Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Misreading Your Opposition

 Storm clouds continue to gather around Nycole Turmel. She is not the first federalist politician who has flirted with Quebec nationalism. John English has documented Pierre Trudeau's early affinity for the narcissistic currents of Quebec politics; and many people forget that the former mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, first entered public life as a member of the Bloc Nationale -- an earlier incarnation of the Bloc Quebecois.

Anyone who knows  anything about Quebec politics should not be surprised by any of these revelations. The political significance of St. Jean Baptiste Day is part of Quebecers' DNA. So Ms. Turmel's former political affiliations are not unusual.

Still, they place her and her party in a bind -- simply because most of English Canada will not understand what is a fact of life in Quebec.  Robert Silver, in the Globe and Mail, echoes what will haunt Turmel:

This should be devastating news for the NDP. It casts a clear light on the dangerous game they’ve been playing in Quebec from the Sherbrooke Declaration on down the line.

Ms. Turmel's resignation from the Bloc, for "personal reasons," is even more troubling. Turmel says she joined the Bloc to support a friend, Carole Lavellee, the member for St. Bruno-St. Hubert. Political convictions should go much deeper than friendship.

But, most of all, these recent revelations make Turmel and her party fodder for the Conservative attack machine. It should be clear after five years that the prime minister is a nasty piece of work. In Bob Rae's memorable phrase, he "throws for the head." Mr. Harper and his minions will wrap themselves in the flag and attack Turmel as they attacked Stephane Dion and Micheal Ignatieff. Civility and decency are not part of their DNA.

Barack Obama's fatal flaw is that he misread his opposition. One hopes the NDP has not done the same.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Why is this coming up now. The first day I heard of her being considered for the temporary leadership I looked her up on the Internet and learned of her previous affiliations. Any cub reporter could have done what I did. While I thought it a strange and problematic choice I assumed the leadership of the party knew of this and dismissed it. When the caucus met was the time for ordinary members to question it. No one seemed to, either out of ignorance (shame on them) or the party leadership explained it to everyone's satisfaction.
It would have been better it Jack Layton had mentioned this when he selected her and first spoke public about her. This would have taken the initiative away from the "johnny come lately" reporters who now thing they are reporting a great exposé.

The best example of a party getting into bed with the separatists was Brian Mulroney. They turned on him, in the end. The Conservatives have no cause to be self righteous about this appearance of a potential problem for the NDP when Mulroney's party has a real problem.

Owen Gray said...

It's not unusual to find Quebec politicians who have begun their careers on the nationalist side of the ledger, Philip -- just as it's not unusual in English Canada to find politicians who began their careers by sitting on a school board.

But Layton could have seen this coming. With other things to worry about, perhaps it was not on his radar.