Nycole Turmel and the sovereignists

This post last updated at 5:30pm.

The Globe and Mail discovers that Nycole Turmel was a member of the Bloc Quebecois.

According to information obtained by The Globe and Mail, the 68-year-old became a member of the Bloc Québécois in December, 2006, the year she retired as president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. She sent back her membership card to the Bloc on Jan. 19 of this year in a signed letter to then-Bloc MP Carole Lavallée. “Enclosed is my Bloc Québécois membership card, which I wish to cancel. I wish to state that my request has nothing to do with the party’s policies, I am doing this for personal reasons,” Ms. Turmel wrote. She then wished “good luck” to Ms. Lavallée, who went on to be defeated by an NDP candidate in the May 2 general election. In addition to her membership in the Bloc, Ms. Turmel made four donations totalling $235 to the party between 2006 and 2011, according to party records. The donations, which ranged from $35 to $100, were not made public because they are under the $200 threshold for disclosure by political parties.

The NDP is playing down the revelation, but it is being reported—and the NDP now confirms—that Ms. Turmel remains a member of Quebec Solidaire. Rob Silver has eight questions for the New Democrats.

12:41pm… The Globe reports that Conservative MPs and supporters were briefed on Ms. Turmel’s ties to separatists in a memo distributed late last week. The Star notes that some of these issues were raised in April during the election campaign.

Proulx brought up that endorsement, as well as her support during the 2007 Quebec election for Bill Clennett, the local candidate for Québec Solidaire, a provincial party with separatist leanings during an all-candidates meeting in April. Proulx questioned her allegiances and Turmel was forced to go on the defensive when reporters pressed her about it as Layton visited her riding during the campaign. “I already said I was not a separatist. I am federalist,” Turmel said at the time. “I believe in social values. I work with everybody, especially those who were onside with the social values. I will repeat again I am a federalist with social values.”

12:49pm… Ms. Turmel has told Radio Canada that Jack Layton was aware of her previous ties to the Bloc Quebecois.

1:04pm… Here, for those of you who understand French, is video of Ms. Turmel with Quebec Solidaire candidate Bill Clennett. You might recognize Mr. Clennett as the man Jean Chretien throttled in 1996.

2:12pm… Ms. Turmel talks to the CBC.

“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,” Turmel said in an interview with CBC News … Turmel told CBC News she has never voted for the Bloc Québécois and that if Lavallée had been a Conservative, she would not have taken out a membership. The interim leader said she worked with the Bloc Québécois, as well as the NDP, in her job as leader of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, a position she held until 2006. She said there are Bloc Québécois policies she agrees with, but not the one on national unity, and she made that clear to Lavallée when she joined the party. ”I really like the support they gave to the workers, as the NDP did,” she said. “I cannot endorse the sovereignty, I’m working for the Canadians, all together, for families.”

2:47pm… Ms. Turmel saysGilles Duceppe asked her to run for the Bloc.

“He wanted me to run for them and I said ‘No, I cannot run, because some politics I would agree, but really the sovereignty side, I do not want this,” the NDP interim leader said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that she had also been approached by the Liberals. “I had a vision for Canada. I had a vision for families and I was really active in the NDP where I was not with the other parties, so to me it was clear that I wanted to do something for my riding, but I wanted to do something on behalf of Canadian families in general,” said Turmel, the NDP MP for Hull-Aylmer who became interim leader last Thursday.

3:44pm… Also in the Star’s interview, Turmel says she voted “no” in the 1980 and 1995 referendums.

4:40pm… The NDP press office has sent out a note entitled “Glass Houses.” Here it is in full.

Today, members from the Conservative Party and the Bloc Quebecois feigned righteous indignation that NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel supported candidates from both the BQ and Quebec Solidaire. Conservative spokesman Dimitri Soudas called the NDP “not up to the job of governing Canada” and Louis Plamondon, the interim leader of the Bloc Quebecois said “when you back a party, you back its program.” Knowing that Plamondon, himself, was a Conservative Member of Parliament for the better part of a decade, that Conservative Minister Denis Lebel was an active member of the Bloc Quebecois and that Maxime Bernier was a political aide to former Premier Bernard Landry who made all employees declare their loyalty to an independent Quebec, we wonder why politicians who live in glass houses are throwing stones. The NDP campaigned and won Official Opposition status on the policy and principle of working with Canadians of all political parties to make Parliament work for all Canadians—and that’s what we’ll continue to do. 

