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.