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For Stephane Dion, a Quick Math Lesson/Thoughts on Separation

I only like democracy when the numbers are in my favor.

Stephane Dion penned an op-ed for the National Post . (there’s an odd combination) detailing how the NDP’s position on Quebec separation, detailed in the Sherbrooke Declaration, threatens national unity.

There is one quote I want to draw specific attention to, which to me looks like a future talking point that the Liberals will likely send out Mr. Dion to champion. First, a quick recap of the Sherbrooke Declaration.

First, I’m sure it doesn’t need to be mentioned that it was Adscam that brought so many more Quebecers into the fold of the Bloc Quebecois, a party whose sole interest is to divide Quebec from Canada.  That’s point number one.

The Sherbrooke Declaration was the 2005 statement that was adopted by the General Council of the Quebec Section of the Federal NDP (there is no provincial equivalent of the party). This statement has caught a lot of attention because of it’s adoption of a 50+1 majority vote being all that is required for Quebec Seperation. You will find the full text of the statement here .

I want to make a note of the new talking point I think The Liberals are going to use.  In his National Post op-ed Dion states

a majority of a single vote would be enough to trigger Quebec’s secession, however unclear the question or uncertain the majority.

Did you catch that slight of hand. Dion says a majority of A SINGLE VOTE. As the statement above reads

the NDP would recognize a majority decision (50% + 1) of the Quebec people in the event of a referendum on the political status of Quebec.

So as the declaration states, the party supports 50% + 1 as a vote of a majority. I don’t know how good Dion’s math skills are, but let’s compare the results from the last referendum to see the difference between one vote and one percent.

In the 1995 Quebec referendum there were 4,671,008 valid votes cast. Given this number, one percent of the electorate would equal 46,710 votes. Hardly the one vote Mr. Dion was so upset about.

I may have my own issues with Quebec separating but as someone who believes fundamentally in the right of people to determine their own path using the democratic tools provided to them I have to ask: why are the Liberals, and Stephane Dion in particular, so terrified of letting Quebecois decide their own destiny?

16 comments to For Stephane Dion, a Quick Math Lesson/Thoughts on Separation

  • For Stephane Dion, a Quick Math Lesson/Thoughts on Seperation « The Ryan Painter Show

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  • Beijing York

    Bloc’s best in show predates AdScam:

    “The Parti Québécois campaigned for the Bloc in the 1993 federal election in order to prepare Quebec for sovereignty, according to the Three Periods strategy of PQ leader Jacques Parizeau. In this election, the Bloc Québécois won 54 out of 75 ridings in Quebec, including a near-sweep of the francophone ridings. Despite only running candidates in Quebec, its heavy concentration of support there was enough to give it the second-most seats in the House. Bouchard thus became the first (and to date, only) separatist leader of the Opposition in the history of Canada.”

    Logan Reply:

    Understood however Adscam killed any chance of Liberals being elected in a big way in Quebec, which was the point I was trying to make.

    Jacques McBrearty Reply:

    and WHO make Lucien Bouchard a separatist? the betrayal of Clide Wells. Mulroney will have a raging hatred for the latter ever since.

    Make Meech work and you would have killed the separatist movement in Quebec.

  • Jacques McBrearty

    Stéphane Dion. Only this name makes people swear in Quebec. Where else than in Canada (with his imfamous and anti democratic “clarity bill”) do you see a place where 50%+1 is NOT the majority.

    Plus, how can you ask us to stay in Harperland?

    as for me, I definetly stopped being canadian at two moments in my life.

    1st: I was, for 5 years, in the RCAC (Royal Canadian Army Cadets) and since my commander though that i was separatist, she refused me a medal (after a humanitarian trip I was right to expect more than a certificate)

    2nd: During Katimavik, in Burnaby (BC), my boss told me that (and I quote here):«Jacques speacks French too often in his workplace. Right on my reference letter.
    I went to her office and said: «Sais-tu que ça m’ouvre des portes au Québec un torchon de même?»
    She awnsered: «What the fuck did you just said?»
    My last awnser:«Fuck you!»

    Logan Reply:

    That’s awful and I’ve heard stories of this effect from others who have deigned to travel to western Canada and be French. Please know that some of us from the west ARE cultured and respectful and don’t view French Canadians in this horrible way.

