Harper suggests NDP is Bloc in sheep's clothing

Member of Parliament Claude Patry (R) addresses a news conference with Bloc Quebecois leader Daniel Paille on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 28, 2013



OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the NDP the "Bloc Orange" on Thursday after an Opposition MP opted to cross the floor and join a separatist party.

Harper, who weighed in on Claude Patry's defection to the Bloc Quebecois from Riviere-du-Loup Que., said the move raised concerns about the NDP's "ambiguity on national unity."

"This is an issue that has concerned us for some time, does concern us," Harper said. "We know that that caucus has many, many, many links to Quebec Solidaire which is, of course, a strong sovereignist party at the provincial level. This phenomena with Bloc Orange I think should give everyone considerable pause."

In response, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair touted his party's record in Quebec in the 2011 election.

The NDP claimed almost 60 ridings in Quebec in May 2011 - a boost from one seat prior to the election.

"You know what, I think it is good news for Canada that for the first time in a generation Quebecers voted majoritarily for a federalist party," Mulcair said. "We are going to continue to fight hard for winning conditions for Canada within Quebec."

Mulcair also called for Patry to run again in his riding because the MP had supported a motion to bar floor crossing in the Commons.

Patry, who represents the riding of Jonquière-Alma, told QMI Agency that Mulcair is no longer his boss and he doesn't have to listen to him.

Patry's said his decision to switch parties was sparked by the recent debate on moves to repeal the Clarity Act.

The NDP recently unveiled a proposal to modify the act, which sets out conditions under which the government would negotiate with Quebec for the province's secession.

The NDP's proposal, which is a response to a move from the Bloc to abolish the act in its entirety, suggests Quebec's sovereignty could be recognized by a vote of 50% plus one.

"I consulted my family and I came to the conclusion that the recognition of the Quebec nation is incompatible with the maintenance of a law that imposes conditions in Quebec," Patry said in a news release. "The NDP proposal ... goes against this fundamental principle."

Patry is the second Quebec MP elected in 2011 that defected from the NDP.

Lise St-Denis crossed the floor and joined the Liberal party last January.

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