Sunday, 29 May 2011

Should a 50%-plus-one vote be sufficient for separation?

Media has been buzzing around lately after Jack Layton’s comments that the NDP would back 50%-plus-one rule for Quebec’s secession. He stated on May 26th, “What constitutes a majority is 50%-plus-one. That’s been crystal clear for five years as the official policy of our party.”

I don’t understand the media frenzy on this issue. Is there another definition of a majority? I don’t even understand why Jack felt the need to explain a statistic fact.

Many Canadians are uncomfortable with such statements. They fear that the separatists’ goal becomes easier to attain. But let’s be clear! The separatist are only following a democratic process. They are not planning a coup d’état. So no matter how much you dislike the idea of a separate Quebec, it’s the choice of the people of Quebec.

By not believing in the 50%-plus-one rule, you are acting as a dictator - “It doesn’t matter what they think… I know what’s best for them.” Even if you believe that a separation would hurt Quebec economically and financially, it’s not your call.

It’s interesting to note that in Quebec’s riding of Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, NDP candidate François Lapointe defeated the Conservative incumbent Bernard Généreux by a mere 9 votes. I haven’t noticed anyone saying that it’s too close and the result should be ignored.

Personally, I want Quebec to be part of Canada. I believe that Quebec is not an accessory, it’s a vital part. I argue that Canada without Quebec would never be the same. However, I sympathize with Quebecers who feel left alone. They have a different language, culture and are more left leaning. They are more European-like, while English Canadians are more American-like. On top of that, they feel bashed and ignored by English Canada. Do you recall Don Cherry’s “Europeans and French guys” comments, and that separatists are “bunch of whiners”?

Instead of focusing on finding ways to complicate the referendum process, I think it’s much better if we give Quebecers compelling reasons to want to stay within Canada. We must truly act as one country… If one part of the body hurts, all the other parts hurt with it too. I am hopeful when I heard Jack Layton’s commitment to create “winning conditions” for Quebec. Let’s embrace this vision.

So ask yourself this question – Should a 50%-plus-one vote be sufficient for separation?

Monday, 16 May 2011

NDP – Will it capitalize on its winnings? Or will it falter back to square one?

There are many opinions regarding the NDP’s future by the next federal election: Some claim that the NDP’s success is a Cinderella story, a fluke or simply a protest vote that would not reoccur. Others claim that the NDP will be the new voice of the Left and will represent the official opposition for several elections. The more hopeful expect, or hope, that it will lead the next government, whether a minority or a majority. And let’s not forget about the discussions of a possible merger with the liberals.

This post is not to predict how the future of the NDP will look like. I have to argue that all bets are up for grabs… It will depend on the NDP’s strategy and approach, other parties’ performance, voters’ reaction (especially in Quebec) and frankly… pure luck!

Regardless whether you are a fan of Jack Layton, or not, you still have to admire him. Since his election as an NDP leader in 2003, the party has shown steady growth. In the 2004 elections, the NDP almost doubled its popular vote (from 8.5% to 15.7%) and gained 6 seats. What was more important is that he made a breakthrough in Toronto-Danforth riding while the NDP was absent from Toronto in previous election. Jack also focused on building roots in Quebec since his election. In 2004 election, the popular vote in Quebec increased from 1.84% to 4.6%.

In 2006 elections, the NDP won 29 seats with a popular vote of 17.5% nationwide (7.5% in Quebec). In 2008, the NDP won 37 seats and received 18.2% of the popular vote (12.2% in Quebec and 1 seat). Finally the NDP broke through in this election crushing Quebec winning 59 seats and received 42.9% of the vote! In the rest of the country, the NDP won 44 seats and received 26.4% of the vote. So to those who think that the NDP surge was only in Quebec… well the numbers say otherwise.

But the NDP’s challenge right now is more than ever. The party has always been in 4th position, so it was mostly ignored. However, the moment the NDP showed signs of power, the conservatives and liberals attacked Jack fiercely. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “Massage scandal” on Layton that was brought up in the last days of the campaign was a dirty tactic from one of the other parties, but I can never know for sure. The NDP team is now under extreme scrutiny… Every candidate CV is being interviewed, and every paragraph in the platform is being challenged. Ruth Brosseau’s election is another discussion that I will leave for another post.

The NDP’s seats in Quebec can disappear in a second… It appears that Quebecers’ opinions are spread evenly across the province. The liberals were the dominant party in Quebec, winning 74 out of 75 seats in 1980. In 1984, the conservatives painted the province blue by winning 58 seats and 63 seats in the following elections. Quebecers changed their opinion in 1993 and elected 54 seats for the Bloc. But once again, Quebecers had a change of heart in this election and the Bloc ended up with 4 seats while the NDP won 59 seats. Jack’s new challenge is to preserve the party’s presence in Quebec, and that will not be an easy task.

Harper’s majority can prove to be problematic to the NDP… Millions of Canadians casted their vote for the NDP hoping for change, but with a conservative majority, I am not sure how much change it can offer. The NDP has already suggested that they will pressure the government to get results. It’s a bold statement, and Jack seems prepared to deliver on this promise.

Canadians are also tired of politics, and all the yelling in parliament. The NDP promised to fix Ottawa, and that it will reduce the tone in the parliament. If the NDP proves successful in leading healthy debates, Jack’s popularity will only soar and the NDP can be the front runners to form the next government.

Should Jack consider merging with the liberals? Well, I’ll have to argue that in my next post…

Salam Morcos