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Nycole Turmel was a member of the Bloc – so what?

Nycole Turmel was a member of the Bloc – so what?

If the stock market were not giving the national media new red meat to gorge on, they would still be crunching the bones of NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel. It hasn’t helped her cause that she appears to be hapless during news conferences.

The Turmel teapot tempest also draws attention to staff work in the leader’s office. One assumes that most of what she says is calibrated and parsed before she heads out for a prime-time appearance. If that is so, the script needs work.


There were two progressive federal political parties in Quebec – the NDP and the Bloc Québécois. Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe, or Jack and Gilles, were seen at many of the same political events in support of many of the same demands. That is until May 2, when the Bloc was decimated, leaving only four right-wing Bloc MPs in the House.

The NDP took almost all of the Bloc’s seats, riding into Ottawa on the popularity of Jack Layton. You’d think that the political class would be pleased that Quebecers went from the separatist Bloc to the federalist NDP in one fell swoop. But no.

Why are they all piling on Turmel? To call it hypocritical is an understatement.

Here are a few other politicians with much closer ties to the separatist movement than Nycole Turmel:

Conservative Senator Michel Rivard was a PQ member in Quebec’s National Assembly.

Conservative Transport Minister Denis Lebel was a member of the Bloc for eight years, from 1993 to 2001.

Conservative Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism Maxime Bernier was a staffer and a political aide to former Parti Québécois leader and Péquiste Finance Minister Bernard Landry.

Jean Lapierre co-founded the Bloc before becoming Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Quebec lieutenant.

No partisan attack is beneath neither the Conservatives nor, apparently and more disappointingly, what remains of the Bloc. A few weeks ago it was a leak from the Conservatives about Tom Mulcair and the Harper Conservatives. Now it is Nycole Turmel’s past membership in the Bloc, leaked by the Bloc, bitter about the election results.

The Bloc knew that this would embarrass their friends in the NDP and feed anti-Quebec sentiment across Canada.


So Sun News, The Globe and Mail and others keep on banging the drum of Nycole Turmel’s membership in the Bloc, and her friendship with Bloc MP Carole Lavallée. The same way they banged the drum of the "separatist and socialist coalition" in 2008.

The best way to drive Quebec right out of Canada is to keep on showing how obtuse the Canadian political class is about the fact that many Quebecers are ambivalent about Canada.

As are some outside of Quebec too, such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who signed onto the Alberta Agenda in 2001, along with five other right-wing politicians and academics from Alberta, calling for a firewall around Alberta to defend it from an aggressive and hostile federal government.

The Bloc and the Parti Québécois are legitimate political entities. A lot of Quebecers voted for them over and over again. Then they changed their minds. The same way Quebec voters went from massive support of the Liberals to the Bloc. Remember, almost half of Quebecers voted "oui" in the last referendum. But does that mean they’re all separatists? Not even close.

The people who voted Liberal, NDP and Bloc are just as entitled to be represented as those who voted for the Conservatives. Federalism is not a religion, with punishment meted out to miscreants.

From sea to sea to sea, Canadians have the right to differing opinions about their country and their role in it.

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  • by Doreen - August 11, 2011, 1:33 pm

    The whole thing is a “tempest in a teacup”.. and jumped on by the Liberals to discredit the NDP.
    I trust Jack Layton and if Nycole Turmel was his choice as interm leader, I will support her. (hopefully, until Jack Layton returns.)

    It is Stephen Harper and his sheep, that is leading Canada on the wrong path.using Canada to further him in “World Leader” quest. as the expense of poor Canadians.
    He keeps his “lead” by dividing the other parties.. and secrecy.
    The Liberals are done, they screwed up too many times.

    Support NDP, if you want a Canada of which we can be proud.

  • by ck - August 11, 2011, 3:09 pm

    Add to the list that Lucien Bouchard was a card carrying member of the Parti-Quebecois from 1971 and he chaired the “yes” campaign for the 1980 referendum before becoming Brian Mulroney’s environment minister.

    I’m sure we can dig up more from any of the three main parties if we put more effort into digging up more. Yes, western separatists too. Why should Quebec sovereigntists be considered more incendiary than western separatists/isolationists?

    Great column, Anne. I have to say this is the most interesting take I’ve read to date on this kerfuffle.

