Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Not clear enough, Jack

Don't mess with the hard-fought clarity rules on secession, please:
New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton found himself embroiled in the riptides of Quebec constitutional politics Tuesday after he avoided publicly reaffirming his own party’s position that 50 per cent plus one is all that is needed for Quebec to separate from Canada.

Instead, Layton put the focus on the much vaguer criteria set out by the Supreme Court of Canada — that a clear majority of Quebecers have to vote in favour of a clear question for Quebec to be able to declare sovereignty.

The Supreme Court decision was accepted by the two sides of this discussion. I think this decision is the base to determine a result,” said Layton, refusing to give an exact number that would be required.
The base to determine a result? Elsewhere, as a result of differing translations I take it, it's reported that he referred to the court decision as "context" or as a "guide." There's a statute that does all this, however, the Clarity Act, and the NDP having voted for it will be pressed to hold to it. It's ok to mention the Act, you know. Strong federalists will be pressing them on it, that's for sure. Their party policy, the Sherbrooke Declaration contradicts the terms of the Clarity Act ("It says the NDP would respect a 50-per-cent-plus-one decision of Quebecers in the event of a referendum “on the political status of Quebec.”). There are more expansive considerations in the Clarity Act for assessing a referendum's result, for starters. You don't even get to the point of assessing a referendum's result if the question is not clear. And there are a bunch of considerations to be made there as well before any determinations on a question's clarity will be arrived at.

As Layton saw yesterday, reconciling the two positions is a difficulty the NDP is going to have to face. There are provincial politics coming in Quebec that will ensure it and there is a federal law in place that he theoretically supports.