Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NDP Threshold for Quebec Secession Actually Less Than 50 per Cent

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NDP Threshold for Quebec Secession Actually Less Than 50 per Cent

Article excerpt

NDP secession threshold less than 50 per cent

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OTTAWA - Fewer than half of eligible Quebec voters could end up triggering the breakup of the country if the NDP's proposed rules for another independence referendum were to be adopted.

The party has drawn some heavy criticism for its proposed "unity bill," which stipulates that a bare majority of 50 per cent plus one vote would be sufficient to prompt negotiations on Quebec secession.

But the threshold is actually lower than that due to the NDP's deliberate decision not to take into account voter turnout.

Toronto MP Craig Scott, author of the NDP bill, said Wednesday that 50-plus-one would apply regardless of how many Quebecers actually turned out to cast ballots.

He doubted voter turnout on such a momentous question as Quebec's future would be a problem, noting that a record 94 per cent of Quebecers cast ballots in the 1995 referendum.

But even with 94 per cent turnout, a bare majority would translate into only 47 per cent of eligible voters determining the fate of the country.

The lower the turnout, the fewer Quebecers would be required to trigger divorce talks. For instance, a turnout of 85 per cent -- as occurred during the first Quebec independence referendum in 1980 -- would mean just 42 per cent of Quebecers could prompt secession negotiations.

The NDP's unity bill specifies that a bare majority Yes vote would be sufficient, provided that the referendum question is clear and that there were no "determinative irregularities" in the vote. It makes no mention of turnout.

The bill is intended to replace the Clarity Act, which stipulates that the federal government would only negotiate secession if a clear majority of Quebecers were to vote Yes on a clear question on independence.

The Clarity Act does not specify what would constitute a clear majority, leaving that to the House of Commons to decide after a referendum vote. It does say that MPs would have to take into account the size of the majority, voter turnout and any other relevant matters. …

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