Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Nycole Turmel, meet Jean Lapierre

Gosh, the Twitterverse is atweet today with spin and counter-spin on Daniel Leblanc's article in the Globe and Mail about interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel's very recent membership in the Bloc Quebecois. Some partisans are crying foul and alleging that this is a smear campaign. Other commentators are observing that it's commonplace to switch political allegiances.

Here are my two cents: Welcome to the big leagues Dippers! Changing political allegiances is pretty common in Canadian politics. Jean Lapierre did it. Rene Levesque did it. Bob Rae did it. Belinda Stronach did it. Scott Brison did it. Lucien Bouchard did it (a bunch of times, in fact). Heck, I've been a card carrying member of different parties in my lifetime (none at the moment though). Over one's lifespan, your political ideals may shift, and so too might your party affiliations. But if you're going to run for political office, you'll need to be prepared to be clear about your political past, and why you've changed your beliefs.

What appears to be igniting the firestorm in this case is the apparent absence of changed political beliefs on the part of Turmel, at least insofar as the letter obtained by Leblanc would indicate (which is not necessarilly the full extent of her reasoning). And let's get real, kids, separatism/sovereigntism is a big deal in Canadian politics. It's legitimate for Canadians to want to know where their politicians stand on this issue. And if that makes the current NDP, with its Quebec-heavy caucus, uncomfortable, that's too bad. Ever since May, the party appears to have been trying to dance around the éléphant in the room, and at some point, that's going to become impossible. The party known for heralding strong national social programs in English-speaking Canada is going to have to publicly reconcile this stance with its asymmetric-federalism stance in Quebec.

This might well be a good opportunity to start that public conversation and provide some clarity. Because without Jack Layton's personal popularity to hold the party together, things might become very tense, very quickly. A clear public statement from Turmel would be an excellent start.

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At 1:31 p.m., Blogger Brian Busby said...

The NDP would do well in heeding your advice. Here's hoping they do so.

I'd like to add Stephen Harper to the list of those who've changed political allegiances, if only because it appears that he holds something of a record amongst our PMs. After all, here we have a former Young Liberal, an ex-Progressive Conservative and a one-time Reform MP, who went on to become leader of not one but two other federal parties.


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