Quebec City and Ottawa disagree about sovereignty

But at least everyone’s using their words, right?


Sean Kilpatrick/CP

“Obviously, they want to make sure we’ll never get our country.” —Alexandre Cloutier, Quebec’s minister of intergovernmental affairs

What’s a weekend without inflamed tensions between federalists and sovereigntists? Last week, the federal government quietly intervened in a challenge of Quebec’s Bill 99, the law that declares the province the master of its own secession. The feds want the law thrown out. Soon after, Paul Wells reported the exhaustive, and complex, details of the court challenge. On Sunday, as if on cue, Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier lashed out at his federalist enemies in Ottawa. He’s quoted as calling the federal intervention a “direct” and “devious” attack on the province.

Denis Lebel will have none of this yammering from Quebec City. The Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs put his foot down in a statement released late Sunday night. You don’t have to read too closely to catch the passive aggression. “We have no intention of reopening this constitutional debate. The federal government’s traditional position remains the same,” he said. “It is completely normal for the federal government to defend Canadian laws.”

Quebec raises hell, and Ottawa shrugs its shoulders. Tom Mulcair, the NDP leader and former Quebec legislator, mostly used the occasion to dismiss the government’s approach to battling sovereigntists. “There’s no question that this is a life buoy, a life saver for the sovereigntists who see this as a great way to start an old battle with Ottawa and there’s not much to be gained by it,” he told The Canadian Press. Mulcair, for the record, voted against Bill 99 when he sat in the National Assembly. The Montreal Gazette reports that Liberals, in opposition at the time, thought the PQ hoped the bill would be declared unconstitutional—an effort, said former premier Jean Charest, to “stir up nationalist fervour.”

Stéphane Dion, the former Liberal leader who crafted legislation that gave the federal government final say on what constitutes a proper referendum question and a clear majority vote, agreed with last week’s federal intervention. No surprise there.

Everyone’s playing to character, for better or worse. So continues a decades-old debate that at least reminds people that you can talk about secession, which is serious business, in painfully slow motion, using your words. That’s, well, something.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail A train carrying propane and crude derailed west of Edmonton.
National Post The derailment caused 120 nearby residents in Gainford, Alta., to evacuate.
Toronto Star Premier Kathleen Wynne wants to make more government data public.
Ottawa Citizen Federal public servants will no longer see a two-week wage clawback.
CBC News Scotiabank covered a $37,000 tax bill wrongly charged to a Nova Scotia man.
CTV News Australian police recovered two tonnes of drug-making material from Canada.
National Newswatch Liberals lead polls in three of four ridings headed to by-elections.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Sri Lanka. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says the Conservative government shouldn’t boycott next month’s Commonwealth meetings in Sri Lanka. Stephen Harper is sending a junior minister in his stead, a move Mulroney says is inferior to actually sitting at the table to make change. As an example, he pointed to pressure on South Africa to abandon apartheid.
THE GLOBAL Sydney. Three fires blazed in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, and authorities worry they’ll combine to form a “mega-fire” that could engulf the city. New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell declared a state of emergency in the area and ordered residents to evacuate. Australia has faced unusually hot and dry conditions in recent months.
THE QUIRKY Textbook. Among the rare books stored at the University of British Columbia is a 700-year-old textbook published in northern France. Richard Pollard, a history instructor at the school, says the book could last several more centuries. The book is entitled the Compendium Theologicae Veritatis, or Compendium of Theological Truth.


Quebec City and Ottawa disagree about sovereignty

  1. I say, lets go kick some butts. That one is for you Keith Henderson. Who is vacationing presently in Italy. PQ’s , who do they think wed area. Mulcair, on this issue you are lost.

  2. “Obviously, they want to make sure we’ll never get our country.” —Alexandre Cloutier,

    Er, hmmm, well, yes actually. Mon Cloutier has a talent for stating the obvious.

