For over a week now, politicians, the media and pundits have relentlessly sniped interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel for her past association with the Bloc Quebecois. To them, it’s not enough that Turmel canceled her membership with the Quebec separatist party in January before registering to run for the New Democrats.
That the rookie MP for Hull—Aylmer has been a member of the federalist NDP since 1991 isn’t enough either. Even the fact that she has told us: “I’m a federalist!”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants Turmel and the NDP to prove their commitment to Canada. He said, “I think Canadians expect that any political party that wants to govern the country be unequivocally committed to this country.”
The Globe and Mail sees a threat to national unity in the NDP’s appointment of the temporary replacement for leader Jack Layton, who stepped aside last Monday to receive treatment for cancer. “Canada’s national newspaper” opined that the appointment was the NDP’s “decision to invest a long-standing sovereigntist with the interim leadership of Canada’s Official Opposition…” The paper adds that the decision is “a serious political miscalculation that speaks to an incapacity in the NDP.”
In the meantime, no big deal is made of the PM’s threat, ten years ago, to firewall Alberta. Yes, Harper threatened to build firewalls around the oil-producing province.
A brief look at firewalls around countries. North Korea is firewalled. During the Cold War, East Germany was firewalled.
If Turmel’s Quebec had pulled out of Canada, it would be an independent country on cordial terms with Canada. Harper’s firewalled Alberta would be different. It would be a beligerant Canadian province hostile to Ottawa. To other provinces and territories too. A firewalled Alberta would be a bigger threat to Canada’s national unity than an independent Quebec.
So, what’s it about Nycole Turmel that’s driving federalist and opponents nuts? It’s certainly not the fact that she once belonged to another party. Political promiscuity is rampant in Canadian politics. Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae was a member of the NDP for 20 years.
Perhaps more worrisome is the fact that the debate conveniently ignores the substance of Turmel’s association with the Bloc. It’s about values. Save for the issues of sovereignty, the NDP and Bloc share similar values. Both parties are progressive and unequivocally committed to social justice. They’re on the left of the Liberal Party. Until it’s stunning performance during the May 2 federal election, the NDP’s presence in Quebec was minimal.
Isn’t it, therefore, logical that Turmel and other left-leaning Quebecers would embrace the only left-leaning party, the Bloc?
Should the debate continue, we need a big dose of sobriety. Stalking the dying flames of antagonism between English and Quebec isn’t helpful. On May 2, Canadians chose the NDP to be Canada’s Official Opposition and government-in-waiting. It’s a decision worth respecting.
Most importantly, Quebecers who supported a separatist party yesterday are welcome to join a federal one today. They’re welcome to lead federal parties. And to run for Prime Minister of Canada.