    With respect,


    Jacques McBrearty Reply:

    I know that don’t worry. You can plainly see in my name that I share both French and English culture in my family. (Btw happy St-Patty’s day in advance, I might be a bit out of order this Saturday) I finally think that Quebec and Canada would live both better as neighbors than as roommates as we’re vainly trying to do for more than a quarter of a millennia. We share a part of history but as I learned by working in a museum in Ontario (I have a degree in history): Histoire du Canada and History of Canada are two TOTALLY different things.

    next winter it’ll be the 175th anniversary of the Patriot’s uprising. Both upper and lower Canada agreed on a constitution back then.
    Instead we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. A freaking joke in my domain.

    Logan Reply:

    Could you kindly translate the French you used by the way. Here is what Goodge Translate gave me “Do you know me it opens doors in Quebec along a towel?” which makes absolutely no sense to me.

  • Jacques McBrearty

    it means: Do you know that what you wrote on that rag open doors to me in Quebec?

  • ck

    It should be noted that Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949 after more than one referendum with just 53% of the vote. I have no idea what the turn-out was.

    In the 1995 Quebec referendum, turn-out was quite high–in the 90′s.

    I expect that another referendum would yield another high turn-out.

    I voted “no” in 95, simply because I was concerned about what a sovereign Quebec would look like economically. It seemed to me that that part was not planned. It still isn’t.

    However, these days, the more I see Harper doing his worst, and according to latest polls from Ipsos (yeah, I know, they’re conservative cheerleaders) and Nanos, Canadians will still love him, the more I don’t want to live in Harperland. Thus, how much worse could a sovereign Quebec look? I no longer fear it as much.

    In fact, many progressive leaning Anglophone and Allophone Montrealers I talk to no longer fear the separatist bogeyman–Harperland is more disgusting and Premier Johnny-Boy Charest is perceived not to be in Harper’s face enough. We’ve had enough of Harperland and the more we see RoC taking on the mentality of anything goes when you’re a conservative, the more we don’t see ourselves in Harperland.

    I understand Jacques. Just read the comment boards of the G&M, CBC and the like. They see Quebecers as sub-human. It’s disgusting.

    Jacques McBrearty Reply:

    Actually, according to Jean Charest a independent Quebec would be able to work his way (in the economic way) (he said this during the last French presidential campain in 2007)

    If you want to talk to me directly feel free to add me on facebook :)

  • Beijing York

    Global markets are increasingly the ones behind the levers of economy so I don’t think Quebec would fare any worse without Canada, especially under Harper where foreign investment profits trump jobs. Maybe a sovereign Quebec could take a page out of Iceland’s books.

    Logan, I agree about the LPC. The NDP are going to have to tread carefully if they want to hang on to Quebec seats.

  • Priscilla

    What do you think will happen if Thomas Mulcair leads the NDP? and after your answer on that could you tell me how Quebecers feel about Nathan Cullen?


    Jacques McBrearty Reply:

    As a Québécois I can safely say that the name of Mr. Cullen is quite unknown to me.
    If Mulcair leads the NDP what can happen? I have no clue. It might work, it might not.

  • sharonapple88

    Wait don’t go. Don’t leave us with them. They might not have won the last election (cough Robocon cough).

    So as the declaration states, the party supports 50% + 1 as a vote of a majority. I don’t know how good Dion’s math skills are, but let’s compare the results from the last referendum to see the difference between one vote and one percent.

    It’s likely the next referendum will be decided by more than one vote. Most successful independence referendums are won with votes closer to 100% than 50% although there are exceptions. Montenegro had a threshold of 55%. And then there was the Faroe Islands referendum, where independence was won with less than 50% of the vote because of spoiled ballots (less than 200 votes separated the yes vote from the no vote).

    But I’m a little fuzzy on whether you’re trying to argue that NDP policy is 51% of the vote. If 50% + 1 was 51%, they’d probably write it out as 51%. The 50% + 1 (50% plus one vote) is the stated position of all three major provincial parties in Quebec.

    I do find it amusing, though that it takes two-thirds of a vote to change the NDP constitution. Why the high threshold? ;)

    Jacques McBrearty Reply:

    If you’re whiling to learn French (as you can see I learned English so why couldn’t you do the same anyway) we can welcome you with open arms :)

    50%+1 is the normal position of every country on Earth (who accept democracy)

    according to the common law. When it comes to modify a constitution it takes 2/3. However, Praise Jean Chrétin (I meant Chrétien but the typo was too good) and those who followed them, Quebec never signed the constitution so they can’t modify it :P