5:30pm… And here now are the Liberal talking points.

  • Given recent revelations, Ms. Turmel and the NDP have serious questions to answer about her personal views as well as the NDP caucus’ position on Quebec sovereignty and the future of our country.
  • Ms. Turmel did not tell the voters of Hull Aylmer that she had been a member of the Bloc Quebecois for many years and still supported its policies, and even more surprising, she did not tell Canadians more widely when she was named Interim Leader of the NDP by that party’s Federal Council. Recent reports also suggest that she has existing links to Québec Solidaire,  a  provincial political party closely associated with the separatist cause.
  • This is understandably raising questions for many Canadians, including New Democrats, and as a leader of a federal party, Ms. Turmel has a responsibility to be clear with Canadians.
  • We look forward to clarity from Ms. Turmel and the NDP.

Nycole Turmel and the sovereignists

  1. Well considering the Bloc Quebecois itself has been the official opposition in this country I fail to see why this would shock anybody.

    In fact the whole thing is silly.

    • Agreed, however for Mme Turmel to state early in 2011 that her request for cancellation of her BQ membership “has nothing to do with the party’s policies”, and then last week that she is a federalist with a social vision raises a very interesting question :  what happened between January and today to make you change your mind about the need for Quebec to leave the Canadian federation? Or maybe she is just the perfect interim leader for the NDP and will hold two very conflicting views at once.  

      • a)  As she says herself she’s a federalist with social values

        b) She’s only an interim leader anyway until Layton returns….Cons just don’t know how to turn off ‘attack mode’.

        c) Rae was once an NDP, and Harper was once a Liberal….so?

        • It would be more like Lapierre who was once a federalist, then a separatist, and again a federalist, the last incarnation because he wanted to ‘help’ his friend Paul Martin.  It’s not a matter of changing party, it’s a matter of changing you view about Quebec being a separate country from Canada or not.  You can be a federalist and be liberal, federalist and conservative, federalist and socialist, etc…  but you can’t be a federalist and a separatist at once.  At least I don’t think so!

          • LOL sure you can.

          • So one can think that it’s best for Quebec to remain a state of the Canadian federation and and the same time that it’s best for Quebec to leave the Canadian federation ?  I don’t think so!  LOL 

            I think you can give money to the campaign of a friend who runs for office even if you don’t support his party, but to hold a membership card and renew it for five years is something different.

          • @LoraineLamontagne:disqus 

            Well, I’m only a federalist because there’s no separatist party in Ontario. LOL

          • you can’t be a federalist and a separatist at once

            No, but I think you can be a federalist and a member of the Bloc Quebecois at once.  People outside of Quebec don’t seem to understand how much federalist support the Bloc gets.  With no realistic threat of separation actually occurring, plenty of federalist voters support the Bloc on the basis of the aggregate of their stances on other issues, and some (though I grant you, not most) might extend that to taking out membership in the party (just like you might have a pro-life member of the NDP, for example).

            To my mind it’s unusual, but not shocking.  Not even all that surprising really.

          • Really?  What percentage of card-carrying members of the Bloc Quebecois are secretly federalists, in your opinion?

          • Very low CR, but probably higher than most people in the ROC would think.  I’d say a fairly high number of federalists in Quebec VOTE for the Bloc, and I’m not sure that the price of a membership is so high, nor the implications considered so dire, that some of those folks don’t also throw the party some money in addition to their vote, because A) they see the actual threat of separation in 2011 as being close to nonexistent and B) They agree more with the Bloc on ever other issue than they do any other party.

          • LKO, if I understand where you’re going with this, I think there’s an important distinction to be made, though, between a federalist voting for the BQ versus a federalist joining the BQ.  People casually vote for all kinds of crazy reasons.  But actually joining a political party (never mind running as a candidate) is a very different matter and represents a far greater degree of committment (and, presumably, deliberation).

