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Referendum(b)s

Web posted on July 28, 2016

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

The recent Brexit vote in the U.K. to leave the European Union got me thinking about the whole referendum process. Every referendum that has taken place in recent years has been what I refer to as blind vote. By this I mean that people were voting for a very vague concept. While all sorts of reasons were given to either leave or to stay, no hard specifics were given. Now that reality has set in, people are having second thoughts. It will be a long time before all the dust has settled, and until that happens there will be a lot of uncertainty. As I said after the vote, it's not as simple as taking your ball home because you don't want to play anymore.

Every so often the notion of Quebec separation rears it's ugly head. Every visit to Quebec has been a wonderful experience. The people are great, the politicians, not so great. I sincerely believe that Quebec should be a part of Canada.

Many of the separatists really don't want to leave Canada, they just want to milk English Canada for as much as they can, and have done an excellent job of it. Yes, there are a few die-hards who want their own country, but I really think they are in the minority.

It is amazing that not one politician is willing to say what will happen is there is a yes vote. They all talk about negotiating after the vote. This is utterly ridiculous. Look what happened in the U.K The terms and timetable for separation must be absolutely clear before the votes are cast. That is the only way that people can make a logical and informed decision.

The first thing is to establish what constitutes a majority. I would prefer a two thirds majority, but that's not reasonable. The concept of fifty percent plus one is not acceptable either, unless there is a 100% voter turn out. It must be a clear majority, not just a majority of votes cast. Some sort of formula must be established to take into account the percentage of voter turn out. The smaller the voter turn out, the higher the percentage needed to pass. For example if there is only a 90% voter turn out, the majority needed to pass should be raised to 60% of the votes cast. As far as I am concerned people who do not vote, don't want to separate.

Let's for the sake of argument come up with minimum acceptable terms for separation. An independent Quebec will have to establish it's own currency and post office. They will need their own passports. They will have to establish their own border patrol, customs and immigration service. Let's face it the Americans (especially if you know who gets elected) will not accept anything less, and neither should we. They will have to have their own military, (they could buy military assets based in Quebec) and apply for Norad and NATO membership. If they want to be a sovereign nation, then they have to go all the way. There is a lot of Canadian infrastructure in Quebec that will have to be paid in full, at fair market value, on the first day of independence. Then there is the matter of any money owing to Canada, that would also have to be paid off. They would have to renegotiate NAFTA. Use of the St. Lawrence Seaway would have to be negotiated as well. It's not as simple as some people make it out to be.

If Quebec is not a part of Canada, there is no need for an Official Languages Act. It will cease to exist on the first day of independence. Of course we could replace French with Mandarin, Cantonese, or possibly Spanish. We could also change the national anthem from "O Canada" to "The Maple Leaf Forever."

Then there are the First Nations of Quebec in the north, and their wishes will have to be respected. They may not want to go with Quebec. This could be a very contentious issue.

The Montreal hockey club (I am a fan) will have to change it's name, colours and logo. I might not be a fan if that were to happen. Then there is that beer of a certain Montreal based brewery, that will have to go as well. Air Canada would have to move their headquarters because of foreign ownership requirements. Let's not forget what would happen to the banking sector. This is one serious can of worms just by itself.

I believe these terms of separation are quite reasonable and should not be open for negotiation. When you look at it from this perspective, there is very little left to negotiate. If Quebec (or any other province) still wants to have a referendum(b) after knowing the terms, so be it.

If any federalist party had the guts to put these proposals in their in their platform, they would get my vote. Of course most of these terms (with obvious exceptions) would apply to any other province or territory that wished to separate. For the sake of argument, a formula for joining Confederation must also be included in case the Turks and Caicos (or any other Caribbean jurisdiction) decided to come on board.

Our federal politicians must be prepared to stand united on this issue, because they will be losing their seats. That's right, no Quebec, no seat. What would happen if the sitting Prime Minister were from Quebec?

There is a lot to think about here. Let's not forget the economic impact of separation. Will there be an exodus of companies? How low will the dollar sink? How many people have actually thought about what could happen if a blind referendum(b) were to take place, and the separatists won? Just thinking about it will make you head hurt. Also, remember the old saying "be careful what you wish for, you might get it."

It does make one wonder how the Brexit vote would have turned out if the voters had the actual terms of what separation meant with a hard timetable?


Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at news@thefountainpen.com

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.


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