Canada opposition sees low bar for Quebec independence

Tue Apr 3, 2012 4:39pm EDT
 

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The new head of Canada's main opposition party says a simple majority should allow independence for French-speaking Quebec, a far lower bar than the one accepted by other pro-Canada parties and one that could make independence more likely.

Thomas Mulcair, a Quebecker who took over as head of the left-leaning New Democrats last month, said Canada would have to negotiate independence for Quebec if a majority of voters opted for that.

"Quantitatively clear...in a democracy is 50 percent plus 1, period, full stop, that's it," Mulcair, 57, said in an interview in his wood-paneled office in Parliament, one floor up from that of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

That's not the argument accepted by either the Conservatives, or the Liberals, who in 2000 passed legislation entitled the Clarity Act to lay down terms under which Quebec might secede from Canada.

"The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that democracy means more than simple majority rule," the act says in its preamble.

Quebeckers have held two referendums about independence. The most recent, in 1995, was defeated by the narrowest of margins, and emotions on the issue are still raw.

Recalling that he had fought all his life to keep Quebec in Canada, Mulcair bristled at any suggestion that he was taking a weak position in terms of Canadian unity.

"The subtext can't be, so it means you're willing to give up the country at 50 percent," he said. "The subtext is, I'm willing to do what has to be done to make Quebec feel comfortable within Canada and for Canada to be a welcoming place for Quebec."   Continued...

 
New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair speaks during an interview with Reuters in his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie