% + 1 a valid majority for a secession referendum. When asked by reporters during the election, Layton referred to the 2005 Sherbrooke Declaration. Here is what it says:
“The New Democratic Party aims to form the government of Canada.”
(This is probably where everybody stopped reading)
“The NDP recognizes Quebec’s right to self-determination, which implies the right of the people of Quebec to decide freely its own political and constitutional future…Therefore the NDP is committed to respect, in all its dealings, the Loi québécoise sur la Consultation populaire (Quebec Referendum Act). Also the NDP would recognize a majority decision (50% + 1) of the Quebec people in the event of a referendum on the political status of Quebec. The NDP recognizes as well that the right to self-determination implies that the Assemblée nationale is able to write a referendum question and that the citizens of Quebec are able to answer it freely…For the NDP, it is necessary to propose a positive vision of the future rather than contribute to polarize the debate.”
(Here is the link to the full document.)
The NDP is clearly federalist and clearly respects the verdict that the Quebec people would offer them in a referendum.
Their position is identical to that of all Quebec provincial parties, including Jean Charest’s provincial Liberals.
Everything listed above is consistently federalist. Therefore, anybody implying otherwise (I’m looking at you Andrew Coyne) is misleading their readers.
Does the Sherbrooke Declaration support the Clarity Act?
It does not.
“The New Democratic Party recognizes that exercising the right to self-determination is part of a political process. We feel that to formally legalize this process is not useful or necessary.”
They believe no Clarity Act should exist because they believe Quebec has a right to decide, in-house, if it wants to leave.
Jack Layton cannot say his party supports the Clarity Act’s existence with the Sherbrooke Declaration. It is federal law however, but the NDP has said it will support (in the House of Commons) any majority, including 50% + 1 and any question deemed acceptable by the National Assembly. So if it came to a vote, NDP MPs would vote this way.
Funnily enough, the Clarity Act stipulates that a vote of 50% + 1 will determine what the definition of a majority is…
The Clarity Act itself is very unclear as to what constitutes a majority. It stipulates that Parliament will decide what a majority is. Wonderful. Have we had successful referendums in the past? Sort of.
In 1948, Newfoundland had two referendums on whether or not to join Canada. After not getting the desired result in the first referendum, Joey Smallwood and company ran another one and 52.3% decided to join Canada. This is not a whopping majority and is a rather slim margin, being decided by less than 7 000 votes.
Therefore, a majority of less than 5% is enough to join Canada. But does meet the threshold of a “clear majority”? Who knows! It does meet the NDP criteria as it is above 50%. As for the other parties, there is a lack of…um…clarity.
Going after Layton for the right reasons.
The Quebec media have jumped on Layton because he tried to stray away from the long-held NDP position while speaking in English. He balked and dodged the same question NINE times. Everybody had a field day and justifiably so. His position is clear. Jack’s comments earlier this week are not.
I congratulate everybody else for taking 6 years to read the Sherbrooke Declaration. As stated above, we can forgive them for stopping when it said the NDP would take power.
Layton’s position does not harm Canadian unity one iota. He said he will respect the democratic will of Quebecers, just like Canada should recognize the democratic wills of other countries trying to secede as well.
What is harmful to Canada is the notion that if one has a different view then the one in the Clarity Act, that they are against Canada staying together, or that they are playing with fire with regards to Canadian unity. The sovereigntists themselves have already seized on Layton’s balk and are using it to try and drive a wedge.
The last thing Canada needs is a bunch of blowhards like Andrew Coyne telling Quebec what they can and cannot do, misstating facts and puffing out their nationalist chests in an effort to scare people into reading their newspapers. The discourse deserves better."