Roy Romanow vs. wait … what?

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Roy Romanow,Thomas Mulcair

Liam Richards/CP

“I just don’t accept its consequences or its potential consequences.” —Roy Romanow, a former NDP premier of Saskatchewan, on the NDP’s position on the federal Clarity Act

God forbid anyone on the same team disagrees about anything. Roy Romanow, a popular former NDP premier of Saskatchewan, recently found fault with his party’s approach to national unity. For that, he earned a big headline trumpeting the apparent “disunity” among party members on the file. The divisive quote that cut a rift across the party? “I think within the party there are many people of varying views on this particular issue,” Romanow told the Canadian Press. Bombshell stuff.

Romanow supports the Clarity Act, a law that sets various conditions on provincial secession from Canada. Importantly, the law dictates that secession requires a “clear majority” of votes, but doesn’t narrowly define that clarity. The NDP’s position is based on the party’s 2005 Sherbrooke Declaration, which says the party would recognize a simple majority vote—i.e. 50% + 1—as sufficient means to allow Quebec to separate from the rest of Canada.

Romanow disagrees. But he’s aired those disagreements in the most respectful manner imaginable. “I can certainly understand the federal NDP’s position,” he told CP. There’s a good argument that simple majorities, he said, ought to govern society. “I just don’t accept its consequences or its potential consequences.” Romanow mused about a clerical error leading to a razor-thin majority vote that would break up the country.

Typically, this kind of so-called internal rift ignites two reactions: a) infighting is killing the party! and b) isn’t that Romanow fellow a hero for disagreeing on principle?

The political bubble treats disagreements about important things as reason to believe civil wars will tear apart parties. That prognostication is not without precedent, given the historical fact that civil wars occasionally tear apart parties. But it’s not a sure thing. And the bubble also canonizes lone wolves who stand apart from their parties, on principle. Brent Rathgeber is but one recent example. The reactions combine to glamourize simple disagreements.

Romanow is not throwing his party under the bus. He’s basically forcing his party to make a more convincing argument. That’s not an indictment; it’s just responsible. Nobody’s a hero. Nobody’s a villain. People can disagree.


Globe: President Barack Obama won’t rush a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Post: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu rebutted U.S. remarks about possible boycotts of Israeli goods.

Star: Families are fighting to allow service dogs into classrooms to help autistic children.

Citizen: The Tories will table a bill that shakes up federal elections rules.

CBC: Canadians are apparently losing millions of dollars in a wire-transfer scam.

CTV: A Russian high-school student killed his teacher and a police officer before being apprehended.

NNW: See The Globe and Mail


Near: A gunman shot and killed three people, and then himself, in rural Quebec on the weekend.

Far: Afghan President Hamid Karzai hasn’t spoken with Obama in seven months.

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Roy Romanow vs. wait … what?

  1. If we were an intelligent people, we would realize the option is neither 50+1 or a super-majority – the magic number is 52.1%.

    Most of you are probably confused. 52.1%? Where did that number come from and isn’t it just as bad as 50+1%? Well, the number comes from the only time a referendum was held on whether or not a province could gain entry to Canada and its results were a vote of 52.1% for entering Confederation.

    To me, this presents a problem – if the Clairty Act applies equally to all provinces and it requires a super-majority for exiting the country, how can it be acceptable to receive a province into confederation with a vote of only 52.1%? Does Confederation only work in one direction; a certain number for entrance and a different number for exiting? If the Clairty Act is only meant for Quebec, is that not a needlessly discriminatory policy to be shoved down one province’s throat?

    Honestly, the Clarity Act should be struck down because it ignores some very core political realities of the nature of Confederation. If the PQ had half a brain, they would have picked up on this sometime in the 1980’s and could have made inroads into strengthening its easterly partner/ally to champion its own cause for a closer to 50+1%. Perhaps Canada is lucky that Quebec behaves so vehemently towards Newfoundland & Labrador – it may be the only thing holding the country together.

    • Your view is valid and reasonable but it is one of many competing schools of thought, some better than others but very few completely wrong.

    • It is always easier to receive than to give, or let go. Fundamental rule of human nature. Not right or fair at all of course. 52.1% was not right back in the day, not at all. Let’s not make consistency the hobgoblin of little minds.[ no offense intended] There are many occasions when history should not repeat itself.

