Monday, July 25, 2011


Opposition Leader Jack Layton's announcement that he has nominated a rookie MP to take over as interim leader while he steps away from politics to battle an undisclosed form of cancer has led to some head-scratching on Parliament Hill.
Layton announced Monday that he has been diagnosed with a second form of cancer, after first receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer last February. He requires immediate treatment but hopes to resume his duties when Parliament returns on Sept. 19.
Layton told reporters that he has recommended rookie Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel for the post, calling her "an experienced national leader in both official languages."
While Turmel was unanimously elected as national chair of the NDP caucus, she is one of the many new NDP faces on Parliament Hill. While she may be unfamiliar to many Canadians, she is well-known around Ottawa for her nearly three-decades of service as a union leader, as well as her role as national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
With Layton eschewing deputy leaders Thomas Mulcair and Libby Davies, as well as party stalwart Paul Dewar, for the interim leader's role, he is likely trying to get what NDP president Brian Topp calls "the best of all worlds."
"Our caucus chair, who was unanimously elected, will step in as interim leader, and will have the benefit of working with both Tom Mulcair and Libby Davies continuing in their roles," Topp told CTV News Channel.
According to Turmel's official biography, she was an employee at a Canada Employment Centre before joining the union cause in 1979. She worked her way up through the local, regional and national levels until 2006. When she retired, she was serving as head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and was the first woman to hold that post.
A $5,000 research chair on public spaces and political innovations was recently named in her honour at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, who knows Turmel from her union days, called her "a capable person" who "worked very hard as a public sector union leader."
Don Martin, host of CTV's Power Play, called Turmel's nomination "a hopeful sign."
"For him to designate a rookie like this means he believes it's a six or seven week designation, not one that's going to require her to be in the House of Commons as interim leader," Martin told News Channel. "If he suddenly suggested Thomas Mulcair or Libby Davies for example…that might be seen as a hand-off for a longer term, rather than a short-term one."
The NDP caucus is scheduled to meet Wednesday to debate the issue and offer a recommendation to the party's federal council, which makes the final decision, Topp said. The council will likely meet on Thursday.
"(The) federal council is the deciding body, it's the democratic part of our body that has the right to make these kinds of decisions and has the right to do what it wants to do," Topp said. "But I would be surprised if they don't take Jack's recommendation."

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