Why 50% plus one isn't enough

To be "open to Quebec" is to insist on a clear majority for secession.

2 mai 2011 - NPD - écueil en vue...

C't'ivident - 1- un référendum sur la sécession produit un résultat irréversible; 2- la majorité ne doit pas changer d'idée pendant les négociations (sic). Autrement dit, le peuple est peut-être trop "épais" pour se rendre compte de la gravité de cette décision. Le PLC l'a pensé du haut de sa mission canadian; maintenant il continue à le penser du fond des limbes politiques. - Vigile

This week, NDP Leader Jack Layton momentarily tried to distance himself from some of his new Quebec caucus members who were supporting the notion that a majority of 50 per cent plus one in a referendum would be sufficient to secure Quebec's secession from Canada. Some politicians and pundits of both official languages described this support for the 50-per-cent-plus-one rule as a "pro-Quebec" position. Many saw this situation as a first test of Layton's openness to Quebec.
I strongly believe that it is not to be open to Quebec to accept that Quebecers may be subjected to the obligation to choose whether to stay in Canada or give it up on the basis of a judiciary recount.
There are two fundamental reasons why negotiations for secession should be contingent on a clear majority. The first is that serious and irreversible decisions that affect future generations should be made by consensus, not on the basis of a weak and uncertain majority, not on the basis of a result which might have been different if the vote had been held the day before or the day after. There is no doubt that secession is something serious and probably irreversible since it is nearly impossible to rebuild a country after it has been broken. Such an action affects future generations and has serious consequences for all of the citizens of the country being broken up.
The second reason is that, even with all the goodwill in the world, negotiating the separation of a modern state would inevitably be difficult and fraught with pitfalls. What must not happen is that, while negotiators are working on a separation agreement, the majority should change its mind and decide to oppose secession. That would be an untenable situation. That is why the process should only be undertaken if there is a sufficiently large majority that will last through the inevitable difficulties of negotiation.
In its opinion on the secession of Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada mentioned the words "clear majority" at least 13 times and also referred to "the strength of a majority." However, the Court does not encourage us to try setting the threshold of this clear majority in advance: "it will be for the political actors to determine what constitutes 'a clear majority on a clear question' in the circumstances under which a future referendum vote may be taken."
Stéphane is the member of Parliament for Saint-Laurent-Cartierville.

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