  2. I agree with Roy Romanow, and I also think that having such a successful NDP statesman publicly stating the current policy is wrong will do a bit of a number on Mulcair’s support. As we keep noticing that harper’s base isn’t pleased with some of his actions, we must also recognize that the Layton and Topp supporters likely have some issues with the big differences in Mulcair’s style and policies. Under Mulcair, it’s as if the NDP aren’t the NDP anymore. So I would think longtime NDP supporters might have some qualms about hearing this from Mr Romanow (who really governed more as a Liberal than a NDP, but who recognized he could win in SK leading the NDP).

    • There are arguments against 50% +1 as long as it is clear and outside the margin of error of spolied ballots, but because of that clarity requirement, the possibility of a clerical error isn’t a good one.

      • I was really thinking of the political costs to Mulcair and his party of having the respected elder statesman disagreeing publicly.

        • you certainly devote most of your post to the political costs, but you DID begin with “I agree with Romanow”

      • That’s as close as i’ve seen you come to a nonsensical post, as i read it anyway.
        Doesn’t the concept of clarity logically preclude any option that makes muddle and unclarity more likely?

    • Lived in Saskatchewan during his term tight budgets and cutting spending no NDP government does that today

      • For a good look at a current NDP government, look at Manitoba. They’re hiking taxes every year, yet spending is increasing faster so that there are higher deficits each year despite the fact that the taxpayers are getting gouged more every year. And they are delivering fewer services for more money. It’s a complete gong show.

        • Whereas their predecessor government (Filmon) cut healthcare, cut other social spending, sold off assets, ran up a deficit AND raised taxes.

  3. “Romanow is not throwing his party under the bus. He’s basically forcing
    his party to make a more convincing argument. That’s not an indictment;
    it’s just responsible. Nobody’s a hero. Nobody’s a villain. People can

    Since there is no better argument to retreat to he is in effect throwing this policy under the bus where it belongs. This isn’t just any guy here, this is one of the Father’s of Confederation part 2.

    All of our recentish PMs have had to walk this road one way or another – doing what what they had to to keep the separatist wolf outside the compound – including Harper. It has gotten ugly at times[Meech and the 95 ref] but this ndp gambit reeks of appeasement.Of pleading with an indifferent former lover/spouse. At worst we’ll just have to live in separate rooms- for the good of the kiddies and the bank account. Beside It’ll have the opposite effect in that it will encourage the old die hards, give them comfort not a realistic sense of how tough it will be to leave Canada. It wont bury the movement, it will keep it on life support.

    ‘Sure 50/50 is fine there Thomas, we’ll take that. And take this while you’re here. It’s a further list of our demands… for now. We’ll just keep that 1% in our back pocket for now too eh! Salut![sucker]’

  4. Everyone takes a very firm and brave stand .. as though a vote
    of 50%+1 wouldn’t matter because we say it wouldn’t matter.
    The people who actually do the voting may have something to
    say about that. And good luck telling them to shut up.

  5. He is not so popular if he is former premier. Fact is Saskatchewan has prospered since NDP left, and Saskatchewan is again a growing economy, actually in better financial shape than REDfords Alberta!!!

    But then Saskatchewan ditched NDP in 2007 for a reason. Jiust over 6 years without NDP, Saskatchewan is a happening place. Get a good leader like Wall that isn’t a tax’em more liberal-socialist spend crazy, and things perked up.

    People need to stop voting for government to manage us, and start voting for politicians that run government for us.

    • “He is not so popular if he is former premier.”

      He retired from politics. His replacement, Lorne Calvert, who was widely expected to lose the next election, won another term, before being defeated by the SK Party.

      As Patchouli notes above, Roy Romanow is widely considered to be the best “Liberal” premier Saskatchewan has ever had.

  6. Best thing western Canada cold do is formated the Republic of Western Canada and ditch Ottawa politics once and for all. Just to costly to boost Quebec equalization a billion ($10B/year) to foster its corruption, waste and poor policies on economics. 57 years, Quebec has been a welfare province.

    As if Ottawa can’t fix its problems, they should be fired.

  7. That’s a rather casual outlook about whether the country can be split in two.

    The whole clarity act was heralded as a big deal when it was passed. The referendum in 95 was a rather big news event.

    But now it’s ho hum, no big deal. OK. Got it. Thanks for clearing that up.