Tom Mulcair found himself on the defensive Monday over his party's policy on Quebec secession as he kick-started an eight-day pre-election tour of Ontario.
The NDP leader defended his position that a bare majority of 50 per cent plus one vote should be sufficient to trigger negotiations on Quebec's separation from Canada.
And he lashed out at Liberals, who've been the most critical of the NDP approach, accusing them of "giving up" on the majority of Quebecers and trying to re-stoke old quarrels.
"I haven't given up on the majority of Quebecers, unlike the Liberals who have," Mulcair said at the launch of his tour in downtown Toronto, what he called "Canada's most important city."
The NDP has vowed to repeal the Clarity Act, introduced by the Chretien Liberal government in the wake of the razor-thin No victory in the 1995 referendum on Quebec independence.
Based on advice from the Supreme Court, the Clarity Act states that a clear majority vote on a clear question on secession would be required before the federal government would agree to negotiate a divorce.
Mulcair criticized the act for failing to specify the precise threshold needed to trigger separation talks.
"(Liberals) think that they need a strategem, some sort of game-playing politically to say, 'Well, we won't tell you what the number is but it's whatever they get plus a whole bunch more.' Well, that's not serious," he said in response to questions from the media.
Mulcair noted that the "mother of all Parliaments," in the United Kingdom, accepted a simple majority as the threshold that had to be met in the recent referendum on Scottish independence.
"People have to understand that yes means yes. Yes can't mean, 'Oh, perhaps we want a better deal'," he said.
The 50 plus one threshold is part of the NDP's Sherbrooke Declaration, a policy document that spells out the party's approach to Quebec and which is credited with helping the NDP sweep the majority of the province's seats in the 2011 election.
Mulcair, who noted he's the only federal leader to have actively campaigned against secession in two referendums, said the NDP is the first federalist party in a generation to win a majority in Quebec. And he credited the party's "open, optimistic, positive approach" toward involving Quebecers in the country's affairs, rather than the Liberal approach of "constantly provoking battle with Quebecers."
"So, I'll let the Liberals try to restart the quarrels of the past because they think that that used to help them."
Mulcair's defence of the NDP's policy on Quebec secession came as he stood on the sweltering roof-top of a Toronto housing co-operative, flanked by NDP MPs and candidates for the Toronto area.
The event marked the start of an eight-day tour of Ontario, which accounts for more than one third of the 338 seats that will be up for grabs in the Oct. 19 federal election.
Mulcair promised to take his party's message to middle-class families across the province, saying a stronger middle class and a stronger economy are "just one election away."
The tour will take Mulcair to more than a dozen Ontario cities and is aimed at showcasing the NDP's team of candidates and the policies Mulcair has been rolling out for about a year. On Monday, Mulcair touted his plan to create one million, $15-a-day child care spaces and his promise to cut the small business tax rate from 11 to nine per cent.