The NDP's new interim leader, Nycole Turmel, was a card-carrying member of the Bloc Québécois for five years and quit only weeks before announcing she would run in the next federal election under the NDP's banner.
"Ms. Turmel got a membership card in support of a friend, Carole Lavallée," Karl Bélanger, a spokesman for the NDP, said in an email Tuesday.
Lavallée was a Bloc Québécois MP that was defeated in the May 2 election in her Saint-Bruno–Saint-Hubert riding. She had represented the riding since 2004.
The Globe and Mail reported Tuesday that Turmel, who was named last week as Jack Layton's replacement while he fights cancer, joined the Bloc Québécois in 2006 and returned her membership card to Lavallée on Jan.19, 2011. A letter to Lavallée stated she was quitting for "personal reasons," not because of the party's policies, the report said.
The report also said that Turmel made four separate donations to the Bloc Québécois between 2006 and 2011 totalling $235.
The NDP did not deny what was reported by the newspaper and said the interim leader's involvement with the Bloc Québécois was limited.
Bélanger said Turmel "was not an active member of that party and was merely supporting her friend."
He noted that the 68-year-old former head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada has been a member of the NDP for more than 20 years and served on its federal council in the 1990s.
Despite her membership in the separatist party, the NDP says Turmel does not support its Quebec sovereignty movement.
"She is a federalist and never shared the views of the Bloc on the future of Canada," Bélanger wrote.
Turmel said last week after being named interim NDP leader that Jack Layton convinced her it was time to run for a federal seat and she agreed, standing for election in the Quebec riding of Hull-Aylmer. She defeated Liberal Marcel Proulx on May 2 and soon after arriving on Parliament Hill as one of many rookie NDP MPs, Turmel was voted caucus chair.
NDP Leader Jack Layton handpicked Turmel as his choice to fill in for him while he undergoes treatment for a new form of cancer. His recommendation was confirmed by the NDP caucus and federal council last week.
Turmel came under fire during the campaign from Proulx who accused her of having sovereigntist ties. Turmel said she did not support sovereignty and last week during her first news conference, she said she is a federalist.
"I am a federalist, I've said that a number of times. I said it during my campaign when the question was asked of me," Turmel told reporters. "I've been working with the NDP for 20 years," she said.
Turmel said that when she was working for PSAC, some parts of the union endorsed Bloc Québécois candidates in past elections as well as candidates from other parties.
"I supported their decision as the leader and not personally," she said.
The NDP says Turmel never gave up her membership in the party since she joined it in the 1990s, which means she held membership in two parties simultaneously. That appears contrary to the NDP's rules. Bélanger said Tuesday a member is "not supposed to be a member of another party."