  3. M. Cloutier, if you consider that 50%+1 should permit a governement to take nearly-irreversible steps to decide statehood, then how do you reconcile that with the fact that the seperatist faction still wishes another referendum? Please remember: separatists lost. They are not the majority.
    I’m a fan of the 50%+1: its clear and Quebec & Canada won two consecutive clear referendums by saying: no seperation.
    By the same token, it’s with the same threshold that Newfoundland controversially joined confederation.

    • Newfoundland referendum was won with 52,3% of the votes, seven thousand votes separating the two camps.

      In the 1995 referendum there were some 54,288 votes separating the two camps, in percentages 50.58% vs. 49.42% (1.16%), while there were 86,502 ballots that were declared invalid. THAT is the problem. There remains doubts on the validity of the results because the difference between the two camps is less than the invalid ballots.

      Politicians are full of it, in my opinion, when they turn the 50% plus one vote into dogma. This is definitely true in assemblies where votes are taken publicly, like the house of commons where members rise to vote in front of the entire assembly, the public in the gallery, the cameras nowadays, their name and the votes are recorded by employees. An individual MP’s vote in the HoC cannot be invalidated because they stood on the right rather than the left foot!!! It is crystal clear that they are entitled to vote and what their vote is.

      But when you have millions of ballots being counted by thousands of volunteers, the threshold of 50% plus one vote is pure boulechite. In every election and referendum there are invalid ballots, and the DGEQ hold records on this (found in wiki, en français):


      To be undisputable the results of a referendum should exceed the historical margin of invalid ballots, i.e., 52.5%. With less than that a premier would have problem gaining international support, and Ottawa could be sued by Canadian citizens living in Quebec for negotiating their fundamental rights away, like the right to vote in a Canadian election which they now enjoy (ask Guy Bertrand…)

      • You think that Majority should equail 50% + 1 + number of invalid votes?

        Fine, all good. I think this is a little convoluted, but you hold a defendable position.

        “To be undisputable the results of a referendum should exceed the historical margin of invalid ballots, i.e., 52.5%.”

        “Newfoundland referendum was won with 52,3% of the vote”

        So the NFLD referendum should be reconsidered?

        I’m just trying to find out where you stand on this.

        • I stand by the wording of the Quebec law (99) and the wording of the motion tabled and unanimously voted on today by the members of the National Assembly. The law DOES NOT state 50 % plus one vote – but, and I quote adding “majuscules” for clarity:

          …the winning option is the option that obtains a majority of the VALID votes cast, namely fifty percent of the VALID votes cast plus one…
          If the difference between the two camps is less than the number of spoiled ballots, the legitimacy of the result will face legal challenge and any government involved in negotiations that would alter the fundamental democratic rights of citizens, i.e., the right to vote in a Canadian election, could be sued by individuals and/or groups. This could take years!! Should the province then declare independence, I doubt international law would side with a government acting unilaterally on the basis of a contested ballot.
          The validity of the result must be crystal clear.

          • “…the winning option is the option that obtains a majority of the VALID votes cast, namely fifty percent of the VALID votes cast plus one…”

            This happened in 1995, the “No” side won – democratically.

            From my point of view, if the “yes” side won, it would have started near-irreversible actions related to national appartenance. The “No” side should therefore enjoy the same near-irreversible status.

            If you think that, on top of the valid vote majority (50+1), you need a supplemented number of votes to cover the number of invalid ballots to ensure result legitimacy, then do you think that the separatists have a right to continue badgering their fellow citizens who democratically said “no separation”?

            Because I don’t. We said “no”, and no means no. It meant no then, it means no now. Just as it would have meant if it were “yes” – which it democratically wasn’t.

  4. “Obviously, they want to make sure we’ll never get our country.” —Alexandre Cloutier,

    Acutally, the majority of Quebecois don’t want you to get a seperate country. Canada may just be defending those canadians.

Sign in to comment.