Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/8/2011 (2181 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Up until January of this year, Nycole Turmel, the interim leader of the federal NDP, was a card-carrying member of the Bloc Québécois. So what?
Well, to hear Bob Rae tell it, Ms. Turmel has "some explaining to do." Mr. Rae, of course, would know of what he speaks. The interim leader of the Liberal rump was, in the past, the NDP premier of Ontario, a fact that a lot of Ontarians refuse to forget, or forgive. That Mr. Rae changed his mind is how he explained that he changed his stripes.
The Conservatives wonder if Ms. Turmel has separatist leanings, which is rich, given they didn't have any compunction about drafting Quebec separatists to backstop the Mulroney Conservative majorities. In fact, one of the draftees, the mercurial Lucien Bouchard, in a fit of Quebec nationalist, shall we say, temperament, resigned from the Mulroney cabinet to create the Bloc. It then became such a sovereigntist powerhouse that Quebec Liberals drafted former Mulroney Conservative cabinet minister Jean Charest to lead the provincial party and become premier, a position he continues to hold and, given the collapse of the sovereignty movement in recent months, might continue to hold in the future despite being as popular with Quebec voters as Gilles Duceppe proved to be.
The Conservatives, too, can't forget Paul Martin's Liberal government survived because one-time Conservative leadership hopeful Belinda Stronach switched sides. Or that, having finally gained government, the Conservatives enticed former Liberal cabinet minister David Emerson to taste once again the fruits of power by crossing the floor in the direction opposite to that which Ms. Stronach strolled.
One-time chief strategist for the Harper Conservatives, Calgary political scientist Tom Flanagan, is likely correct when he surmises there has been so much turmoil in Canadian party politics in recent decades that it is not surprising politicians move from party to party. Or, as they often say, "I never left the party, the party left me."
In the case of Ms. Turmel, she says she joined the Bloc as a favour to a friend, who was a Bloc MP, and while she agreed with many of its leftist positions, she was never a separatist. There is no reason not to take her at her word. In fact, the whole time she carried a Bloc card, and for 15 years before that, she also carried an NDP card.
If there is any cause for concern here, it is cause for the NDP. While the Bloc is avowedly a separatist party, it drew support from across French-speaking Quebec until its disastrous fall to the NDP in May. Like Ms. Turmel, not all of those supporters were sovereigntists then or now. It seems clear what they were supporting was "a Quebec party." Of the 67 new seats the NDP under Jack Layton won in the election to grow to 103 seats and form the official Opposition, 58 of them were won in Quebec. Mr. Layton, who has stepped down as leader to deal with cancer, won only eight new seats, for a total of 44, across the entire rest of Canada.
That would seem to indicate the party, with its most popular leader ever, peaked outside of Quebec. And given NDP strength in the ROC is considerably less than in Quebec alone, that poses the question whether the party is the party of NDP stalwarts, or the party of Quebec upstarts. If it's the latter, that could prove more problematic in attracting non-Quebec votes than whether Ms. Turmel for a time carried a Bloc membership card.