Nycole Turmel’s Ham-Fisted Grip on Democracy Hurts the NDP

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EditorialTHUNDER BAY – Editorial – Bluntly put, Nycole Turmel’s ham-fisted grip on democracy hurts the NDP. The fallout from the high-handed actions of interim NDP leader Turmel continue. The Conservative Government has pounced on the move by the interim NDP leader toward Thunder Bay Superior North MP Bruce Hyer and Thunder Bay Rainy River MP John Rafferty. Both MPs have had their parliamentary wings clipped by the NDP leadership. They can not make Member’s Statements, have been kicked off of Parliamentary Committees and their ability to travel on anything but their basic parliamentary budget has been removed.

That would likely include trips that allowed our two MPs to spend time with the Canadian Armed Forces, as both Hyer and Rafferty have recently done. While Turmel and the NDP brass might believe that they are punishing two MPs, in effect what she has done is punish the people of Thunder Bay Superior North, and Thunder Bay Rainy River.

Right now, the Conservatives are making political hay on the decision. In the House of Commons on Thursday, Kenora MP Greg Rickford, in a Member’s statement told the people in the two ridings that the Conservatives will be their voice.

There are two private members bills that Hyer has put forward, one on ending the practice of locking cell phones, another on restoring passenger rail service to Northwestern Ontario’s largest cities.

John Rafferty has tabled C-227 — An Act respecting the establishment of a National Strategy for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. As well, Rafferty has tabled C-294 — An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (illness or injury).

Another private members motion, C-331 — An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans) has been jointly seconded by both Hyer and Rafferty. That bill comes as a result of meetings in the riding that Rafferty held and from the people impacted by their pensions being hammered by mill closures.

The NDP leader has in some ways stalled the ability of the two strongest proponents of those measures to move them through parliament. Considering that Hyer is one of the few opposition MPs who managed to steer a private members motion on the environment through the last parliament, benching two of the NDP’s MPs like Turmel has done is a move that only weakens the party.

One could argue that with a Conservative majority, that the NDP interim leader is making sure that the NDP has a more united front in the House of Commons. However for a party that has long claimed the moral high ground on issues like diversity, the strong-arm tactics make the NDP look far weaker. The NDP leadership has, in gagging our two MPs, silenced the voices of our region from the NDP, and left the representation in the hands of the Conservatives. Perhaps with the NDP leadership race, when a new permanent leader is elected, the voices of our two MPs might be heard in the House of Commons once again?

During Question Period, on Thursday, Bryan Hayes, the Member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie raised a question on FedNor funding for Thunder Bay.

Here is the exchange:

Mr. Bryan Hayes (Sault Ste. Marie, CPC): “Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada proudly announced new funding for the cyclotron medical research facility in Thunder Bay. This $4 million investment will go towards creating long-term jobs in that great city and will help to bring private sector investment to a growing high-tech industry in northern Ontario.

“Can the minister responsible for FedNor please rise and give an update to members on this important investment?”

Hon. Tony Clement (President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC): “Mr. Speaker, I thank the Conservative member for that question. The member for Sault Ste. Marie is doing some excellent work in his riding”.

“Indeed, the government did make that important investment in the last budget. Unfortunately, the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North and his party voted against that worthwhile project twice. Of course, we will not be hearing from the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North here in this House, thanks to the heavy-handedness of the NDP in disciplining that member. Members heard it here first. However, his constituents can count on us to represent them. We will do the right thing”.

Hyer and Rafferty have according to sources gained a surprising amount of support from fellow NDP MPs, in particular from newly elected MPs from Quebec. Rafferty and Hyer now face, however an uncertain future within the party. If they vote the will of their constituents on third reading of the bill to end the long gun registry, it is possible that the two MPs could be expelled from the NDP caucus.

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