08/15/2011 09:02 EDT | Updated 10/15/2011 05:12 EDT

You Can Run But You Can't Hide

It was interesting to read about Quebec NDP MPs refusing to answer simple and pretty straightforward questions about their past political activities, party memberships and how they voted in referendums.

It goes back to the question I raised in my previous post -- if you're a federal MP, have you previously supported a party that advocates separatism and do you still agree with separatism as an end now?

If you are a federal politician representing a federalist party, it is a legitimate question. It is a legitimate question even if you have never supported the Bloc, PQ, Quebec Solidaire or some of the other separatist organizations. This is not a witch hunt as MPs like Pat Martin are trying to suggest. It is a valid question for a Quebec MP and just as valid a question for all NDP, Conservative and Liberal MPs. Separatism is a long-standing issue in this country and knowing whether or not someone running for federal office wants to break up the country is a valid concern. Unfortunately from the article I read, the questionnaire was only sent to the NDP members; why not send it to all Quebec MPs?

The past couple of weeks have not been kind to the NDP. The Turmel issue and her previous party memberships have dominated the news and there is no doubt this has impacted both on her credibility, her ability to lead and her party's fortunes and image in Quebec. One can understand the NDP refusing to answer the questionnaire; they are hoping to avoid a media firestorm before the House returns in September.

The problem with that type of thinking is that any political organization has membership and donation lists, lists of attendees to events, voter ID lists, etc. Today these are all kept on computers, accessible within seconds and there is nothing to prevent these organizations from trickling the information out over time. If you are a Quebec MP (I am including all the parties) if you ever belonged to a separatist organization, funded one, attended their functions or voted for separatism in a referendum, expect it to come out sooner or later.

Refusing to answer questionnaires is a common policy in politics. The Conservatives employed this tactic quite frequently, especially during the course of an election for the exact same reasons behind the present NDP strategy. However, MPs are independent thinkers and not all will listen to what the leader's office is telling them and many will see any attempt to limit what they say as muzzling them. Hence, some will answer the questionnaires anyways as is their right to do so.

From my previous post:

"For all of the parties and for each MP, it should really boil down to a simple question. Do you still support separatism? Yes or no? No waffling allowed. If you can't give a straight unequivocal answer to the effect that you no longer support separatism, then you are fair game in federal politics. If you have renounced separatism, you should be made welcome into the federalist tent."

Keith Beardsley's political blog can be found at