Allegations that the Bloc Québécois put a political staff member on the public payroll has hurt the sovereignty movement, Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois says.
“When Gilles Duceppe is taken to task in the way he has I don’t think it helps sovereignty,” Ms. Marois told reporters Monday. “I’m saddened by what has happened.”
Mr. Duceppe, who was believed to be considering a run for PQ Leader, announced on Sunday he has abandoned his ambition of returning to active political life in order to focus all of his attention on “defending my integrity and reestablishing my reputation.”
According to other parties in Ottawa, the Bloc Québécois broke parliamentary rules when it placed its general manager, Gilbert Gardner, on the House of Commons payroll for the years in which he worked in Montreal on party management and organization. The Montreal daily La Presse broke the story on Saturday.
The House has launched an investigation into the situation and is expected to report its findings next week to the Board of Internal Economy, an all-party body that oversees the administration of the legislative chamber.
NDP MP Joe Comartin, who is one of the spokesmen for the Board of Internal Economy, called on Monday for the House to propose potential recourses “to recover any inappropriate disbursements.”
“They are looking into the matter and will report back to the board,” said House spokeswoman Heather Bradley.
Mr. Duceppe said Sunday his party’s allocation of House of Commons money was done “transparently” and “everything that was done respected the rules.”
Ms. Marois, who now is expected to head into the next election as party leader, denied leaking information about the alleged misuse of public funds by the Bloc.
“I have no idea where the information came from. I have no knowledge of how the Bloc Québécois managed its funds,” she told reporters in Montreal.
Marc Laviolette, who led the campaign within the PQ to replace Ms. Marois, said Mr. Duceppe was feared by his opponents because he appeared as the only one capable of defeating the Liberals and the newly formed Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), which is made up of several federal Liberals and former PQ supporters.
There was an urgent need, he said, to undermine Mr. Duceppe’s integrity. “We have just witnessed a political assassination,” Mr. Laviolette said. “It helps the federalists and the CAQ that’s for sure.”
Not everyone agrees with Mr. Laviolette’s assessment. Former BQ MP Michel Guimond contends that someone close to the Bloc leaked the information.
“It has to be someone close to the party,” Mr. Guimond told Montreal radio station FM 98.5. “It is someone who wants to harm Mr. Duceppe and sabotage efforts by those who want him to become PQ Leader.”
What is certain is that Mr. Duceppe’s fall from grace has served to reinforce Ms. Marois’s contested leadership. With no potential successor in the wings, Ms. Marois can now turn her attention at winning the next election.
“I hope that all these debates over my leadership are over. Let’s move on,” Ms. Marois said in Radio-Canada interview.
However, the party still remains on edge. Former PQ leader Bernard Landry will publish a letter in Quebec newspapers on Tuesday in which he is expected to question Ms. Marois’s leadership credentials. And a new public opinion poll to be released this week may fuel concerns about the PQ’s chances of surviving the next election. Some fear the PQ may witness the same fate as that of the Bloc, which was demolished in last May’s federal election.