View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Separatist or Not? – the NDP’s Summer of Discontent – August 14, 2011

Ottawa ON – It was interesting to read about Quebec NDP MPs refusing to answer simple and pretty straight forward questions about their past political activities, party memberships and how they voted in referendums.

It goes back to the question I raised in my previous post- if you a federal MP have you previously supported a party that advocates separatism and do you still agree with separatism as an end now?

If you are a federal politician, representing a federalist party, it is a legitimate question. It is a legitimate question even if you have never supported the Bloc, PQ, Quebec Solidaire or some of the other separatist organizations. This is not a witch hunt as MPs like Pat Martin are trying to suggest. It is a valid question for a Quebec MP and just as valid a question for all NDP, Conservative and Liberal MPs. Separatism is a long standing issue in this country and knowing whether or not someone running for federal office wants to break up the country is a valid concern. Unfortunately from the article I read, the questionnaire was only sent to the NDP members; why not send it to all Quebec MPs?

The past couple of weeks have not been kind to the NDP. The Turmel issue and her previous party memberships have dominated the news and there is no doubt this has impacted both on her credibility, her ability to lead and her party’s fortunes and image in Quebec. One can understand the NDP refusing to answer the questionnaire; they are hoping to avoid a media firestorm before the House returns in September.

The problem with that type of thinking is that any political organization has membership and donation lists, lists of attendees to events, voter ID lists etc. Today these are all kept on computers, accessible within seconds and there is nothing to prevent these organizations from trickling the information out over time. If you are a Quebec MP (I am including all the parties) if you ever belonged to a separatist organization, funded one, attended their functions or voted for separatism in a referendum expect it to come out sooner or later.

Refusing to answer questionnaires is a common policy in politics. The Conservatives employed this tactic quite frequently, especially during the course of an election for the exact same reasons behind the present NDP strategy. However, MPs are independent thinkers, not all will listen to what the leader’s office is telling them and many will see any attempt to limit what they say as muzzling them. Hence, some will answer the questionnaires anyways as is their right to do so.

From my previous post:

“For all of the parties and for each MP, it should really boil down to a simple question. Do you still support separatism? Yes or no? No waffling allowed. If you can’t give a straight unequivocal answer to the effect that you no longer support separatism, then you are fair game in federal politics. If you have renounced separatism, you should be made welcome into the federalist tent.”

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

Best Western


  1. I belive that is a valid question and the party in power should be rquired to answer it first. If they won’t then no one should.

  2. Very good and interesting topic. We vote for people who make choices for us, choices even for people who do not vote or read more than a headline once in a while. It is only natural that we have an idea of where these people stand on important topics that can affect us and our tax dollars for generations.

    While reading this article it was apperant that the elected are worried about losing a vote and or going against party lines. Independant thinkers are few and far between I’m afraid.

  3. Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Bloc or PQ? …
    Back in the Fifties, Joseph McCarthy in the good ol’ USA knew how to handle these issues.
    It would be pretty hard to find a left-leaning long-time politically active Quebecer who never, at one time or another, consider or support the separation option. So here we have elected politicians who have switched from the sovereigntist side to the nationalist side, and we are bitching? I don’t get it.

  4. Should have been “considered or supported”.

  5. Not really bitching, but you wonder about hidden agenda’s…..and if the sudden break through on thinking is less than a couple of years, anything is possible.

  6. We have a Con Transport Minister, Denis Lebel, who was active in the Bloc up until 2007. I say good for Mr. Label, even though he joined the wrong federalist party. Should politicians have to spend a few years in purgatory whenever they change parties?

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