04/08/2014 12:30 EDT | Updated 06/08/2014 05:59 EDT

The NDP Dodged a Separatist Bullet

Like many of us, I followed the 2014 Québec election with fears of a possible third referendum. And while I am ecstatic with the result returning a federalist government, it has to be said: the NDP dodged a bullet last night.

As a proud Canadian, it bothers me that NDP leader Tom Mulcair -- who had no qualms about interfering in previous Ontario by-elections on the side of NDP candidates -- refused to take a side in the Québec election, an election with the potential for a third referendum shaping up as the ballot question.

In a byelection before Mulcair took over the party leadership, I ran against Toronto law professor Craig Scott (who won, and who is, in all fairness, doing a good job exposing the UnFair Elections Act for what it is). But I thought then, as I do now, that his party is offside on a simple matter of Canadian law.

During the final debate of that byelection, I asked a simple question about his NDP platform: "Why, if it takes a two-thirds majority to amend the NDP constitution, does the NDP want to allow a separatist referendum to pass with simply 50 per cent + 1 support?"

In the confines of a local debate in the church hall, Craig Scott murmured something about being proud of the number of federalist MPs the NDP had elected in Québec. (You have to wonder what he thinks now that several were revealed to have voted "Yes" in the last referendum, been members or donors of the Bloc Québecois or now sit as a Bloc MP -- maybe that's why Mr. Mulcair is afraid to take a side in the Québec election?)

I cannot help but wonder about Craig Scott's judgment, as the author of a divisive and much-maligned "Unity Bill" to entrench a bare 50 per cent + 1 threshold as the grounds for Quebec to secede. The Supreme Court of Canada is quite clear: a clear majority is needed for Quebec to separate on a clear question. As Stéphane Dion argues, if 50 per cent + 1 is a clear majority, what's an unclear majority?

Anyone with basic common sense knows the answer. A clear referendum question with a high voter turn out needs a clear, definitive majority in favour of secession to begin breaking up the country and adversely affecting minority populations, especially First Nations. Let's hope we never have to go there.

I can only hope Canadian voters in the next federal election will understand clearly what kind of impact their vote has on a united Canada, and will judge Craig Scott and Tom Mulcair's cowardly views on Québec secession. Pandering to separatist voters by trying to make it easier for Québec to separate is risky business. The NDP dodged a bullet this time -- fortunately! -- but such an irresponsible position should not be rewarded in 2015.


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