You can call her Marilyn Churley-NDP now, as the feisty deputy leader of Ontario's New Democratic Party is changing her name to get around restrictions imposed on the party's seven members of the legislature.
"When I stand up in the House on a vote, the clerk will have to say, 'Ms. Churley-NDP,' " she announced yesterday.
The New Democrats fell one MPP short of electing the minimum of eight members needed to automatically receive official party status in the legislature after the votes were counted Oct. 2.
Premier Dalton McGuinty declared that rules are rules and that they wouldn't be changed to accommodate the seven New Democrats, even though more than 500,000 voters supported the party.
"There was a rule in place [on party status] That rule has been changed once already. We'll respect that rule," Mr. McGuinty decreed Oct. 2.
And because they don't have party status, officials who run the legislature have told the short-handed seven that they cannot use the name New Democratic Party or the initials NDP in communications paid for by the legislature.
This includes letterhead, regular mailings by MPPs and even their Web sites, Ms. Churley told reporters yesterday.
In Kitchener, Mr. McGuinty said he has no problem with the NDP using the party's name and suggested the problem was the interpretation of the rules by the clerk's office.
Earlier this week, the clerk's office informed the NDP that its members would be officially considered independents and could not use the party's name in the legislature.
To counter the rulings, Ms. Churley formally declared yesterday she was changing her name and applied to have the change registered by Ontario's Registrar-General.
"It costs $137 to change your name. Here is my cheque. . . . These are all the documents that I need. So as of today I can ask everybody to refer to me as 'Marilyn Churley-NDP.' "
She explained, "I'm doing this because the clerk's office, due to the tone set by Dalton McGuinty that we're not a caucus any more, [said]we're not allowed to use NDP on our letterhead, on our Web site, on our doors. They have tried to disappear us."
But she stressed, "People voted for us as New Democrats, not as independents."
The application was signed and given a notary's seal by lawyer Peter Kormos, another veteran New Democrat MPP who complained he is "a victim of identity theft" by the Liberal government and legislature officials who deny him the use of the NDP tag.
He suggested that, to make the most of the "IND" label imposed on them, the NDPers should rename themselves "the Incredible New Democrats."
The outlawing of anything produced by their offices that suggests the seven are New Democrats is the latest blow to the party's surviving MPPs.
Failure to hold status as an official party has cost the NDP about $1-million in research and communications funds at Queen's Park. This forced it to lay off about 30 people who had helped make them an effective team in fighting the old Progressive Conservative government and preparing for the election.
The MPPs have lost the cluster of offices for themselves and their support staff. Instead, they are spread throughout the main legislature building. They have also lost the right to ask questions of the government in the regular rotation in Question Period. Instead, their questions will be allowed only at the discretion of the new Speaker.
Also, the seven MPPs have each lost income of several thousand dollars that they received for holding positions in the party -- as leader, deputy leader, house leader -- or positions in the legislature as chair of committees.