A Member of Parliament for the federal NDP defected Thursday to the Bloc Quebecois because he disagrees with new language regarding sovereignty in a recently tabled NDP bill, "the Unity Bill". This defection should not come as a surprise to anyone. The biggest surprise is that there have not been more of these, given that the Dippers ostensibly absorbed a big chunk of the Bloc's voters in the last election, propelling them into official Opposition status. How were they able to attract so many Bloc voters? Part of it had to do with how much people liked Jack Layton, and some of it had to do with the NDP selecting a number of candidates who had previously held membership in the sovereignty movement.
Appeasing the new separatist wing of the NDP was always going to be a delicate balancing act for leader Tomas Mulcair, as he tries to sell his party as a federalist option, both inside and outside Quebec. There would inevitably be people upset if he tilted too far in either direction. Theoretically, this was a no win position from the very beginning. The best idea would have been to postpone making any firm commitment to either side of the debate, instead of going forward with a "Unity Bill". The concern is not only will he lose more MPs, but that wave of new voters they received in the last election may swing back towards the Bloc.
More than anything else, this brewing controversy will give Trudeau a nice big target to attack Mulcair when Justin becomes Liberal leader. We are two years away from the next federal election, leaving plenty of time for this fight to play out. Mulcair kind of finds himself running in quicksand right now. The harder he tries to get out, the deeper he's gonna sink. Has the damage already been done, or can he just go mute on this issue and hope people forget? He has to be careful, since he does not have the "lovable" personality of Jack Layton; who could just praise the so-called "Sherbrooke Declaration" without stepping in the quicksand.
Mulcair risks losing both the nationalists and the separatists. I'll admit, this whole fiasco is probably better news for the Liberals than the Conservatives. Justin Trudeau will soon be the leader of the Liberal Party. Guaranteed he's going to attack this "Unity bill", at least within Quebec. At this point, it is difficult to predict exactly how much this will affect the next election, but right now, the outlook is not good.