The crisis within the Parti Québécois has deepened with the resignation of a fourth caucus member who said Leader Pauline Marois should resign because she can't achieve sovereignty.
With more caucus members eyeing the exit, Ms. Marois's future is now in doubt.
Jean-Marc Aussant held back tears in announcing his decision Tuesday to sit as an independent, explaining that holding office is not enough and that achieving political independence remains the ultimate goal. Ms. Marois, he said, has lost sight of that and should stand down.
"More than anything you must want to use that power to achieve sovereignty. In all legitimacy the population must be told before, during and after the elections," Mr. Aussant said. "In my view there is no bad timing to talk about sovereignty, there are only bad messengers."
Mr. Aussant's went further than three of his prominent colleagues - Louise Beaudoin, Pierre Curzi and Lisette Lapointe - who resigned Monday for similar reasons. He said a change in leadership would likely help the sovereignty movement if it came sooner rather than later.
"If [Ms. Marois]wants to be premier, I am sure she would do a good job. If she wants sovereignty to come quick I think someone else could do a better job," Mr. Aussant said.
The last straw was the PQ Leader's decision to support a private members bill from that would shield a management deal between the government and Quebecor Media Inc. on the proposed $400-million sports arena from being challenged before the courts. Many within the party were outraged Ms. Marois would infringe on the right of citizens right to take legal action against the deal, which was struck without public tender.
Nonetheless, Ms. Marois - who had silenced her critics to ensure massive 93-per-cent support of her leadership at the party's April convention - said she would whip the vote on the bill.
The four defectors were outraged at her authoritarian maneuver and quit caucus. But their resignation was more about Ms. Marois's refusal to outline a clear plan to achieve sovereignty and seek a mandate to pursue it in the next provincial election.
"If you see politics in the context of grabbing power and managing the province, maybe Ms. Marois is the right person. If you see politics in terms of having a winning referendum as soon as possible, I personally don't see that coming with Ms. Marois," Mr. Aussant said.
In a desperate effort to stop the hemorrhaging, the PQ Leader met her remaining 48 caucus members for two hours on Tuesday morning to try to find a solution to the crisis.
The meeting will resume in the afternoon with members well aware that the leadership of the party is at stake.
At least two other PQ members of the National Assembly, Claude Cousineau and Sylvain Pagé, went into the meeting demanding Ms. Marois allow a free vote or that she permit those opposed to the sports-arena bill to abstain from voting.
"I don't want to resign from the PQ caucus," Mr. Pagé said. "We are asking for a free vote and we will see what decision is taken."
Some members underscored the cynicism of the population towards their party. They noted the PQ had always denounced deals involving public funds that excluded public tenders and that Ms. Marois was now forcing them to adopt a bill that did the opposite.
"We are against this style of conducting politics and this why people are so cynical towards politicians," Mr. Cousineau said.
At the conclusion of the PQ caucus meeting, some members looked angry and refused to comment. Other had difficulty holding back tears and emotion as they bolted past reporters.
If more members decide to quit, Ms. Marois's may have no choice but to resign. Gilles Duceppe's name was being whispered as a potential replacement - even though he led the Bloc Québécois to a devastating defeat last month in the federal election.