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PMO pounces on interim NDP chief's selective use of whip

Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel speaks during Question Period in the House Commons on Nov. 1, 2011.


An open letter from a pro-gun lobby chastising the Official Opposition for punishing two of its MPs who want to scrap the long-gun registry is further proof "the disunited NDP is not fit to govern," Stephen Harper's strategists say.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters sent a tersely-worded letter to Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel Tuesday to express its "profound disappointment" in her decision to discipline two Thunder Bay MPs, John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer, who supported the government last week during second reading of its bill to kill the long-gun registry.

"Given the fact that the New Democratic Party of Canada has never had an official party policy on the long-gun registry; that the issue is not mentioned anywhere in the NDP Policy Book; and that repeated attempts to pass resolutions for or against the long-gun registry at NDP conventions over the years have failed, it defies belief that you would seek to discipline the two members of your caucus who have steadfastly voted their conscience on this issue, and in doing so have represented their constituents, the very reason that Members of Parliament are elected in the first place," wrote Mike Reader, the federation's executive director.

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In addition, he noted that the late Jack Layton understood Mr. Hyer and Mr. Rafferty's position while Ms. Turmel does not.

In last year's vote on the registry, the late NDP leader allowed the two MPs and others to vote to represent their constituents. Not this time, however; the pair now cannot serve as critics, sit on committees or speak during Question Period as a result of their vote.

Mr. Reader characterized the punishments as a "gross overreaction" by Ms. Turmel and an "affront to the parliamentary system." He said the federation wants Mr. Hyer's and Mr. Rafferty's privileges restored.

The letter, meanwhile, is gold for the Tories as it provides further fodder in their fight against the long-gun registry. "The NDP punishes MPs that speaks for their northern and rural constituents while rewarding MPs who broke their words such as Charlie Angus and leadership candidate Niki Ashton," the PMO says in a memo to party faithful.

The Tories also accuse the NDP of being disunited on other issues, including the "fairness of the shipbuilding process." Indeed, veteran Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer congratulated the Conservatives for awarding a $25-billion shipbuilding contract to the Halifax shipyards while Ms. Turmel was critical of the process that did not give award anything to the Quebec shipyard. There were no consequences for Mr. Stoffer.

"It is only when Northern Ontario MPs voted to end the ineffective and wasteful long-gun registry that placeholder NDP leader Nycole Turmel took harsh disciplinary measures to silence their voice," the PMO notes.

'Jim Flaherty has betrayed millions of Canadians'

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Jim Flaherty's office was quick to send out a list of glowing quotes from labour and business leaders about the Finance Minister's economic update Tuesday. It neglected, however, to mention those who are incensed about the government's broken promise.

First the praise: Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti congratulated Mr. Flaherty for showing "some flexibility over the artificial deadline for eliminating the deficit."

And Perrin Beatty, chief executive of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, was "pleased" about the government's decision to limit Employment Insurance increases to five cents per $100 of insurable earnings.

But not everyone is that happy. In fact, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation was particularly harsh, criticizing Mr. Flaherty for "walking away from the Prime Minister's promise" to balance the books by 2014-15.

"Jim Flaherty has betrayed millions of Canadians who voted for a balanced budget," CTF federal director Gregory Thomas charged.

"Stephen Harper campaigned on balancing the budget, so he could double Tax-Free Savings Account contributions and extend income-splitting to working couples," Mr. Thomas said in a release. "If he doesn't deliver a balanced budget, he's not going to deliver tax relief. He's only going to deliver more debt. If Canadians wanted more spending, more taxes, and more debt, they would have voted for it."

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But in a memo to supporters, Conservative Party strategists downplay the backtracking on the deficit, noting that "the target for returning to a balanced budget is 2014-15 and that remains an aim should we find additional savings or having stronger economic growth."

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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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