August 10, 2011
The latest polls show that 46 per cent of respondents don’t consider it a major issue that NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel was once a member of the Bloc Québécois. Further, 41 per cent said they weren’t even aware of the fact.
Talk about a tempest in a teapot.
Adding to the tawdry nature of the story is the spin the politicians have been putting on it. According to the Tories, anyone who has been a member of the Bloc is forever tainted and can never be trusted to hold a position of authority in a federalist party.
“I think it’s very disappointing,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. “I don’t know that I have a lot to say but I do think Canadians will find this disappointing. I think Canadians expect that any political party that wants to govern the country be unequivocally committed to this country. I think that’s the minimum Canadians expect.”
However, when one of their own — cabinet minister Denis Lebel — was exposed as a former Bloc member, it was a different story. Apparently he would have to take over from Stephen Harper as leader before it became a problem.
And so the political ping pong game went on.
About the only person to make a legitimate point was former Quebec Premier Bernard Landry, who noted that flitting between political parties shows a lack of conviction and sets a bad example for young people thinking of getting into politics.
“It’s rare that I agree with English Canada, but I think they’ve got a point here. There is a serious civic problem here. Participation in politics is not a joke, it’s not a gag. There are (party) activists who devote a large chunk of their lives as citizens in defense of their convictions.”
Indeed, many politicians already have reputations for being opportunists, and that may be why the Turmel affair has failed to capture the public’s imagination. It’s become commonplace.
Still, there is an upside to all this. The fact that Turmel and Lebel have switched sides — from separatist to federalist — is a bit of good news for Canadian unity. Instead of vilifying them, we should be praising them for seeing the light.
If Turmel and Lebel turn out to have successful careers as federal politicians, it will encourage other Quebecers to follow the same path. And the fact that it isn’t the path that Landry would like them to choose makes it all the better.