Justin Trudeau: On voting for Quebec sovereignty, Tom Mulcair carries “two different discussions at the same time.”
By: Dana Wagner on
Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party leader and candidate for Papineau, in the Munk leaders debate on September 28, 2015
Mulcair did not say different things in English and French on Quebec sovereignty as Trudeau alleged. In the appearances in question, Mulcair’s position on vote count rules was consistent.FactsCan Score: False
During the Munk leaders debate on foreign policy, Justin Trudeau claimed that Tom Mulcair says different things in English and French.
Trudeau has made the claim before. The subject? Quebec sovereignty.
Trudeau said, “in the French debate, you were happy to talk about your decision to … make it so that separatists could break up this country on a single vote … but you won’t talk about it with Peter Mansbridge in English, you wouldn’t talk about it at the Maclean’s debate. The fact is you carry two different discussions at the same time.”
Does Mulcair carry “two different discussions” in English and French on Quebec sovereignty?
The issue in question is more particular than sovereignty. It’s about the exact vote count that would be needed for Quebec to separate.
The Supreme Court has been vague about a number, and both it and a federal law called for a “clear majority” without defining what that means. Quebec politicians have been clear in the province’s law on the matter: 50% plus un – 50 per cent plus one – or a simple majority. Under former party leader Jack Layton, the NDP released its own position in a paper called the Sherbrooke Declaration. All that’s needed, it says, is 50 per cent plus one. More recently, NDP Craig Scott sponsored a private member’s bill, known as the unity act, which specified a “majority of valid votes.”
Here’s what Mulcair said on the topic during the instances in question:
Maclean’s leaders debate on August 6
First, here’s the preceding question by moderator Paul Wells put to Stephen Harper: “Since there’s a debate among two of our leaders about the margin that would decide this question in sovereignty, let me put the question to the Prime Minister. As a Reform MP, you used to support a 50 percent margin in a referendum on sovereignty. I don’t believe I’ve heard you give a number or revisit that question as Prime Minister.”
Mulcair: “The Prime Minister and I agree that yes means yes … if yes doesn’t mean yes, then people could decide to vote yes as a way of sending a signal.”
Interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge that aired on September 9
Mulcair: “We have put together a unity act which has been published, which is right there on the public record and I invite anyone to look at.”
Mulcair: “We’re going to say the same thing that the British parliament said in the case of the Scottish referendum: The side that wins wins.”
Mansbridge then asked, “that’s 50.1 or more, right?” Mulcair replied, “that’s the rule in a democracy. Those are the rules we played by in 1980. Those are the rules we played by in ’95, those are the rules that Great Britain just played by.”
Radio-Canada leaders debate on September 23
Mulcair: “Je respecte la démocratie. Je suis un démocrate et je n’accepte pas que ce qui vaut justement pour l’Écosse et l’Angleterre ne soit pas appliqué ici … Les règles normales de la démocratie peuvent s’appliquer ici.”
I respect democracy. I am a democrat and I don’t accept that what applies in a just way for Scotland and England is not applied here … The normal rules of democracy can apply here as well.
Mulcair: “Quand vous avez dit dans l’opposition disant que c’est 50%, je ne dis pas le contraire monsieur Harper.”
When you were in the opposition you said 50 per cent, I am not saying anything else Mr Harper.
Mulcair: Although he attributed this to the Supreme Court, Mulcair also said “celui qui gagne, gagne.”
Whoever wins, wins.
Mulcair: “La déclaration de Sherbrooke qui est écrite en anglais et en français précise notre position là-dessus. Cela n’a jamais varié.”
The Sherbrooke Declaration, written in English and in French, specifies our position on this. That has never changed.
… So there you have it.
Okay, it’s still not completely clear. Mulcair isn’t explicit about ‘50 per cent plus one’ in any of the above appearances. And that’s one thing in common.
A second common feature is the general same-ness of reply. In both English and French, Mulcair spoke about the rules of democracy, the rules applied in Great Britain for Scottish independence (50 per cent plus one), that winning equals winning, and past NDP positions that a majority of votes wins a referendum.
In these particular appearances, there is no evidence to support the claim that Mulcair said different things in French and English on Quebec sovereignty, and Trudeau’s office did not respond to our questions.
Mulcair’s position was consistent, and Trudeau’s claim is false.
Editor’s note: FactsCan consulted Beverly Baker of the University of Ottawa and Pascal Michelucci of the University of Toronto for translation of Mulcair’s French statements. The English versions in this article are the product of their combined translation.