Turmel became a member of the NDP in 1991 and ran for the party for the first time in January 2011. In the May federal election Turmel was part of the ground-breaking "orange wave" in Québec, whereby NDP members won 59 seats in the province, ousting both the LIBERALS and the BLOC QUEBECOIS and historically becoming the first NDP Official Opposition in the federal House of Commons. Turmel's own newly-acquired riding of Hull-Aylmer had been Liberal for the last hundred years. Upon election she assumed the positions of president of the NDP's national caucus and critic for Public Works and Government Services Canada. When NDP leader Jack LAYTON stepped down due to poor health in July that year, he named Turmel as the party's interim leader.
Turmel and the NDP immediately came under fire when political rivals learned that she had been a card-carrying member of the provincial separatist party Québec Solidaire, and a member of the Bloc since 2007. Turmel rebutted by stating that the memberships were irrelevant, that she was indeed a federalist (voting "no" in both the 1980 and 1995 sovereignty referendums), and that she had renounced both memberships prior to joining the NDP.
Nycole Turmel was interim leader of the NDP when Layton died in late August 2011.
Author LORRAINE SNYDER