Nfld. & Labrador

Turmel's Bloc ties questioned at Regatta

Acting NDP Leader Nycole Turmel fielded a flurry of questions at the St. John's Regatta, while shifting the spotlight to the upcoming provincial election.
Acting NDP Leader Nycole Turmel made a campaign-style stop Wednesday at the Royal St. John's Regatta. (CBC)

Acting NDP Leader Nycole Turmel fielded a flurry of questions Wednesday at the Royal St. John's Regatta, while trying to shift the spotlight to the party's efforts in an upcoming provincial election.

"I think it is important to visit Newfoundland," said Turmel, who stepped in for a visit to St. John's that had been planned long ago for Jack Layton, who has taken a leave of absence as federal leader for cancer treatments.

"It is important to visit everywhere to show that we are there on their behalf," said Turmel.

But Turmel again found herself answering questions about her former affiliations with the Bloc Quebecois and a provincial separatist party that she only quit this week.

"I represent Canada. I am a federalist," said Turmel, sticking to a series of answers about what she called "a mistake."

Earlier in the day, Turmel said she backs the NDP position on federal support for the Lower Churchill hydroelectric megaproject, despite opposition from the Quebec government and many Quebec politicians.

"I support the request of Newfoundland on this issue. This is clear to me," said Turmel, referring to the Newfoundland and Labrador government's application for a federal loan guarantee to develop power at Muskrat Falls, on Labrador's Churchill River.

Turmel said she will put pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to follow through with an election pledge to support the project. "At this point nothing is signed, so we need to make sure this [happens]," she said.

Turmel was far from the only politician to appear at the Royal St. John's Regatta, an annual sporting event that doubles as a civic holiday and draws tens of thousands of spectators.

'Loyalties and allegiances'

Liberal Leader Bob Rae was forced to switch planes to make it to Quidi Vidi Lake in time for the final races. He told reporters he still has questions about Turmel.

"This is not about switching parties," said Rae, a former NDP premier in Ontario who later switched to the Liberals.

"This is about switching loyalties and allegiances in terms of your country and it's also about being open and honest and transparent with the people of Canada."

Rae said while he has switched parties, his political history has always been public knowledge.

The appearance of both Turmel and Rae at the Regatta comes two months before a scheduled Oct. 11 provincial election.

All three provincial leaders — Premier Kathy Dunderdale, Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones and the NDP's Lorraine Michael — made stops at the Regatta.

"Obviously, we're into an election year - you're going to find politicians everywhere," Jones said.