Friday, August 5, 2011

The new face of the NDP in Quebec

Nycole Turmel’s history with sovereigntist parties in Quebec may came as a shock to some, but to anyone familiar with the political landscape of the French-speaking province there is nothing surprising about it.

The new interim leader of the New Democrats was told to expect a rough time when she was handed the job, and it did not take long for the prediction to come true.

You can read the rest of the article at The Huffington Post Canada website.

I might as well take this opportunity to mention I'll be speaking about seat projections at a colloquium organized by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy on September 6. Barry Kay, who has been practicing the art (magic?) for much longer than I, will also be speaking about the subject while the morning's seminar will focus more on actual polling and public opinion research. You can find more information about the event here.


  1. The sovereignty thing doesn't bother me at all. I'm more concerned about her support for Québec Solidaire's economic policies.

    The NDP are socialists, to be sure, but they're cuddly socialists. Québec Solidaire has always struck me as being far more radical in their positions.

  2. The NDP are nowhere even close to a socialist party and they have not been so on the federal level for 55 years. They are merely a slightly left of centre party and honestly there is very little economic difference between any of the major parties on the whole. Social views do differentiate them a bit from other parties, but there is no great gulf between them and other parties unless the Conservatives criminalize abortion, same-sex marriage etc since even their party seems to have made peace with these issues.

    As for Turmel being a former sovereigntist, who cares? Stephane Dion had seperatist views in his youth and even the almighty Trudeau was an ardent Quebec nationalist in his youth. Should not matter if she is now committed to the federalist NDP.

  3. Five 0 Six

    It's interesting that defenders of Ms. Turmel have adopted the "we should be glad that she dumped the separatists and committed to the federalist NDP" defense.

    First, its one thing to have been a separatist (or anything else) 20 years ago, it's another thing altogether to have been a separatist 8 months ago or last monday (when Ms. Turmel turned in her QS membership). Everyone understands that people, and their ideas, change, but people are understandable suspicious when those people, and their ideas, purport to change overnight. The fact she ran for a "federalist" party doesn't preclude her from being a separatist (see Lucien Bouchard, Jean Lapierre, etc.).

    Second, how confident are we in the "federalist" bona fides of the NDP? 5 years ago, sure, they were a staunch federalist party (if only because they wanted to be able to boss everyone around). But then 5 years ago, they didn't have any Quebec MPs, so that doesn't say much. Now, half their caucus is from Quebec, and I doubt that Ms. Turmel is alone in her prior canoodling (figuritively) with the Bloc (or the PQ, or QS). Certainly it is unsettling that, on some unity issues (for example, on the interpretation of the Clarity Act), the NDP has taken a position (at least in French) quite distinct from that of the federalist parties, and not dissimilar (if not identical) to those of the Bloc/PQ. Granted, the NDP isn't a separatist party (at least, not yet), but I think it's fair for federalists to have some doubts about the commitment of its MPs to federalism.

  4. Carl,

    Note that the NDP's position on the Clarity Act is also the same as that of the governing, federalist, provincial Liberals.

  5. Why argue about Nycole Turmel ??

    She's going to be gone soon anyways. Either Jack comes back or there is an actual year long leadership race.

    If there is a race then caucus will choose someone more appropriate to be the leader until then.

    I think there is near universal agreement that she was a mistake.

    I think there is also a good case to be made that it doesn't matter at all !

  6. Eric,

    Yes, but happily for the Quebec Liberals, they aren't holding themselves out as an alternative government of Canada. The NDP is.

    Perhaps the difficulty is that Quebecers have a different perception of "federalism" than Canadians in the rest of the country (or vice versa, as you prefer). A Quebec, where separation is discussed as a possibility, one can square opposition to the Clarity Act with support for federalism on the basis that you doesn't want to separate, but you want to retain the unrestrained right to do so if that changes. In contrast, in English Canada (an inaccurate term, of course, since it includes, Francophone populations, but it is less wordy than the Rest of Canada), the Clarity Act doesn't have application (legally it does, but it's meaningless because English Canadians aren't seriously considering separation), opposition to the Clarity Act is consistent with separatism ("Why else", the thinking goes "Would you oppose it unless you might separate"?). I read a blog, shortly after the Layton/Clarity Act fiasco, in which another Quebec political blogger made the point you did, in which he accused critics of Layton's position of trying to tell Quebecers what they can and cannot do (i.e., the Clarity Act). Someone in English Canada would say that the Clarity Act tells Canadians what they can or cannot do, and would point out that, yes, that is exactly the role of the federal government. Neither view is wrong.

    This different viewpoint permeates other aspects of the federalism debate. In large parts of the country, the form of Quebec-only "assymetric federalism" proposed by the NDP (and the Quebec Liberals), isn't seen as all that different from the "Sovereignty Association" pipedream that the seperatists used to sell (and, really, other than terminology, it need not be all that different - a point the NDP acutely notes in the Sherbrooke Declaration when they say that "the right to self-determination can also be exercised within Canada").

    In Quebec, assymetric federalism is a solidly "federalist" venture. In the rest of Canada, it's borderline (especially where it is seen a demand under the threat of separation), which is probably why, apparently, the s. In part, that's because (a), like sovereignty association, Quebec-only assymetric federalism will never happen (and so, if that's the price for staying in Canada, it's advocates might as well pull the trigger on sovereignty) and (b) the legal inequality of provinces is inconsistent with the understanding of "federalism" in the rest of Canada (I realize that other countries do have asymetric federalism, but we aren't other countries and that isn't our tradition).

    Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have been able to bridge this divide. It remains to be seen whether the NDP can do it.

  7. Carl we already have a policy of "aysmetric federalism" towards Quebec.

    Its even official Conservative policy, although Harper calls it "open federalism" and doesn't mind making accomodations to other provinces too, where as some in Quebec demand uniquely special treatment based on theories of nation state status or cultural integrity.

    From having their own health accord to having their own pension fund Quebec is very much creating its own version of soverignty association.

    Anyways, who cares ?

    If 50+1% of Quebeckers vote to seperate then the ROC is legally obligated to enter into constitutional negotiations.

    Such negotiations require the consent of the other provinces.

    That consent would never be given.

    So either Quebec declares unilateral seperation (something no Canadian PM would ever allow) or the provinces vote down any seperation.

    Why not indulge them their silly fantasy that they are in control of their own destiny ??

    What's the harm ?

    The illusion of choice makes more violent means, like the FLQ, seem like they aren't needed. That's certainly a good thing.


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