MPs reject Clarity Act repeal in 283-5 vote

Conservative, NDP, Liberal, and Green members of Parliament have rejected a Bloc Québécois private member's bill to repeal the Clarity Act in a vote of 283-5 on Wednesday.
The Conservative, NDP, Liberal, and Green parties have rejected a Bloc Québécois private member's bill to repeal the Clarity Act in a vote of 283-5 on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Conservative, NDP, Liberal, and Green members of Parliament have rejected a Bloc Québécois private member's bill to repeal the Clarity Act in a vote of 283-5 on Wednesday.

All  four members of the separatist BQ voted in favour of the bill as well as Claude Patry, the MP for Jonquière-Alma, who quit the NDP last week to join the BQ after saying he sided with the separatist party on this issue.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair emerged from a caucus meeting Wednesday saying his party would vote against the motion and that he would not whip his caucus, because his members are united on the issue.

He also said he expected all of his caucus to be present for tonight's vote with the exception of two MPs who had "illnesses" and were absent from caucus earlier in the day.

By the NDP's own count, at least five New Democrats did not show up for the vote tonight citing various reasons from being sick, to having obligations in their riding, to family related reasons.

Niki Ashton, Alex Atamanenko, Sana Hassainia, Claude Gravelle, and Manon Perreault were all absent for the vote.

According to the NDP, Romeo Saganash, who was one of two MPs absent from caucus earlier today, was present for the vote.

While there was no doubt the bill will would be defeated with the Conservatives and Liberals voting against it, the question was how members of the NDP would vote following the decision by Patry to cross the floor over this issue.

Patry quit the NDP and crossed the floor to join the BQ after saying he supported the separatist private members' bill to roll back the Clarity Act, the law that set rules for future referendums on separation from Canada.

It was "a very united caucus meeting, and there is no problem with that in our caucus," Mulcair told reporters after caucus on Wednesday.

"We are going to vote against the Bloc motion and we don't have to whip it," the leader of the Official Opposition said.

With several of the NDP Quebec MPs, including former interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel, having had past ties with pro-sovereignty provincial parties and with some MPs having voted "yes" in sovereignty referendum votes, the question is will the separatist Bloc be able to draw those New Democrats on the issue.

50 per cent plus one

The NDP supported the Clarity Act when it was introduced in 1999 by the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien, but in 2005, the New Democrats adopted their own policy.

The Sherbrooke declaration says, among other things, that the NDP would regard a vote of 50 per cent plus one to be sufficiently clear to trigger secession talks.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae told reporters, after caucus on Wednesday, there is an "incoherence" in the message being purveyed by the New Democrats and that the Sherbrooke declaration is inconsistent with the Clarity Act.

Rae accused the Opposition New Democrats of "pandering" to separatism in Quebec, not only in the candidates they recruit but in the message they're sending.

"Mr. Patry's opinions were well known to Mr. Mulcair when he endorsed him. There are many others in the caucus currently who hold opinions that are very much the same as Mr. Patry's. That was known to the leadership of the party at the time they were all recruited," Rae said.

"It's no big secret."

The interim Liberal leader said they very much look forward "to voting against the Bloc motion."