Recent labour strife has turned public attention away from the stand of Jack Layton and the NDP toward the Clarity Act, specifically whether 50 per cent plus one in a referendum would constitute a “clear majority” for the separation of Quebec from Canada. But we shouldn’t leave that discussion without clarifying some essential questions.
There is, indeed, good reason for emphasizing the normal criterion of 50 per cent plus one as the decision threshold. Anything higher could encourage strategic voting as a bargaining threat. Those who would vote to divide Canada must be made to recognize the seriousness of what they are doing. But there are other considerations, too.
The Clarity Act was passed by Parliament in 2000 after the Supreme Court of Canada had laid down some legal principles governing provincial secession. The most important feature of the act is its insistence that the secession of a province can take place only through a constitutional amendment.