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Canada Trudeau challenges NDP for ‘pandering’ to separatists

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, left, stands next to NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, right, at the 24th Triennial Congress of Ukrainian Canadians in Toronto on November 8, 2013.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says his NDP counterpart, Thomas Mulcair, is "playing with fire" by stoking a constitutional debate over Quebec's right to secede from Canada.

In an interview Sunday, Mr. Trudeau slammed the New Democratic Party Leader for suggesting Quebec could separate with a simple majority vote in a referendum and for demanding the Liberals state their own views on a threshold.

"He is playing with fire by pandering to soft nationalists and separatists in Quebec," Mr. Trudeau said.

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"He's trying to get their votes on the federal scene when they are not ever going to vote for things that are strengthening Canada because they believe in a separate Quebec, but they're anchored in a minority in Quebec."

Mr. Mulcair has reaffirmed his party's position that a vote of 50 per cent plus one for secession in a clearly worded position would be enough to allow the province to separate.

In a speech to party faithful in Montreal that was posted on YouTube last week, the NDP Leader said he looked forward to debating Mr. Trudeau on the subject in the next election and promised to "wipe the floor" with him.

The Liberal Leader slammed Mr. Mulcair for turning the issue of Canada's future into a partisan sparring match.

"For him it's all about politics and the contest between him and others," he said. "That's not what this is about, this is about our future and the unity of our country."

He said Mr. Mulcair was "irresponsibly and intentionally" distorting the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada when it ruled on the former Liberal government's Clarity Act.

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

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

The NDP proposed earlier this year to replace the Clarity Act, which was passed under former prime minister Jean Chrétien in the aftermath of the 1995 referendum when the sovereigntists came within a percentage point of winning the vote.

Mr. Mulcair and the NDP stirred controversy earlier this year with their proposal for a "unity bill" to replace the Clarity Act, which was meant to bring clarity in the wake of the nearly successful 1995 separation referendum in Quebec.

The NDP's proposed bill outlined the party's willingness to accept a 50+1 referendum vote if other conditions were met.

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