Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This Summer's Blockbuster Hit

It seems every summer, one political story comes out of nowhere to dominate the headlines. After all, pundits need something to pontificate on, a task that has grown more challenging with the next election four years away.

Last summer's break-out hit was the Census. No one saw it coming as an issue, but it grabbed headlines week after week. Every Tony Clement tweet generated a dozen stories.

This summer's star is, without a doubt, Nycole Turmel. A complete unknown a month ago, Turmel has been on the front pages every day for the past two weeks, and the story shows no signs of dying.

Amongst today's developments, the always restrained Pat Martin has compared this to McCarthyism and, to a certain extent, he has a point. If you dig through every MP's history, all parties will have members connected to the sovereignist movement in some capacity - after all, Jean Lapierre was a co-founder of the Bloc and Georges Laraque once shared a hot dog with Gilles Duceppe.

However...if we take Martin's analogy one step further, can you imagine the uproar if the Democrats tried to nominate a card carrying Communist as their leader back in the 50s? Even if said Democrat had only purchased the card to support a friend?

Party leaders should be held to a higher standard than back bench MPs, and the timeframe matters. The only people running a McCarthy witch-hunt are the NDP, who have gleefully pointed out Denis Lebel's 2001 BQ membership.

While I don't want to get into the habit of defending Tory Cabinet Ministers, Lebel hasn't been with the Bloc for a decade. Surely there comes a point when we agree someone has changed, oui? I suspect that point falls somewhere between "gave up BQ membership 6 months ago but still member of Quebec Solidaire" and "switched parties back when people still listened to 'N Synch".

Like the Census issue last summer, this is a legitimate story, even if it doesn't move any votes. The explanations offered by Turmel have been lacking, and were only offered after it became an issue. Because of this, like it or not, we're going to hear a lot more about Nycole Turmel before the summer is over.

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17 Comments:

  • No doubt this is the story of the summer, and NOT Layton's cancer.

    By Anonymous Art, at 6:09 PM  

  • Never mind about the riots in England and the crash in the stock market. Everyone will remember the "Summer of Turmel" as they look back at 2011.

    By Blogger Greg, at 7:48 PM  

  • "the always restrained Pat Martin"

    I do enjoy your gentle irony.

    By Blogger Brian from Toronto, at 10:00 AM  

  • Once again, the complaint is NOT that Turmel used to be a member of the BQ. Canadians change their political stripe regularly, as has been shown by the many examples we've been given. But the NDP want to make that the story, because they believe it confuses the issue.

    The complaint against Turmel is two-fold: that she was much less than forthcoming about her membership in the BQ and QS, and that she held that membership at the same time as she held her membership in the NDP.

    If she's unwilling to play by the rules of her own Party, how willing will she be to abide by the rules set out by the People of Canada? If she's unwilling to follow the law, what right does she have to write the law?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:47 AM  

  • It seems to me the NDP are showing their political immaturity by keeping this story alive. If they were not so determined to find Conservatives who used to be Bloc and to out them to the media, the story would have died some time ago. The media on their own were never going to follow up this story.

    By Blogger jad, at 11:13 AM  

  • imagine the uproar if the Democrats tried to nominate a card carrying Communist as their leader back in the 50s?

    Would that uproar have been justified?

    Especially if the card carrying Communist leader was traveling the US coast-to-coast supporting capitalist ideals and waving Atlas Shrugged?

    Sure, there would have been a 50's uproar... most people today think the 50's uproar was ridiculous, and that's how I see this uproar.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 11:24 AM  

  • The only people running a McCarthy witch-hunt are the NDP, who have gleefully pointed out Denis Lebel's 2001 BQ membership.

    BTW Dan I agree the NDP is just as bad

    Tho *ALL* the parties are just as bad on the Prior Separatist Witchhunting

    It's just politics

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 11:33 AM  

  • the complaint is NOT that Turmel used to be a member of the BQ

    Perhaps it's truly not Anonymous's complaint.

    However (once again), it's certainly the prime complaint of editorials and most outrage.

    Also, Anon is plain wrong anyway. It's one thing to switch between NDP and LCP, it's one thing to switch Liberal and Tory parties, and those DO get news traction. This is a "separatist in the Commons" issue to most people, and I say that based on (cursory) viewing of news journals and reactions.

