Still fighting for clarity


Stephane Dion takes aim at Jack Layton’s position on secession.

Dion said the top court would have said so if it meant a bare majority would be good enough to trigger secession negotiations. Instead the court insisted, 13 times, that a “clear majority” would be necessary. “If (Layton thinks) 50 per cent plus one is a clear majority, what is an unclear majority?” Dion asked in an interview.

Dion said the debate has been framed as though accepting a bare majority result would be showing respect to Quebecers. But determining something as momentous as the fate of the country on the basis of one vote, is “not respecting Quebecers, not respecting their rights to be Canadians unless they clearly decide to stop being Canadians.” “You are in the situation to decide the choice of a country (based on) the results of a judicial recount or the examination of rejected ballots. It would be an absurd, untenable position,” he added.


Still fighting for clarity

  1. Given that Dion thinks 50% + 1 is an unclear majority; did he state what he thinks would constitute a clear majority? It is cowardly to attack someone for answering a question that you do not have an answer for.

    • From the article I gather that Dion would think a difference that would be beyond the scope of judicial recount.  Separatists love to cite the Newfoundland referendum, i.e, 52,3% in favour of confederation.  In terms of votes it meant 7,000 votes.  Jack Layton is now claiming that a one vote difference would be sufficient.  Merci Monsieur Dion to remind us of the foolishness of this 50 plus 1.  Anybody who in their right separatist mind thinks that a one vote difference would be sufficient for the international community to recognize Quebec as a country needs a shrink – so does Layton.  

      • Judicial recounts are for elections where the results are within 0.1%. Are you suggesting Dion thinks 50.1% would be a clear majority?

        • I am suggesting that Mr. Dion doesn’t believe Mrl Layton’s assertion that 50 % plus one vote is sufficient.

        • I think a clear majority would be 50% + 1 of eligible voters. A non-vote should count as a vote for the status quo.

    • Have you not read the Clarity act? It’s that piece of legislation that he crafted explaining in depth what a clear majority would be…

      • The Claritty Act gives the House of Commons the right to decide if there has been a “clear majority” AFTER the referendum on secession. This does not provide any hint what Dion think would be a clear majority, is that 60%, 75% or 90%? Do you compare votes cast to total population or to voter turnout?

        • (2) In considering whether there has been a clear expression of a will by a clear majority of the population of a province that the province cease to be part of Canada, the House of Commons shall take into account
          (a) the size of the majority of valid votes cast in favour of the secessionist option;
          (b) the percentage of eligible voters voting in the referendum; and
          (c) any other matters or circumstances it considers to be relevant.

          Left to the judgment of the elected members of the House of Commons.  Would one vote difference be sufficient?  Not in my mind, nor in Mr. Dion.  It would be in Mr. Layton’s.

          • (c) any other matters or circumstances it considers to be relevant.
            This clause allows for House to reject a referendum result for any reason. I.e. The House of Commons could decide after the fact that the majority was not clear because there was not a majority in each town of Quebec.

            The Clarity Act is intentionally vague on what is a clear majority; so that the House of Commons can find a reason to reject ANY plausible result.

            I am not arguing 50% + 1 is clear. I just don’t believe Dion would commit to any minimum standard, which I think leads separatists to believe Canada will not respect Quebec’s will.

          • Separatists don’t believe Canada respects Quebec. Period. There is no law that could change that; it goes deeper than that. The Act gives the HoC flexibility to deal with secession of a province, including dealing with unforeseeable circumstances. As I noted below, the number of invalidated ballots was greater than the final difference between the two sides

          • Loraine, I still don’t have sense for what you would consider a clear majority. If 50.1% of total votes cast is too little… do you require 90% of the population casting votes in favour for there to be a clear majority? If only there was a Clarity Act that would give a describe what constitutes a clear majority. Unfortunately, the Clarity Act leaves the House of Commons deciding what are the ‘victory conditions’ after seeing the result of a referendum; they will always find someway of declaring a vote for secession as unclear.

          • Is it 50.1% – or 50 plus one?  Cause using the same numbers of voters as for the 1995 referendum (4,671,008) that would mean 4,671 deciding (50.1%) v 1 vote deciding.  And deciding what?  The Clarity Act doesn’t leave the HoC deciding what the victory conditions are, it leaves the HoC deciding under which conditions it (CANADA) will enter into negotiations relating to the secession of a province of Canada which would “entail the termination of citizenships and other rights that Canadian citizens resident in the province enjoy as full participants in Canada”.  So let me turn back the question to you:  Would you agree that the Canadian government should enter into negotiations to terminate the rights of Canadian citizens based on a single vote?
            Nevertheless, I still think that a one vote difference is not a position that would favour the recognition of a new country by other countries, particularly when the citizens are not victims of civil war, or other atrocities. 

  2. Dion….still one of the finest minds in the country, and still unappreciated.

    • And while we’re told he’s hated in Quebec, he is one of a handful of Liberals who managed to keep his seat there.  I have a lot of respect for M. Dion, and it continues to grow; he’s obviously dedicated or he would have walked away from Parliament. 

      • And in the 2008 election Québec is the only place where the Liberals improved their popular vote and number of seats.

        Now certain M.P.s in Québec who fought against M. Dion in favour of Michael Ignatieff don’t even have a seat.

        • Life is funny like that no?

        • Certain (former) M.P.s in Ontario who did the same, ended up the same. Ha-ha.

  3. M. Dion once again comes to rescue of the country against feeble minds spouting gibberish.

    I think because the Dippers have been almost exclusively a third (or occasionally fourth) place party on the federal scene until this most recent election, they see 50% + 1 in terms of a local riding race.  If a candidate receives 50% + 1 then they have definitely beaten all comers.

    However, in the case of a referendum on a hugely significant and binary (darest I say manichean) question like breaking up a country, 50% + 1 is at best, a split decision.

    • You may darest :)

  4. Just to refresh readers’ minds, there was a 54,288 vote difference between the Yes and No sides in 1995, with 86,501 invalidated ballots. 

  5. “You are in the situation to decide the choice of a country (based on) the results of a judicial recount or the examination of rejected ballots. It would be an absurd, untenable position,” he added”

    Thank god we’ll be spared those dimpled chads at least.

    If only Dion had been up against Layton and Duceppe  in the debate…in the French one anyway.

    This has to be the kind of principled road the libs take…whether it ulimately leads then back to power is of secondary importance to me, i hope it is for them too.

  6. Arithmetic …. it confuses everybody.

  7. ” …. is “not respecting Quebecers, not respecting their rights to be Canadians unless they clearly decide to stop being Canadians”

    Who was Dion respecting when he tried to form government with separatists against the will of electorate?

    • Dion never tried to form a government with separatists. 

  8. Phew! We sure dodged a bullet when we didn’t vote for that kind of thoughtful reasoning!

    Boo! Nerd! BOO!!

  9. Layton has inherited an awkward political reality, and has chosen to cut the Gordian knot, rather than idiotically spend the next few years trying to untie it, while everyone stands around to laugh and point. Certainly the Government of Harper has skill enough in the latter behaviour.

    I’d rather Layton turned his attention to a sincere demonstration of the transparency in Canada that has been questioned internationally. Starting with the name of the purported ‘staffer’ that ‘purportedly’ altered Brosseau’s C.V.

    Should we have both an opaque majority and opposition at the same time? No change? More of the same?

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