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Nycole Turmel and her sovereigntist roots

Stephen Harper's Conservatives are ensuring their supporters are well aware of interim opposition leader Nycole Turmel's sovereigntist past.

In a memo to party supporters and MPs, Harper Conservative strategists noted that Ms. Turmel, the NDP MP from Quebec who took over from Jack Layton last week, was "publicly supporting sovereigntist candidates."

During the 2006 election, Ms. Turmel, then president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, "publicly backed a slate of Bloc Québécois candidates," according to the internal memo. It quotes Canada NewsWire, January 17, 2006, and Ottawa Citizen, April 6, 2011 as sources.

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Ms. Turmel was named the interim leader after Mr. Layton's announcement that he was suffering from a new form of cancer and needed to step aside to battle the disease.

Her appointment was a surprise, given that Mr. Layton had already named two deputy leaders, Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair and British Columbia's Libby Davies.

In addition, Ms. Turmel is a rookie MP having only been elected in the May campaign.

The memo continues: "During the 2007 Quebec election, she supported a local candidate for Québec solidaire, a sovereigntist party. (Canada NewsWire, March 15, 2007; Ottawa Citizen, March 30, 2011)."

And then strategists ask: "Have Ms. Turmel's views actually changed in this short time?"

The memo was sent late last week. Tuesday morning, the Globe and Mail's Daniel Leblanc is reporting that Ms. Turmel was a card-carrying member of the Bloc Québécois for five years. She only quit the party last January.

The Conservative Party memo notes, too, that she is "not alone" in the caucus in supporting separatism.

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"NDP MPs Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie), Marc-André Morin (Laurentides-Labelle), and Claude Patry (Jonquiere-Alma) have also supported sovereigntist views and NDP MPs Alexandrine Latendresse (Louis Saint Laurent), Dany Morin (Chicoutimi-Le Fjord), and Marie-Claude Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot) have shown they are open to sovereignty," says the memo.

"Will Ms. Turmel stop her party's double-talk to Quebec and make her MPs from Quebec stand with a united Canada?," it asks.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae says Ms. Turmel - or someone in the NDP - has "some explaining to do" about Ms. Turmel's views on federalism amid the recent revelations that she was a card-carrying member of the Bloc Quebecois for five years.

"I think most Canadians will be surprised that she did not disclose any of this to her constituents, or to Canadians more broadly," Mr. Rae told The Globe Tuesday. "Only she and her NDP colleagues will know what she told them. And according to her own admission she's still in agreement with the Bloc's policies. Someone has some explaining to do."

Meanwhile, Ms. Turmel has already begun to represent Mr. Layton at events. She appeared at the Vancouver Pride event on Sunday and will be at the regatta in St. John's, Newfoundland, on Wednesday.

Birthday boy dishes on Warren Kinsella

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Bob Rae says former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella is "blowing smoke."

Mr. Rae was responding to an article in the Sun media in which Mr. Kinsella suggests that the temporary Liberal leader is secretly gunning to take over as the permanent leader when the time comes.

Mr. Kinsella writes that "in the view of a growing number of Liberals, Rae and his inner circle are busily at work on making the interim job permanent."

"Assisted by a group of take-no-prisoners strategists who haven't been seen since the brief Paul Martin era, Rae is making plans to jettison the many Michael Ignatieff loyalists who still make up much of the Liberal Party executive. Once that is done, Rae apparently intends to secure the approval of his own loyalists to seek the full-time job."

That is something that should never, ever be allowed to happen, says Mr. Kinsella.

Mr. Rae woke up to that article Tuesday as he celebrates his 63rd birthday. He is at his Ottawa area cottage, but like the NDP's Ms. Turmel, Mr. Rae is off to the regatta in St. John's but will then visit Cape Breton and Quebec City later in the week.

He had taken on the role of interim leader with the view that he would not try to seek the permanent leadership.

The Liberals are not to pick a new leader until the spring of 2013.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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