Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Nycole Turmel: What were you thinking when you flirted with the Bloc Quebecois?

NDP now in repair mode as new session of parliament is about to begin.
by Tom Thorne
What a way to start the new session of parliament. NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel has admitted to carrying a card in the Bloc Quebecois which she only gave up seven months ago. In other words she gave up her Bloc party card just before the last federal election in which she ran as a NDP candidate.
The NDP party rules are simple and clear. You must only belong to the NDP as a card carrying member and to no other political party. Turmel broke that rule. It wouldn't be so bad if she was an ordinary member of the party but she was a candidate for election. This looks really bad.
How many more NDP members from the Quebec caucus have sympathies or connections to the Bloc? They had better come clean before they face the Conservatives and even the Liberals in the house. Any backgrounds with a separatist party will be seen by them as sufficient reason to treat the Official Opposition with contempt.
Separatism means that you don't believe in Canada. You cannot be a partial separatist. It is not a topic that can be flirted with or treated as an unfortunate incident. Turmel will now have to take the brunt of Conservative and even Liberal wrath.
Will Turmel eventually resign?
The best thing she can do is resign. It is a great pity because as I wrote a few days ago she seems like a breath of fresh air to counter the boring row of front bench ministers of the Harper government. 
Her revelation concerning her separatist past was candid but not candid enough to get her out of trouble. It will go on to haunt her as the NDP interim leader. Many NDP insiders support her in her hour of peril but behind the scenes they probably wish she would resign from the interim leadership.
We can watch with interest if she tries to rough it out. Parliament doesn't meet for a few weeks so it may blow over or be downgraded in some way but I don't think so. Today Prime Minister Harper spoke about it as "unfortunate" but he also said that separatism can not be soft peddled. I rarely agree with Harper, but on this one I do.
There is a dilemma for the NDP because a lot of people in Ottawa have been looking for this cadre of inexperience to fall flat on their faces. Little did they forsee that the NDP caucus would shoot itself in the foot even before parliament starts.
So what does the NDP do now to repair the damage?  If Turmel does not resign or pass the mantle to someone else she will be under intense scrutiny to find out what other secrets she is hiding or concealing. Her opposition to the Harper government will be bound up in rounds of answering for her past. They won't let this go on the Tory front benches.
Sadly, a good person may be sacrificed. Certainly, the effectiveness of the NDP opposition and other opposition from the Liberals will be truncated. The brutal fact of life is the Harper government will get away with more than if the NDP didn't have to deal with this problem.
It's very sad, but politics is a brutal profession. If you are not squeaky clean then you become the brunt of  criticisms and jibes and as a result  your effectiveness as even interim Leader of the Opposition is demeaned. 
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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