François Legault’s newly formed Coalition Avenir Quebec party has recruited another Parti Québécois MNA.
François Rebello, who represents the Montreal-area riding of La Prairie, will confirm his defection on Tuesday and become the third PQ caucus member to join the CAQ.
Along with four Action démocratique du Québec party members, two independents and the two others from the PQ, Mr. Rebello’s defection will give Mr. Legault’s caucus nine members when the National Assembly resumes sitting in February. The CAQ is also rumoured to be courting other PQ and Liberal MNAs.
The ADQ’s 2,500 members began voting on Monday on a deal announced last month to merge with the CAQ. The result of the mail-in vote will be released on Jan. 22.
Mr. Rebello’s defection is another blow to PQ Leader Pauline Marois, who has spent the past few months dealing with growing dissent in her ranks as a possible provincial election looms.
The timing of the provincial vote will depend on Premier Jean Charest, who has begun a bid to revive his party’s fortunes and curtail Mr. Legault’s growing popularity. He has made an economic development plan for the province’s north a cornerstone of this pre-election strategy.
Mr. Charest kicked off the new year by leading an “economic mission” of Quebec City region business leaders to Northern Quebec, where several major investments, especially mining projects, are expected to generate jobs and economic spin-offs worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the province over the next 25 years.
The building of roads, a deep water port, a railway line and even a mineral pipeline are among the major infrastructure projects investors from China, India and other countries are considering to help develop Quebec’s isolated and resource-rich northern region.
Mr. Charest is expected to spend the coming weeks promoting the potential wealth his northern plan might generate for local businesses. Next month, he will be the keynote speaker at a Montreal gathering of business leaders seeking to take advantage of economic development of Northern Quebec. It will be one of four meetings of business leaders culminating in a major conference on the northern plan in April.
Mr. Charest has called the anticipated $80-billion northern plan a “great antidote” to the sluggish economic recovery in the Europe and the United States that has also hampered Quebec’s growth.
The province recorded the worst job creation performance in the country during the last quarter, posting an unemployment rate that jumped to 8.7 per cent in December from 7.3 per cent in September.
On his three-day mission, which began on Sunday, Mr. Charest was accompanied by the popular Quebec City mayor Régis Labeaume and 25 Quebec City area business leaders.
Many Liberals in the province believe the attempt to persuade voters that the northern plan will bring prosperity to all Quebeckers in terms of jobs and the creation of wealth may be the only strategy left to win support back from the CAQ and pave the way for an election next spring.