Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Justin Trudeau’s one-liners on a Quebec referendum

Yesterday, less than a week before a crucial by-election in Toronto’s establishment constituency, Justin Trudeau effectively ghosted editorials in both the Globe and Mail and the National Post — Toronto’s small-"c" conservative papers — echoing his deadly accusations that New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair is playing politics with Quebec separatists. Neither opinion piece questioned Trudeau’s arguments or his persistent determination to resurrect the most divisive tactics of his father’s generation of Liberals.

Maybe it’s his cheek that’s irresistible.

Justin Trudeau is a professional politician who was raised in a professional politician’s home, and entered his father’s profession in Montreal — the cauldron of Quebec’s fight over whether to stay in Canada. He’s obliviously highly competitive, loves campaigning, and is as ready as his father ever was to get personal about the motives (as well as the utterances) of his opponents.

Apparently, however, he’s still too young to be closely fact-checked by Toronto’s best newspapers or expected to sustain difficult arguments. It’s as if he gets to decide when to stop racing with a training wheel on his bike.

For the record, anyway, here’s the story by Shawn McCarthy that informed the Globe’s attack on Mulcair for saying that 50% plus 1 could constitute a clear majority, a mandate from Quebecers — on a clear question — to negotiate with Ottawa on independence for Quebec.

“Mr. Trudeau said the Supreme Court made it clear that a 50+1 vote was insufficient to break up the country.

“And he said the court also said it would be inappropriate to set a specific figure before another referendum was held.”

Here, as reported by Tristin Hopper in the Post, is what Justin Trudeau thought on the same subject — with the same intended political target — back in February:

“'If we are going to change the Canadian constitution and the state of our country so profoundly, it should at least require the same level as that required to change the constitution of the New Democratic Party, which is two-thirds,' said Mr. Trudeau as quoted in French by La Presse."

There are glaring, premeditated errors of fact and common sense in both declarations.

Trudeau’s most recent statement misrepresents what the Supreme Court said. The Court didn’t rule against a low number or for a high number, but against the authority of a referendum to “break up” Canada unilaterally. Furthermore, it didn’t muzzle any politicians or instruct them on when to define a "clear majority" — that is, before or after the referendum vote. Appropriately, it left that political burden to them.

In any event, Trudeau’s February statement eagerly picked an asinine number on behalf of an asinine attack on the New Democrats.

Seriously: would Trudeau insist that federalists fight a third referendum in Quebec without declaring themselves on the rules of the game?

Seriously: would Trudeau end up with his earlier two-thirds super-majority benchmark that wouldn’t fly elsewhere in the civilized world or, of more immediate concern, amongst other federalist campaigners in Quebec? In fact, is that number high enough to make it much easier for hundreds of thousands of so-called “soft nationalists” to vote yes on a mandate to negotiate with Ottawa?

Editorial writers and columnists may not want to bog Trudeau down yet on the details of an issue he so clearly delights in raising. After all, another referendum is entirely hypothetical; his election as prime minister is not imminent, and, besides, Harper is still the issue.

If all that’s true, then, please ignore both Trudeau’s vicious accusations along with his own tricky suggestions.

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