  • by Dr.Dawg - August 11, 2011, 5:48 pm

    Well said. Let’s hope this “story” fades into oblivion. I wish the NDP had been faster on their feet with the counter-attack, but your points are well-taken in any case.

  • by William Raillant-Clark - August 12, 2011, 4:06 pm

    Part of the problem is that very little is heard from “maybe” sovereigntists, “nationalists” (like Denis Lebel) or other Quebecers who are interested in federal reform generally-speaking. This means that hardliners/extremists like the RLQ and the SSJB have a quasi-monopoly on the discours. Furthermore, very little criticism is made of these groups. No wonder the rest of the country has a distorted view of the constitutional debate in Quebec.

  • by Matt Trowell - August 13, 2011, 11:55 am

    Bravo, Anne ! Excellent !

    Now we’re getting somewhere. Please, indulge me if you will…



    “Canada’s Last Prime Minister”

    The reason why, “You won’t recognize Canada when I [Stephen Harper] get through with it,” is precisely because Stephen Harper’s anti-social legislation will have succeeded in utterly annihilating and dividing it into an aimless, squabbling, leaderless pack of economically ‘independent,’ ‘sovereign’ states, some of whom, for the sake of survival, will advocate political union with the United States, while others, like Ontario, will sub-divide in two (Northern & Southern), and all of which will provoke “The Rest of Canada['s]” first English Civil War.

    Still, more ironic, when, at last, by default, Quebec attains independence, Nycole Turmel will be remembered as the last and only former National Party Leader whose policies would have kept the ‘country’ a coherent social entity, and who struggled, in vain, to keep the country from falling apart.

    Finally, at long last, the taunting taint of egg, “They want to break up the country,” will smear the face on which it rightly belongs; Stephen Harper’s – with the added, bite, “And they did.”

    Alas; all the Queen’s Horses & all the Queen’s Men…

  • by Q. Becker - August 13, 2011, 12:36 pm

    Nycole Turmel’s dalliance with the Bloc only enhances her image in Quebec. It reassures us that although she is federalist, she is not one of the fanatical type — the ones who clutch at their crosses at any mention of the S-word as if to fend off a witch’s incantation.

    Sovereignty has been given a holiday, yes, but it hasn’t disappeared from the Quebec landscape. It has merely submerged, so to speak, for a little swim within the collective unconscious, drifting dreamily while, up on the surface, Quebeckers embark on their new relationship with federalism. The federalism of the NDP represents a bright new hope for Quebec, but deeper yearnings for cultural security will continue to slumber underneath, hovering closely round their symbolic mother — the timeless dream of sovereignty.

    Nycole Turmel has proven to Quebeckers that she recognizes and remembers that mother. Hers is the type of respectful federalism that makes the NDP the only viable federal alternative for Quebec.

  • by Nelson Tremblay - August 13, 2011, 1:20 pm

    You know, it’s barely been 4 months since the election, and most of this time has been spent out of Parliament. A lot of noise for nuthin’.

    Irregardless, better to have had it out with the whole Québec sovereignty brouhaha than 3 years from now, IMHO.

    The NDP is a real threat to the status quo. Stephen Harper must be kicking himself for having passed a law for set electoral dates. There’s a lot of time to work out the kinks and misfires and for many of these new MPs to become veterans. The Tories are already beginning to suffer in the polls for their summer shenanigans in Central and South America.

  • by Murray - August 13, 2011, 5:17 pm

    But what about Nycole Turmel’s continuing membership in a communist party ?


    whose most prominent member appears to be a liar


  • by MT - August 16, 2011, 2:47 pm

    Like I said, a few days ago (August 13, see above), before he announced it… “…all the Queen’s Horses, and all the Queen’s Men…”

    Peter MacKay hails ‘royal’ renaming of military


    “At an event in Halifax, MacKay announced the Maritime Command and Air Command will again be known as the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force — names that haven’t been used in more than four decades.”

  • by Kirsten - August 18, 2011, 2:07 pm

    It has been argued that Nycole, by being a member of the Bloq and the NDP at the same time, she was in violation of our (NDP) constitution that holds that you cannot be a member of the NDP and another Party at the same time because the Federal and Provincial arms are the same organization in all of the Provinces except Quebec. If Nycole was a member of the Provincial NDP in Quebec but not the Federal NDP then she has broken no rules as those two entities are entirely separate in Quebec. I am sure that Nycole will do a great job and that Libby and Thomas will assist where they must.

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