          • I can’t really disagree with any of that Orson, though I can see that joining a party might not be seen by some as much more than donating to a party, and that one might do so if one had a good friend in the party, for example.

            As I’ve read it, Turmel was a member of the NDP the whole time she was a member of the BQ (or for a lot of it anyway, “for two decades” was how I saw her status as an NDP member described) so anyone who’s simultaneously a member of two parties might view the significance of party membership per se differently than you or I.

          • I didn’t know about the simultaneous membership in two federal political parties.  Weird.  Kinda like doubling down at blackjack?

          • True, but then Ms Turmel wrote in her resignation of resignation as a member of the Bloc  “my request has nothing to do with the party’s policies”.  Asking the leader of the opposition to clarify a position is not that unusual.  You have to remember that the Bloc in addition to being separatists always felt it was mandated to represent the interest of Quebecers in Ottawa.  To her credit, Madame Turmel has this morning (in my G&M) clarified that she will meet Canadians coast-to-coast-to-coast as she intends to represent their interests.  This needed to be said.  

        • But neither Rae or Harper said they joined those parties only because of a friendship.  Really, how naive is Turmel? Or is she lying?  I can’t even imagine requesting a political party membership because of a friendship (I have both given money and signed nomination papers for friendship, but neither requires membership) and while I do take politics seriously, I don’t take it as seriously as I would expect an MP, never mind interim party leader of the Official Opposition, to take it.  And then her “reason” for cancelling?  And her Quebec Solidaire ongoing membership?  

          The more she opens her mouth, I’m afraid the less I am inclined to believe anything she says.  I wish she had said something that made sense and respected the importance of politics, rather than making it seem like a facebook like click, but she didn’t and that is very disappointing.

          • Cons used to work for the Bloc….people move about from party to party….memberships aren’t written in stone after all.

            And in any case she’s only interim

          • It is not moving around from parties, it is what she has been saying about that.  Just find her various statements taken together erode confidence in her.  

            Agreed, she is only interim.  Perhaps there is a reason not to choose more obvious potential leaders for interim.  But I think even excluding those, there should be someone in the NDP who either can speak more genuinely (preferred) or has more political smarts to know what to say the first time.  

          • @usedtobecatherine:disqus 

            Much ado about nothing….or tempest in a really tiny teapot.

            This is only a story because it’s the summer silly season when  journos are hot, cranky and lazy.

          • You may be right – that is a statement about the general voting public and I wouldn’t know.  I do know that I take an interest in politics and over the course of a few days, Turmel has managed to change my impression of her quite negatively, not because of the journos, but because of her own words.  Just me, though, and no statement on the general public. 

    • Not so silly. But she is a little old lady who once had a dream, but now has seen the light and realised she had best get a paying job and this was quite a good offer and life must go on, and so on. 

      • a) she’s not a ‘little old lady’

        b) she has an excellent pension already

        c) Cons are simply wasting time

  2. The only staunchly federalist part of our governance resides in an English castle.

    • That’s very true…and she has photogenic grand-kids.

  3. Our Liberal msm was too busy doing psychological profiles on conservatives to ask any questions of Liberal or NDP candidates or party. It is astonishing how little our msm asks our pols or elite – why does Canada have msm if all they do is write about idjit conservatives even tho OLO is now lead by a separatist. 

    Maybe if we didn’t have such an overwhelming liberal or left wing msm, our journos would ask proper questions of all our pols instead of writing ‘why are conservatives stupid’ articles, or about how clever and awesome Liberals are, which is about all msm does nowadays.

    Also, do any our political leaders like, or want to live in, Canada any more? Maybe if our political parties starting to actually like Canada they would do better and people would vote more often.

    • Agreed.  After all we have a prime minister who thinks this country is a second rate failed experiment.  I am ready for a change, but you and I better get used to this for the next four years.

    • Actually,  the msm was so busy fussing about one NDP candidate going to Vegas, they missed some of the interesting and important things being played out.

