Some people are asking why it is exactly so many are making political hay out of the past and current affiliations of the interim leader of the New Democratic Party, Nycole Turmel, especially when the other two main parties, Liberal and Conservative, have had members with sovereigntist affiliations in the past as well. Somewhere around 40% of Quebec is likely sympathetic to separatist causes, if not entirely motivated by them; is this not a political norm in the second-largest province? Why does it matter?
There's a couple of reasons driving the storm that some NDP members may or may not get. The first is very simple; neither Conservatives or Liberals managed to put someone with separatist affiliations in the leadership position. While some were very high ranking, they were, and are, controlled by much more powerful masters than themselves. Neither modern Conservatives nor Liberals are lead or beholden to separatist interests. Only Mulroney's PCs were really stuck with that monkey on their back for their time in government.
The second is easily connected to the first; as the Official Opposition, having possibly lost its strongest leader, the NDP is ripe for raking by those in Quebec, both inside and outside their caucus, who want to push their separatist goals in the party. Given the strengthened hand of Quebec within the NDP, such a lobby would be dearly felt.
Put in a leader with a possibly sympathetic ear towards separatist causes (proven by her chosen affiliations) and you potentially weaken the federalist aspects of the NDP - which, I might add, may not be very strong to begin with. After all, the NDP might be federalist, but the majority of the NDPQ most likely is not.
To me, the dangers presented by this opportunity matter beyond simple "gotcha" politics (though its good for that too). What if Layton isn't able to come back and lead his party? What happens when the arrayed forces of the pequistes and remaining blocquistes zero in on the NDP, and you have former Bloc member Turmel running the show? Much different than just having a Lebel or Bernier or Lapierre in your caucus - they don't control the switches. Turmel does.
In the world of political hypotheticals, when just awhile ago the idea of an NDP Official Opposition was foremost, this is a pretty clear danger that one needs to keep track of.