NDP waver over supporting new leader

Revelations that interim national NDP leader Nycole Turmel was a closet Quebec separatist until last January have had BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix flapping around like a pin-pricked party balloon.

Revelations that interim national NDP leader Nycole Turmel was a closet Quebec separatist until last January have had BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix flapping around like a pin-pricked party balloon.

When we first learned that the Quebec MP was a member of the Bloc Quebecois at the same time she was an NDP executive officer Dix said: “I am confident she enjoys the support of New Democrats here in B.C. and across Canada as she takes on this significant challenge. I know Nycole will bring all her experience and commitment to the job, and will fight, as she always has, for working families everywhere.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when we learned that Turmel had also been a member of Quebec Solidaire, a sovereignist collection of Communists, Marxists and Trotskyites. That membership was dropped a week ago.

Now Dix was in full retreat. “Jack Layton is the leader of the federal party and I supported him from the beginning,” he told CKNW radio. “The federal caucus elected Ms. Turmel as their interim leader.”

Clearly, someone in the party with more brains than God gave a goose took Dix aside and explained why the unmasking of Turmel actually matters to the fate of the NDP across Canada and in B.C.

First, federal and provincial NDPers are joined at the hip constitutionally. Second, they are quite humourless about divided loyalties. In fact, their federal constitution expressly forbids belonging to other political parties. As crimes go, it’s right up there with Roman Catholic priests getting married.

Third, while the revelations hardly meet the standards of a full blown scandal — just another day in Quebec — Turmel’s divided loyalties have managed to refocus national political attention on the implications of the NDP’s federal election “breakthrough” to official opposition status.

During Layton’s brave election campaign his iconic cane, his grit and his personal level of engagement inspired many thousands of Canadians. Unfortunately the result of his heady campaign was the collapse of his dream to lead a truly national party. The result was an official opposition party beholding to Quebec by virtue of its 59-seat grip on the 103-seat opposition.

By violating the spirit of her party’s rules and by revealing herself as a Bloc bedfellow and a Solidaire member, Turmel has given Canadians a reason to write the NDP off as a diminished captive for whacky Quebec politics.

That sad reality rubs off on B.C. New Democrats who need to be taken seriously if they hope to form the next government.

And, that is why Dix shut up and dispatched his election readiness guru, Brian Topp, to re-spin the Turmel fiasco as a figment of Liberal and Conservative fear.

Topp’s thesis is that the Grits and Tories wanted the Bloc in control of Quebec, not the NDP.

“For all practical purposes, a strong Bloc removes French-speaking Quebec from the Canadian political calculus. Toronto and Calgary-based parties can then focus on competing in English Canada without any inconvenient need to compete in, think about, or build in Quebec,” the co-chair of Dix’s election planning committee wrote in the Globe & Mail.

“The recruitment of an articulate, effective, high-profile female Francophone Quebec labour leader to the cause of Canada [should] be widely celebrated,” he added.

Good try Topp — keep drinking the Orange Crush. M

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