For all of the discussion of constitutional violations coming from the NDP, you would think that they would respect that exalted document and the values it represents a bit more.
After all, this is the same party that officially announced on its website that the Conservatives and the Liberals have teamed up to “weaken the fundamental freedoms of every Canadian,” by way of Bill C-51. Of course, as I have mentioned in this space before, Bill C-51 will surely have its day, but make no mistake: the NDP has made it their mission to wrap themselves in the flag and defend our rights and freedoms.
Yet, something is a little off here. Now that the NDP has rocketed to the top of the polls, some more scrutiny has been applied to their platform. Two of their planks are positively concerning to anyone who values the Constitution and our country’s unity.
The NDP has first announced — and it has been their long-time position — that a referendum on Quebec sovereignty should simply require a basic majority (50 per cent + 1) to be successful. This has been the NDP position since its famous “Sherbrooke Declaration.” Notwithstanding that such a threshold is not entirely consistent with what the Supreme Court has said on the matter —that a “clear majority vote” would put the onus on all parties to negotiate on secession— it is unfathomable that Tom Mulcair and the NDP would find it appropriate to break up the Confederation compact so easily. Not only that, but they would do so based on one person mistakenly leaving their glasses at home and marking the wrong choice on the ballot.
The structures of our country, officially intact since 1867, should not be able to be undone so easily, and yet, for reasons unknown, the NDP finds it just as easy a choice to make.
The NDP’s uneasy relationship with the Constitution continues unabashed. The NDP has long held the position that the Senate, Canada’s house of “sober” second thought, should be completely abolished. Presumably, the NDP is more than aware that abolishing the Senate would require the consent of every province. Yet, many of the provinces have already come out against this proposition. Quebec, among others, view the Senate as a forum for regional representation: a key value of the federal system in this country. Tom Mulcair, leader of the NDP, has never been clear on how he plans to convince provinces such as Quebec, which values its regional diversity arguably more than any other province, to consent to his changes. It will require a herculean effort, and one that is unlikely to succeed.
Why does this matter? For us as students, this legal wrangling doesn’t really seem relevant, but consider this: by all accounts, the constitutional issues in this country with respect to Quebec have been quiet. Quebeckers have turned their gaze away from the separatists and towards federalist options. In fact, I would say that separatism is, at least quantitatively, at a historic ebb. The NDP, instead of presenting compelling policies on the economy, what to do with the surplus they said didn’t exist or how to deal with the threats of ISIS, they have chosen to liven up the Quebec separatist debate. This is a debate from the 1990s. It is not one of the 21st century.
There is no doubt that the Senate is a live issue; the Senate will need to be reformed. But do Canadians want to see a worthless constitutional conference struck to try to get the support of provinces that would never agree to the Senate’s abolition? What is the end game here? Mulcair cannot, or will not, explain.
On a side note, it is further inexplicable that Mulcair would want to spend “constitutional capital” on the separatists when instead he could try to build consensus on one of the great tragedies of 21st century Canada: the plight of Canada’s aboriginal peoples.
That aside, as young people, we have major issues in terms of employment, job outcomes at the end of our degrees and an overall unstable economy for future investment. We need political parties that will address these issues head on.
Dredging up battles that have already been won and charging ahead with worthless plans do not constitute respect for our Constitution.
We should think twice before we take a sip of the Orange Crush.