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Quebec, the NDP and Nycole Turmel: Let the Tumultuous Times Begin

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The last two weeks have proven to be a tumultuous time for Canadian politics as our nation learned of the tragic news of Mr. Layton's cancer and his consequential temporary leave as leader of the opposition. What we as a nation witnessed next was people from all walks of political life show their support for the man who single-handedly brought forth an orange revolution of unprecedented proportions.

However, as if not wanting to be outdone, this week sprung up and provided for more political drama, and it's only mid-week. As it turns out, Nycole Turmel, the NDP interim leader, was a member of the Bloc Québécois up until this past January. Ms. Turmel claims she was a member in order to support her friend. But does she even need to be giving her reasons for previously being a Bloc supporter? There are a number of the 59 Quebec NDP MPs who have former separatist ties.

Ms. Turmel's links to sovereignty parties in Quebec are neither shocking nor unprecedented. In fact, there have been MPs from other political parties with previous ties to the Bloc; Maxime Bernier and Denis Lebel from the Conservatives and former Liberal Quebec Lieutenant, Jean Lapierre, to name a few.

The NDP is right to say that other political parties are not in a position to be throwing stones considering the other parties themselves are currently living in a glass house with regards to this issue.

Others are claiming that her very nomination to the post of interim leader puts the entire NDP leadership into question. Does it? They obviously knew about her Bloc ties, and didn't think it was an issue. Should we be surprised that a Québécois MP with heavy unionist ties used to support the only other party far left of center federal party? If anything, does it not seem odd that right leaning Denis Lebel and Maxime Bernier could go from left to right at the drop of a hat, thus suggesting their sole motive for Bloc support was indeed secession and not the Bloc's other leftist party policies?

Ms. Turmel seems to have ties to yet another political party who has secessionist goals: Québéc Solidaire. Ok, sure, I'm sure to the rest of English Canada that seems pretty shady, but here in Quebec, anybody will tell you that if she was a true separatist, she would be voting Parti Québécois, not Québec Solidaire.

The fact that her provincial voting allegiances lay with Québec Solidaire and not the Bloc's sister party should be a clear indication that she is more of a radical leftist than a diehard separatist. In fact, I would be more concerned at the fact that she was willing to align herself with the views of Amir Khadir, rather than the fact that she was a member of a provincial party with a separatist agenda.

It was clear that the entire province of Quebec was looking for a change on Parliament Hill on May 2, and if that includes former Bloc supporters who decide to run for a federalist party, then that is a good thing. When collapsing highways, roads, tunnels and buildings are commonplace, it becomes difficult to put the issue of secession on the political forefront when any future commute to work or leisurely dinner in a downtown restaurant could be potentially fatal. There is an increasing amount of Bloc and PQ supporters that are now realizing there are more pressing issues on the political agenda. This is nothing short of refreshing.

I don't always agree with the NDP's politics, (ok, I rarely agree with their politics), but Quebec does, and the province loves Layton. Jack is the sole reason why Quebecers decided to let their province go from Bloc blue to NDP orange. This is demonstrated by the sheer number of virtually unknown NDP MPs, most of whom did not even bother campaigning for themselves. If you were to ask around in Quebec why people voted NDP, you would be regaled with the answer, "J'ai voté pour Jack" again and again.

The people of Quebec knew they were voting for a federalist party, and although Mr. Layton was quite successful at remaining ambiguous on several key issues involving the French language and secession, nobody in Quebec was voting for Layton with the hopes that the NDP would unilaterally declare Quebec an independent nation. Likewise, Ms. Turmel did not infiltrate the ranks of the NDP on the sly. I hate to disappoint, but there is no secret separatist conspiracy here.

Don't get me wrong; I am always weary of an MP or a political party who does not take a clear stance on the notion of Canadian national unity, which is why I would never vote NDP. But it does not seem to bother NDP voters or insiders. So why should we let it bother us?

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