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Stephane Dion pauses as he speaks to media while announcing his future as leader of the Liberal Party in Ottawa Monday Oct.20, 2008.


Stephane Dion and the Liberals are exploiting the Nycole Turmel controversy, attempting to raise money from the NDP's leadership recent debacle.

In a fundraising letter sent to supporters Wednesday, Mr. Dion, the former Liberal leader, argues the NDP are "playing a deeply irresponsible political game."

And he notes his concerns over the "flakiness" of Ms. Turmel and the other NDP MPs from Quebec, who he says "are unwilling to say they support a united Canada."

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He argues, too, that the interim leader's former involvement with the separatist party is "part of a larger pattern."

"Ms. Turmel and the NDP are failing to be upfront with Canadians about their caucus' commitment to national unity," he wrote. He asks how many NDP MPs "were, or still are, members of sovereigntist parties?"

"How many would vote for independence if a referendum were held?" he asks.

As a Chrétien cabinet minister, Mr. Dion was the author of the Clarity Act, which set out the rules for future questions on Quebec sovereignty.

Since the May 2 election -- Mr. Dion was one of a handful of Liberals to hang on in Quebec -- he has cautioned that Jack Layton, and his huge contingent of Quebec MPs, must not "cave in" to the separatists as a way of trying to keep his support.

"Last week, the revelation that the Leader of the NDP was, until recently, a card-carrying member of sovereigntist parties shocked Canadians," asserted Mr. Dion, in his letter.

"And as if it weren't bad enough that Nycole Turmel hid the fact that she had been a member of the Bloc Québécois only weeks before becoming a candidate for the NDP, it took intense public and media scrutiny for her to finally admit that she still belonged to the Quebec Solidaire, a radical provincial secessionist party," he wrote.

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Ms. Turmel took over recently as Interim leader after Mr. Layton revealed he had another form of cancer and needed to take some time off to fight the disease. He has said he would be back to work when the Commons returns next month.

Mr. Dion, meanwhile, argues in his letter, that the Liberal Party is the only "strong voice of national unity," noting that the NDP "are choosing to be ambiguous on the question of Canadian unity" and that the Harper Conservatives "run on the politics of division."

The Liberals certainly need the cash. As the third party, after they were devastated in the May election, their funds have been cut. As well, the Conservatives are planning to get rid of taxpayer subsidies to political parties, making it even harder for the opposition to raise funds.

Elections Canada just reported the results of the second quarter of fundraising for the political parties, showing the Liberals raised $3.6 million in the quarter ending in June. This compares to $2.7 million the party raised in the first quarter of this year, ending in March.

The Harper Conservatives, however, raised $8.2 million in the second quarter and $7.5 million in the first quarter -- again demonstrating their effectiveness at attracting funds from Canadians.

The NDP raised $3.1 million in the second quarter and $1.9 million in the quarter ending in March.

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What defeated MPs do

Life after politics for some defeated candidates is: more politics.

Two former Liberal MPs -- Nova Scotia's Mike Savage and Newfoundland and Labrador's Siobhan Coady -- who were defeated in the May 2 election are considering running again.

They are looking closer to home, however.

Mr. Savage is looking seriously at running to become the Mayor of Halifax in next year's elections; he is being encouraged, according to some sources, by Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie and her predecessor, Alexa McDonough, who was also NDP leader before Mr. Layton.

Ms. Coady, meanwhile, says she has received a number of phone calls from supporters urging her to try for the provincial Liberal leadership. This, after Yvonne Jones announced she had to step down to concentrate on her fight against breast cancer.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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