A membership card doesn’t mean Jack

Turmel’s Bloc membership isn’t the NDP’s biggest concern

A political firestorm erupted when it was revealed that the New Democrats’ interim leader, Nycole Turmel, was a long-time member of the separatist Bloc Québécois. This will undoubtedly add pressure to a political party that is attempting to reorganize its ranks in the wake of Jack Layton’s temporary hiatus from politics to battle cancer. Despite the media onslaught, this won’t be a major pitfall for the NDP in the coming weeks.

The NDP attempted to downplay Turmel’s membership. In an interview with the Canadian Press, NDP spokesman Karl Belanger stated that Turmel was never an active member of the Bloc Quebecois and was merely supporting a friend.

In an interview with the CBC, Turmel said “I was friends with Carole Lavallée who was an MP with the Bloc Québécois, so I took a membership card with her in her riding,” and added that she never supported the BQ’s sovereignty goals.

Rival political parties were quick to attack Turmel. Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, declared “this is yet another worrying example of the NDP not up to the job of governing Canada when its interim leader was a full member of the sovereignist Bloc Québécois just a few short months ago.”

In an article from the Globe and Mail, Bloc MP Louis Plamondon said he doesn’t buy Ms. Turmel’s assertion that she was always a federalist, going so far as to say that “when you back a party, you back its program.”

Although I think full public disclosure of a politician’s political affiliations past and present is vital, I don’t think this is an issue that will haunt the NDP in the long-term.

I know several card-carrying members of political parties who bought memberships in rival political parties to support family friends’ campaigns, or contributed donations towards their election bids. In my opinion, Turmel’s membership to the Bloc will have lasting negative effects.

Besides, I can’t even begin to count the number of politicians who have switched stripes in order to further their political ambitions. These issues all make the news, and quickly disappear.

The NDP’s major concern is, and will be until at least September 19 when the House of Commons reconvenes, whether or not Layton returns to lead the party. Turmel’s tenure as party leader is only temporary, and isn’t seen as a serious contender to lead the NDP if Layton doesn’t return.

Frankly, a caretaker leader’s prior political affiliations shouldn’t be – and in my opinion isn’t – a concern for the NDP.  New Democrats have much bigger things to worry about.

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About David Driedger

I'm a Creative Communications student at Red River College majoring in public relations. I have a BA with a double major in political studies and history from the University of Manitoba. I'm also the news editor for The Projector.
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