The House of Commons returned this week only to see the federal NDP take leave of its senses.
Since the last federal election in 2011, which catapulted the federal NDP into the role of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, the party faithful have suddenly found themselves beholden to the broader Quebec electorate that dumped the Bloc Québécois en masse.
It’s no secret that the New Dems must court those rather fickle Quebec voters — many of whom happen to be openly separatist — if they hope to retain their power base. Thus, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has proposed legislation this week specifying that a bare majority Yes vote — 50 per cent plus one — would be sufficient to force the Canadian government to negotiated Quebec’s secession from the rest of the country.
The bill, as the National Post reports, would repeal the Clarity Act that was introduced by former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien after Quebecers came very close to voting in favour of seceding in 1995. In its place, Mulcair would bring in the so-called “Unity Act” — an oxymoron if ever there was one. For there is nothing unifying about a bill that makes it easier to break up this country.
In its advice to the previous Liberal government, the Supreme Court said both the referendum question and the result must be “free of ambiguity.” While they didn’t specify any specific threshold, the justices did indicate repeatedly that they had something more than a bare majority in mind.
Not only does the new bill accept a bare majority vote as enough to break up the country — against the Supreme Court’s counsel — the bill would ignore the top court’s recommendation that politicians should not pass judgment on the clarity of the result until after a referendum vote.
The only possible redeeming quality about the bill is the fact that it goes much further than the Clarity Act in dictating what the question should look like.
How can the NDP claim to be a federal party if it is seen to be advocating the curtailment of the federal system? It’s foolish.
Meanwhile, the NDP has backed a private member’s bill brought forth by Romeo Saganash that calls for the full implementation of the 2007 UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights. Former Aboriginal Affairs minister Jim Prentice said Canada should not have signed on to the declaration — though it did after Prentice left — because it contains a number of “inconsistencies with Canadian law and policy.”
As the National Post reported yesterday, the declaration has the potential to drain power from Parliament and hand it over to the courts. And depending on how the document is interpreted, it could give First Nations a veto over all manner of legislation that comes before the House. This would make administration of Canada essentially impossible. The federal government would be at the mercy of a plethora of chiefs and councils across Canada, each with divergent and often contradictory demands.
But then it’s easy for the NDP to sit in the cheap seats and advocate for the government to apply the Declaration — they wouldn’t have to try to run the country with such a policy in place.
At the same time, the NDP House leader Nathan Cullen has called for new measures that would impose suspensions and loss of pay for MPs who are guilty of poor behaviour in the House of Commons during question period. This comes only a few weeks after Mulcair and the Government House leader Peter Van Loan nearly brawled on the floor of the House of Commons.
Please. The NDP may want the other parties to play nice, but we think they’d be better off learning to play a little hardball in question period themselves.
If the ideas the federal New Democrats have been pushing this week are any indication of where the party wants to take the country and its politics, may they stay in the Opposition seats for many years to come.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 30, 2013