NDP creates work for itself with Quebec referendum position

Altering the rules of Growing Forward 2 agricultural programs starting April 1 will require approval of 70 percent of provincial and territorial signatories representing at least 50 percent of production value.

To change the Canadian constitution requires the 70 percent rule, or in some cases unanimity.

To change the New Democratic Party constitution requires a two-thirds majority of delegates voting.

Yet an NDP private member’s bill making its way through the House of Commons (it will not pass), endorsed by NDP leadership, insists that the dissolution of Canada could be triggered by a 50 percent plus one vote by Quebeckers, whatever the turnout of voters.

It means that if the NDP moved from its current position of government-in-waiting to government in 2015 and the current Parti Québécois government called a referendum that drew a 40 percent turnout and won a one-vote victory for independence, a national government led by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair would feel obligated to begin negotiations for the breakup.

Of course, the question would have to be clear and no obvious voter irregularities would be tolerated, but if that low bar was met and the lower bar of 50 plus one was achieved, that’s democracy.

It was part of the party’s Sherbrooke Declaration that helped win it a huge Quebec breakthrough in 2011.

It is an argument that presumably appeals to the Quebec base that the NDP caucus now has in Parliament but outside the province, probably not so much.

Undoubtedly, when the next federal election is held in October 2015, NDP opponents across the country will be emphasizing the point that the party would allow a single voter in Quebec to tip the scales toward the breakup of Canada.

It will be a tough NDP position to defend in many areas, particularly in the West where the party dreams of reviving itself.

The NDP calls this the Unity Act and Mulcair boasts that the 2011 election that vaulted the NDP to second and first in Quebec produced the first “federalist” majority since the Bloc Québécois came on the scene in 1993.

It’s true, but he can count on federalist opponents to question how “federalist” the NDP is with its low bar for separation

Stéphane Dion, former Liberal leader and author of the current Clarity Act, which requires a higher (though undefined) standard of a “clear majority,” has said the NDP position is one that could lead to the loss of the country “because of a judicial recount.”

The impact already may be showing.

John Diefenbaker famously said that polls are for dogs and midway between elections, that is even more so.

Factor in the reality that the Liberals are in the midst of a leadership race with candidate Justin Trudeau stirring some nostalgia and enthusiasm among Canadians and it makes poll results these days even less reliable.

Still, recent voter surveys (which surely are not voter intentions in 2015 but a snapshot of attitudes now) should give the federal New Democratic Party some pause.

While the Conservatives continue to lead with support in the low to mid-30s depending on the poll, Liberals have closed the gap with the NDP in national popularity into the high 20s.

The NDP continue to do well in Quebec but results in the Rest of Canada are not so robust.

In the next election, the NDP war room will have a job on its hands defending the 50+1 pledge in the ROC.

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