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New Democrat Interim Leader, Nycole Turmel, at the Royal Newfoundland Regatta on Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John's. The Regatta, held on the first Wednesday in August, is the oldest annual sporting event in North America. (Paul Daly/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
New Democrat Interim Leader, Nycole Turmel, at the Royal Newfoundland Regatta on Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John's. The Regatta, held on the first Wednesday in August, is the oldest annual sporting event in North America. (Paul Daly/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe Editorial

The NDP needs to stop playing the sovereignty card Add to ...

The New Democratic Party is upset about the “feigned righteous indignation” surrounding the revelation of Nycole Turmel’s sovereigntist ties. In response, they’ve surfaced Transport Minister Denis Lebel’s own previous membership in the Bloc, as if to say “everyone was doing it.” They should spend more time being indignant about sovereignty itself.

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In one respect, the experiences of Mr. Lebel and Ms. Turmel are similar – both joined the Bloc out of bonds of friendship or connection to the community, not out of any fervent ideological belief in sovereignty. That’s how many people get involved in party politics, and that’s a good thing.

But otherwise, their situations diverge. Mr. Lebel, who joined the Bloc in 1993, dropped his Bloc membership 10 years ago. When he ran for the Conservatives in a 2007 by-election, he was clear that he while he was a Quebec nationalist, he had cast his lot for a united Canada.

Ms. Turmel, by contrast, appeared to be an activist for the NDP while simultaneously holding a Bloc membership card and membership in the sovereigntist provincial party Québec Solidaire. She swore off her affiliation with the Bloc only this year, and then, only for “personal reasons” – and never in a public forum, until The Globe and Mail revealed her affiliation. And she now leads the government-in-waiting.

Canadians want, and need, former sovereigntists to join the ranks of federalist parties. But they also want the leadership of federalist parties to be unequivocally federalist. As former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion pointed out in Le Devoir, Quebeckers, especially, deserve clarity on this question. It’s a clarity that the NDP needs to embrace from top to bottom if it is to mature into the role of Official Opposition.

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