  4. Probably a non-story, except insofar as it discourages staunchly federalist Liberals from working with or jumping to the NDP.

    And let’s face it, there’ll be no merger discussions till after 2015 anyway.

  5. So why exactly is it at all surprising that a left wing, politically active Quebecoise used to be a member of the only left wing federal party with a legitimate shot at winning seats in Quebec at that time?

    • Because some people think a ‘party member’ has to believe totally in every single thing in a party platform…..and because it’s summertime and both Con staffers and journos are bored.

  6. Did the NDP really think that Ms. Turmel’s Bloc history wouldn’t come to light?  Once again, I’m left with serious questions about the competence of those running Canada’s Official Opposition.  I’m also surprised that journalists didn’t figure out this story last week.

    • I’m more surprised by listening to Turmel’s convoluted and not believable statements on this issue.  Maybe the point is they really can’t think of anything credible to say, but there has to be something better than what Turmel is saying.  She oscillates between arrogance (party membership of the interim leader of the Official Opposition is “irrelevant”) to silly (join political parties as part of friendship) to inconsistent (statements on her different memberships). 

       When her appointment was announced, I was optimistic.  When this issue was first raised, I wondered a bit and wanted to hear what she had to say.  Now that I’ve heard from her, I don’t think she can be trusted. 

  7. Quebec Solidaire is definitely a party that wishes to build  ”un Québec libre, souverain, juste et égalitaire!”  So Madame Turmel is a separatist.

    But she is also, she claims, a federalist with a social vision. All at once.

    We’ve had the Bloc as the official opposition and I am 100% fine with having separatists as members of parliament if voters wish to elect them.  The NDP has fielded candidates in Quebec for decades.  I know many federalists who have voted for them because of their socialist agenda.  But to say that you choose to be a separatist and a federalist at the same time is a bit much.  Maybe Madame Turmel is confused. 

    As for Emily, who claims she would be a separtist if a separatist party existed in our province, I am fine with that too. But if Ontario had federalist and separatist parties, you would have to chose between one or the other.  That’s what Madame Turmel has to explain. Certainly Monsieur Dion had to explain that as a student he campaigned for the PQ. That 25 years later he had different opinions is acceptable to me.  But Madame Turmel claims to be, by choice, a separatist and a federalist at the same time.  I guess it’s me who’s dumb cause I don’t get this.

    • LOL computers are binary, people aren’t. 

      • Well in that case if we have another referendum on secession I guess with minds likes yours in the commons it would be decided that this is a clear question:

        Do you want Quebec to separate from Canada and renounce your Canadian citizenship and do you want Quebec to stay in Canada and remain a Canadian citizen – yes or no?

        You’re right – I’m too straight forward.  And I think even a computer can make a difference between delete and save.

        • No, you are binary. 

          Either/or….black/white

          The world isn’t like that.

          • I am a Canadian who if asked to vote, yes or no, to remain a Canadian or to cease to be a Canadian would understand that I am not be given an opportunity to become a gray kangaroo.

            Fine – then I’ll accept that OriginalEmily1 thinks of herself as a socialist communist who is a capitalist and marxist leninist, with a right-wing conservative liberal philosophy.

          • LOL now you’re just being stupid.

            My only question is are you aware of that?

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus  
            Is there any commenter here who you haven’t tried to pick a fight with?

            A little politeness goes a long way.  You should try it one of these days.

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            Perhaps if you stuck to the topic and stopped trying to attack me, you’d get somewhere.

  8. Yet another example of elite types not understanding actual voters. Yes, in Ottawa circles, the Bloc is seen as a palatable political entity. Also in Quebec, of course. But not in the rest of the country. 

    • This goes the other way in Quebec though.  People outside of Quebec don’t understand how much support the Bloc gets from federalists, or that a federalist might join the Bloc because A) they see the threat of separation actually happening in the 21st century as tiny to nonexistent and B) they agree with the Bloc on almost ever issue other than separation.

