Photo credit – © House of Commons
As 68-year-old Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel takes centre stage in Ottawa as leader of the official opposition, I can hardly wait for the new parliamentary session to begin in September. It won’t be long before the Conservative government confronts the federal public service as it seeks to lower the deficit by downsizing government, and Turmel will undoubtedly be called upon by the NDP to give voice to its contrary position.
Former union boss Turmel can take much of the credit for the fact that wages and benefits of Public Service Alliance of Canada’s members have far outstripped that available in the private sector. (The Public Service Alliance of Canada is the country’s main union of federal employees and Turmel served as its president for six years, until 2006, after nine years as vice-president.) Having her in the House defending the union’s position against the broader interests of ordinary Canadians should provide some excellent political theatre.
Nycole Turmel’s elevation to the New Democrats top job—albeit temporarily—should put paid to any ambitions Vancouver East MP Libby Davies has to ever lead that party. And that’s a good thing.
A little over a year ago, there were calls for Davies to step down as deputy leader of her party after she suggested Israel has been occupying territory since the country came into existence in 1948. At that time, the then Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae denounced Davies’ comments, writing in a statement:
“To deny the state of Israel’s right to exist and to propose an international campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against a legitimate member of the world community for over 60 years is to reveal a level of hostility and ignorance that is truly breathtaking.”
Later, in a media scrum, Mr. Rae argued that Davies’ comments were not simply a slip of the tongue and called for her to step down as deputy leader. Prime Minister Stephen Harper also called for Davies’ resignation as the NDP’s deputy leader. NDP Leader Jack Layton defended Davies, but described her statements as a “serious mistake.” And he, apparently, called the Israeli ambassador to clarify his party’s position.
Readers may also remember that in June 2008 Davies delivered a Parliamentary Petition in the House of Commons demanding a new 9/11 investigation. The petitioners asserted, in part, that:
“…elements within the US government were complicit in the murder of thousands of people on 9/11/2001. This event brought Canada into the so-called ‘War on Terror,’ it changed our domestic and foreign policies for the worse, and it will continue to have negative consequences for us all if we refuse to look at the facts.”
It remains an open question whether Libby Davies actually believes such absurdity or if her rabid anti-Americanism just got the better of her judgment.
When earlier this summer Jack Layton named his other deputy leader, Tom Mulcair, to the post of NDP House Leader, he shuffled Libby Davies over to health critic to make room. I expect that the rise of Nycole Turmel will further diminish Davies’ role and give less opportunity for her to spout her absurd and offensive leftist views, which include hard-edged anti-Israel and anti-American sentiments.
As Turmel’s star rises so Davies’ will set—if we are so lucky.