Liberals accused of spreading ‘false statements’ about Nycole Turmel’s health

NDP candidate Nycole Turmel COURTESY: Nycole Turmel Facebook page

“I am in perfect health,” insists Nycole Turmel, NDP candidate for Hull-Aylmer in Quebec, who wants voters to know she is “looking forward to continue to fight in Parliament for the issues that affect them after Oct. 19.”

Turmel, who became an MP in 2011 and has a long history of union service including becoming the first woman to head the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), is concerned about reports that she is “terminally ill.”

“I was really troubled by these tactics used by some of the Liberal campaigners, as I think it is really important to keep the campaign positive,” Turmel tells Yahoo Canada News.

“Now it is in the hands of Elections Canada and I have full faith in this process.”

The NDP has filed a complaint with the federal agency alleging that Liberal campaign workers have been falsely telling people that Turmel is so ill that she is on the verge of dying.

Turmel is remembered as the interim Leader of the Official Opposition during the illness of then-NDP leader Jack Layton, who died Aug. 22, 2011, of cancer. His replacement, Tom Mulcair, named Turmel Chief Opposition Whip in 2012.

The complaint accuses “assistants, volunteers and various other Liberal Party campaign workers” of repeatedly uttering “false and malicious statements pertaining to the health of Ms. Nycole Turmel.”

Liberal Party of Canada spokesman Olivier Duchesneau says in an email that “as far as we are concerned, it’s totally made up.”

The complaint letter outlines four specific instances during the campaign:

  • Oct. 8: during a public neighbourhood meeting, an assistant of Liberal candidate Greg Fergus, who is running against Turmel, said that the NDP incumbent was “extremely ill.”

  • Sept. 3: the Outaouais Liberal regional director told a member of the public that Turmel “was in such poor health…she was no longer able to walk.”

  • Aug. 13: volunteers for Fergus told people as they canvassed door to door that Turmel was “really sick.”

  • Sept. 11: another Liberal candidate, William Amos (Pontiac riding), told a member of the public that Turmel was “extremely ill.”

Fergus refutes the claims, saying “since the beginning of my campaign in March, we have run a positive, courteous campaign.”

The Liberal candidate, who has worked in different levels of the federal Liberal Party as well as being a policy advisor in several ministerial offices, says neither he nor his campaign workers “would ever discredit an opponent on the basis of race, gender religion, sexual orientation, fitness or health. I wouldn’t tolerate it.”

Amos also called the accusations “totally and utterly false,” questioning the timing of the complaint that is only “surfacing six days before Election Day.”

Duchesneau says “the NDP hasn’t presented anything to back up their allegations” and that the complaint to Elections Canada is “meant to distract voters from the real issues.”

He declined to specify what those issues are but Fergus did tell the Ottawa Citizen recently that the NDP complaint is “a likely result of a faltering NDP campaign in Hull-Aylmer.”

NDP spokeswoman Émilie Grenier says that “our internal numbers are strong and there was a high turnout for us at the advance polls,” adding that the complaint went ahead simply because the party wanted to put a stop to the rumours.

The complaint filed with Elections Canada asks the accused to stop “making and/or propagating any further false or defamatory statements” in connection with Turmel’s health. It also demands an apology and public retraction concerning any proclamations made about her health.

Elections Canada, which got the official letter of complaint on Monday, will have to decide whether to launch an investigation. It has no immediate comment on the matter.