    Really, the only person who's upset about the "rules" being broken is an Anonymous commenter on Calgary Grit.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 1:29 PM  

  • People do raise a stink about other floor crossings. Rae's NDP history was a HUGE mark on him in the 2006 leadership race, Stronach and Emerson grabbed headlines, and even Rocco Rossi has been getting a lot of press for his defection.

    I think if the Liberals made Stronach the interim leader 6 months after she crossed the floor, it would be a big deal. I think of the PCs made Rocco Rossi their interim leader after this election, it would be a big deal.

    And yes, the fact that Turmel was a BQ member is more worrisome than had she crossed over from the CPC or Liberals. No one's saying you can't change parties, but it's understandable that everyone would be a bit squeamish about this.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:17 PM  

  • Art & Greg - I'm obviously talking about the Canadian political news story of the summer.

    And I bet if we tallied up the count at summers end, there would be more Newswatch and Bourque headlines on Turmel than on either Layton's cancer or the riots.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:18 PM  

  • Sure, its probably one of the big news story of July, in terms of long-term implications, i'm not so sure. Layton will be back in one month and when he does come back that story will overshadow this one as it will be pretty incredible to come back from cancer twice. Not to mention the inevitable larger debates from deficit cutback spending or further implications from the crisis in Europe.

    If the second battle of cancer will be too severe and he has to step down for good, then there will be a leadership race and its highly likely that Nicole Turmel will not be a candidate.

    So I don't really see this as an issue with much more legs than that.

    By Blogger bza, at 5:19 PM  

  • Outside of the Liberal blogosphere, this issue is long dead. It was already old news by this past weekend and then we had a flurry of polls out yesterday that showed that NDP support was as high as ever and that only a small minority of Canadians cared at all about Turmel's past membership in the BQ - and they were mostly core Tory voters anyways - so who cares. You know how the media works - once the polls show the issue had no real legs outside the beltway - it ipso facto gets dropped like a hot potato. "Nothing to see here folks, time to move on".

    I find it amusing that Liberals claim to be the party of national unity and yet its always Liberals who seem to want to throw gasoline on the smouldering embers of Quebec nationalism and try to re-create a national unity crisis where none exists.

    By Blogger DL, at 6:29 PM  

  • People do raise a stink about other floor crossings.

    Absolutely, you are right CG.

    In this case (just based on the opinions I've read), it's always been separatist vs federalist.


    I find it amusing that Liberals claim to be the party of national unity and yet its always Liberals who seem to want to throw gasoline on the smouldering embers of Quebec nationalism and try to re-create a national unity crisis where none exists.
    In general I feel this is overall accurate -- though I don't think it applies to CG

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 6:44 PM  

  • Let's be clear: this is about Ontario, not Quebec.

    If the Liberals can't regain top-two status in Ontario, they're cooked.

    This is an opening for them, nothing more.

    By Blogger Ben (The Tiger on Politics), at 7:57 PM  

  • this is about Ontario, not Quebec

    Agreed... which is why FWIW I don't believe it's about "floor crossing" but about "separatists"

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 11:19 AM  

  • I think a lot of this goes back to 2008 -- where it was driven home to the political class, both in elected office and in the media, that ordinary citizens in English Canada really, really don't like the Bloc. (Well, Ontario -- but Ontario IS Canada! ;-))

    So you got a bunch of progressives who were previously willing to vote BQ going over to the NDP, and you now see this Turmel controversy.

    Turmel won't lead the Dippers into the 2015 election, so this is ultimately a non-issue vis-a-vis her. But it represents a larger one: the Liberals and NDP, fighting over the centre-left, are going to have a discussion over whether English Canadian "progressive" voters prefer a party that is nice to Quebec nationalists or a party that takes a more confrontational, Trudeauesque approach to regionalism.

    Not sure which side wins that fight, or if either can cleanly -- which may give Harper an easy re-election in 2015 (a la Maggie Thatcher in '83) and then force a merger/alliance on the left.

    We'll see. It's tremendously interesting to watch. And I do expect the left to be a major force again, and to win government sometime in the next ten to fifteen years. Maybe in four years, maybe in eight or twelve.

    After all, Harper can't govern forever.

    By Blogger Ben (The Tiger on Politics), at 10:03 PM  

  • This can't work in reality, that is exactly what I suppose.

    By Anonymous www.soria-3d.com, at 2:51 AM  

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