      To many folks outside of Quebec the Bloc is a separatist party that delusionally wants to participate in federal politics.  To many folks inside Quebec the Bloc is a Quebecois party that delusionally wants to hold on to the rhetorical notion that separation is still achievable, even if it’s never realistically going to happen.

  9. Who cares  there BOTH COMMIES…………….

    • Kindly use a dictionary

      • Kindly use punctuation and coherent grammar, dear.

        • Out of the scotch bottle are you?

      • I assumed Joe was being ironic.

        • Entirely possible….however we have several people on here who label at random without having any idea what the words mean. LOL

  10. Isn’t it amazing how fast and totally the Ottawa media can go into action when requested by the PMO?
    Eulogizing Jack one moment, then kicking him as hard as you can when he’s on the floor.

    • This summer is all about rounding up war criminals and exposing traitors in the NDP.  Bob Rae can relax.

    • I don’t see this as kicking Layton when he’s on the floor at all.  It’s reporting on a matter of considerable public interest, to wit, whether a federal party leader (Ms. Turmel) and leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is or is not a separatist.  I think if you ask most people whether that’s something relevant and something that ought to be known, they’d say yes.

      And furthermore, I wish Mr. Layton all the best in his fight against cancer.  But the fact that he’s got cancer should not, IMO, mean that the NDP should suddenly be given the kid-gloves treatment.

      • So separatists or former separatists  can not by definition be brought in to the federalist fold. Quite a message for Quebec.

        • Whether this particular separatist has actually been “brought into the federalist fold” is precisely the issue at hand.  Arguably she’s just a sham federalist, or a fair-weather federalist at best.  As has been indicated in some of the comments above, some of Ms. Turmel’s statements in the last couple of days are contradictory, don’t seem credible or consistent, etc.  It’s not like her statements have been firm, convincing and unequivocal.  I would love it if this and all other separatists were “brought into the federalist fold.”  The thing is, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that that’s not what’s really happened here.  It’s just as plausible that this separatist is actually still a separatist, but is pretending to not be one for reasons of immediate political expediency, not to mention immediate job security.

  11. Imagine if there was a NDP/LPC coalition gov’t right now? Wow!

    • Please, you’re scaring the children! 

  12. Hmmm … are you now or have you ever been ..

    Brought to you by the same intrepid reporter who last week gratuitously described
    the lady as a “big labour boss”. Pathetic.

    • I don’t get it.  She was president of PSAC.  Doesn’t that make you a “big labour boss”?

      • Only if you get off on a Pavlovian response to a loaded phrase.

        Actually what it made her was a holder of an elected office serving an
        elected board of directors. Kinda like a CEO … well, except for the
        elected part.
        Which kinda tickles my elbow because the signature G&M article is
        a love letter to the CEO-of-the-week.

        • If that turn of phrase is your outrage of the week, that’s pretty small beer.

          “Big labour” is often used to describe large labour unions.  PSAC is one of the largest unions in the country.  By most people’s ordinary reckoning, the President of a union is a “boss”.

          You must really have a problem with Springsteen’s nickname too then.

          • Hah. To me .. and the NYT .. that’s Mr. Springsteen. And it’s true
            that was only one of many outrages that week. Most of which you’d
            probably find to be small beer. So be it.

  13. When Freud observed, wrote about, narcissism of small differences, this is what he was talking about. All three major parties don’t care about Canada, only that they win elections, so all three parties have connections with separatists. 

    We have socialist party, fascist party and conservative party but no liberal party. There are no major differences between parties now – all agree that Canadians are too stupid, feckless and incapable of taking care of their own affairs and that we need government to hold our hands though out our entire lives. 

    I thought it was hysterical today when some people were giving Libs hard time for not being federalist enough before last election. Would have been difficult to get people to buy meme that Libs are federalist while having Iggy as leader – man spent entire adult life abroad – and Lib leader before that tried to form coalition gov’t with separatists and Lib leader before put separatists in Cabinet.

    • Could you run your drug-fuelled anarchy rally elsewhere please?

