An unexpected announcement from leader Jack Layton created a stir among the federal New Democratic Party early last week.
Surprise and sadness, in fact was expressed across the country, across party lines and various levels of government following the revelation that he would be stepping aside temporarily in order to deal with a newly diagnosed form of cancer. The leader had already been largely successful in a battle against prostate cancer.
As the week came to a close and Layton’s choice, Quebec MP Nycole Turmel was named as the party’s interim leader, the federally and provincially-elected New Democrats in this area were contacted for comment on the situation.
“I felt shocked and surprised,” said B.C. Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko when asked of his reaction.
“This was totally unexpected. It is because of Jack that we did so well in the last election, especially in Quebec. Thanks to his efforts as leader, the Party is where it is today.
As for the overall sentiments among party members, the MP said,
“There was a feeling of solidarity and lots of emotion. During our meeting in Ottawa we had a chance to listen to Jack as he spoke to us on the phone and also to speak and express our feelings. It was like a big family meeting when members come together and support each other. All of us expressed our unequivocal support for Nycole Turmel as interim leader.”
There has not been much change for me other than I lost my agriculture portfolio. The House of Commons is certainly different with all of us there. The debate on the Canada Post back-to-work legislation showed how dedicated, skilled and informed all of our new MPs are. I certainly had a sense of pride watching them speak out for social justice.
I did not know much about her other than the fact that she might be a distant relative of one of my good friends, and the fact that she was President of the Public Service Alliance. She is also our caucus chair, is fully bilingual, and has functioned very well in that capacity. I believe she will do a good job as interim leader. As a past union national president, she has worked with people from all over the country and, I believe, understands our different regions. We have to remember that she is not alone. She is supported by two very experienced deputy leaders, a strong executive, excellent staff and many experienced MPs.