An Act respecting democratic constitutional change

The NDP takes on the Clarity Act

by Aaron Wherry

The full text of Craig Scott’s bill on the Clarity Act and Quebec secession, as referenced by Thomas Mulcair this morning, can be viewed here.

CP’s Joan Bryden explains.

By contrast, the NDP’s unity bill specifies that Parliament must be satisfied the referendum question was clear and that there were no “determinative irregularities” in the vote, including in the balloting, counting of votes, transmission of results and spending limits. Provided those conditions were met, the bill says a vote of 50 per cent plus one would enough to trigger negotiations.

The NDP bill goes further than the Clarity Act in spelling out what would constitute a clear question, offering two examples: “Should Quebec become a sovereign country” or “Should Quebec separate from Canada and become a sovereign country.” Wording agreed upon by both the federal and provincial government would also be acceptable. Should the question be deemed insufficiently clear, the bill would require the federal government to refer the matter immediately to the Quebec Court of Appeal, which would have the final say.

As noted earlier today, Mr. Scott is presently last in the order of precedence for the tabling of private members’ bills. Barring maneuvering to advance it up the list, it will be quite awhile before it gets debated in the House.

That said, even if, in the worst case, it isn’t debated before the next election, it likely now stands as an indication of what an NDP government would seek to legislate.




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An Act respecting democratic constitutional change

  1. Before anyone else brings it up, I suspect that the Quebec Court of Appeal is made the arbiter of a legitimate question because the Supreme court of Canada has said it won’t rule on that question. There may be an argument that the supreme court’s pronouncement on that matter makes the question non-justiciable overall and sections 3 and 4 of that Act can’t be followed.

    Secondly, even if Quebec and the Federal Government reach an agreement on how the constitution should be altered – including allowing for Quebec secessiion, it takes the agreement of an additional six provines, comprising more than half the population (there are additional requirements beyond that but they aren’t constitutional and could be easily repealed).

  2. The existing legislation suffices to ensure that undemocratic means are not used to force the federal government into negotiating anything.

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