  14. Whether OriginalEmily1 likes it or not, the right to vote is afforded to Canadians, whether they are deemed stupid or not by some elitists.  Stupid people like me vote.  And for having voted in a Quebec referendum on sovereignty I can assure you that there are no gray areas:  there is a box for yes, and a box for no. It’s as binary and stupid as that.  I hear Madame Turmel has been trying to resign as a member of Quebec Solidaire and today my G&M headlines her declaration that she is a federalist.  That clarification was needed.  That’s the point.  Ms. Turmel realizes that as the interim leader of the official opposition she can’t been seen as both a federalist and a separatist.  Or shall Ms. Turmel now be deemed binary, hence stupid,  because she has taken a clear position?

    • Turmel does seem to be shifting under pressure, but one might wonder if she has taken a clear position for political reasons.  She might feel she is mostly a federalist, but she would support separating under certain conditions.  It doesn’t have to be completely black and white, although many (perhaps most) people do take an unambiguous position on this issue.  Of course, if Turmel is gray on federalism, we will never hear it from her while she is interim leader of the NDP.  I think she is saying what she feels she has to say.  Had she come out with a coherent, sensible statement from the start, I might have felt she was saying what was true.

  15. It’s summer, news stories are few and far between, so we get re-runs. It seems the big establishment media were rummaging through past issues of Le Droit, the local French newspaper, and discovered in an April issue (GASP) that Mme Turmel had indeed been involved with evil traitors in the past, and that this factoid had indeed been brought up in public by the Liberal incumbent she defeated over the course of the election campaign. Now this didn’t seem to overly faze the good voters of Hull-Aylmer, who excercised their franchise and duly elected her to take her seat in Parliament.

    But it does beg the question of the good patriots West of the Ottawa River: can a separatist ever be won over to the cause of Canada, or is the separatist stain on one’s reputation so resilient it can never be removed? Wouldn’t it be better, in the long run, for national unity if more former separatists came back to the fold of Canada, thus decreasing support for the separatist option? And if so, isn’t it counterproductive to loudly broadcast the message that if you are a separatist thinking of changing your mind, not only would you be vilified by those in your former camp who will label you a traitor to your people, but also that your new federalist “friends” eagerly await you with the tar and feathers?  

    • I don’t think there is any problem with people moving from separatist to federalist, but if they become the spokesperson for the Official Opposition, before speaking to the media, they should try to craft a coherent story that makes sense and not make up stupid excuses, like I did it for a friend, I had a secret to keep, it is irrelevant, I didn’t know the rules, they knew I didn’t support their main purpose, blah, blah, blah.  Having said that, I get the impression that Turmel is now crafting a more coherent story, but not before undermining confidence in her leadership.

    • It is not a stain on one’s reputation or treason, imo, as it is  legal to have opinions including that a state of a federation could leave the federation and to pursue that goal.  This is recognized in Canadian law (Clarity Act). But Madame Turmel by signing a letter only six months ago stating that her request for resignation from the Bloc had nothing to do with the party’s policies has created confusion.

      For your information, from the Bloc’s website, this is their main policy and what differentiates them from other federal parties:   Dans tous les dossiers qu’il défend à Ottawa, le Bloc Québécois, contrairement à tous les autres partis fédéraux, n’a qu’un seul critère fondamental : les intérêts du Québec. (My translation: in all matters to be defended in Ottawa, the Bloc Quebecois, unlike all other federal parties, has only one fundamental criterion : the interests of Quebec.)

      The NPD has members of parliament representing ridings in provinces other than Quebec.  Surely, these citizens have the right to know that the interim leader of the party their member of parliament adheres to is led by a person who will endeavour to represent their interests.  
       

      • Perhaps we should round up all current and former Bloc Quebecois members and take them to work camps somewhere in northern Quebec for rehabilitation. 

        • I don’t think so but if they were to lead the Conservative Party of Canada or the Liberal Party of Canada and still claim in writing to adhere to the Bloc positions I think it would be perfectly within the bounds of a reasonnable democratic discourse to ask them to clarify their positions.

        • Actually, come to think of it, it seems to me to be more a case of the Bloc Quebecois wanting to take defecting members to work camps. 

          How do you think the content of a private letter to the party became known to Daniel Leblanc?

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