Friday, August 05, 2011

The Turmel Tempest

It is a classic example of a huge fuss being generated in the media over an issue that adds up to nothing.

The fuss has been fed by political opponents who should know better but apparently don't.  For example, Bob Rae was reported to have said today:
What kind of federalism is it that leads someone to join two other parties, both of which are committed to the independence of Quebec, the sovereignty of Quebec and in the case of Quebec Solidaire a socialist Quebec?
Globe blogger and long-time NDP activist Gerald Caplan points out:
...Quebec is different from the rest of Canada in ways we often ignore. Ms. Turmel is one symbol of this difference. For Ms. Turmel -- Québécoise, Canadian, federalist, trade union leader, New Democrat -- to carry a Bloc card for a few years was no big deal.
Some thought that lesson was learned election night. The reason so many Québécois could move en masse from the Bloc to the NDP was not just because Mr. Layton was a great guy to have a beer with. He also shared and represented their values. Mr. Layton was progressive, a social democrat, committed to social justice. So were many Bloc voters who didn’t want Quebec to separate. Those were the social values that the two parties shared and that allowed the massive voting switch once it was clear that the Bloc was an exhausted force.
Maclean's writer Martin Patriquin provides some useful insights. “… it’s amazing how few people have clued into this headsmackingly obvious point, but Turmel willingly ripped up her Bloc Québécois membership card to run for a dyed-in-orange federalist party [emphasis in original]. That alone should be evidence enough that her sovereigntist credentials weren’t quite Parizeau-calibre. If anything, Turmel’s (temporary) ascension to the head of the party, like the NDP’s overwhelming victory in May, is proof positive that detaching the left from the sovereigntist movement isn’t as impossible as it once was. How far we’ve come.”
One should add that not only did Turmel spurn the Bloc, she did so to run for a party that historically had never had much electoral success in Quebec. So she supported a federalist party in a circumstance where she might have reasonably expected that to be a political liability.

The fact that many in Quebec such as Turmel spurned the pro-independence party for a federalist party should be celebrated not mocked. Turmel is a long-time NDP member and supporter, her true allegiance. Her opponents in any case include many with previous sovereignist backgrounds: Liberal Jean Lapierre, who served in Martin's cabinet, was a co-founder of the Bloc, and Maxime Bernier, who is now back in Harper's cabinet, worked for PQ Premier Bernard Landry, a very serious supporter of Quebec independence.

Turmel represents exactly what we want to see Quebecers do about federalism, Mr. Rae, embrace it.