Facing an unprecedented challenge from the NDP, Gilles Duceppe is now facing tough questions from one of his former allies.
Campaigning for a third day in the Montreal area, often in ridings once considered safe, the Bloc Québécois Leader was forced to address a critique of his campaign by former Bloc MP Suzanne Tremblay.
Ms. Tremblay described the Bloc campaign as "frightful" and criticized everything from the campaign slogan to Mr. Duceppe's demeanour. She described him as cantankerous, nervous and "clearly fed-up" in an interview with the Montreal newspaper, La Presse.
"If I hadn't been a Bloc MP, I'm not sure I wouldn't feel the same way as half the people who say the Bloc has done its time," said Ms. Tremblay, who ended a 10-year career in federal politics in 2004.
After touring a nearly empty market in a solidly sovereigntist area of Montreal's east end on Tuesday, Mr. Duceppe said he disagrees with Ms. Tremblay.
"When you look at the bottom line, who takes positions entirely in the interests of Quebec? That's the fundamental question," Mr. Duceppe said.
A series of recent polls have showed the NDP is mounting a serious challenge to the Bloc's stranglehold on left-leaning Francophone voters in the province. The last time the Bloc faced such a threat to its hold on the province was in 2000, when the Liberals came out ahead of the Bloc in popular vote. The BQ still won 38 seats, however, two more than the Liberals.
On Monday, onetime sovereigntist titan Jacques Parizeau spoke at a campaign event in an evident attempt to rally the Bloc Québécois base. Mr. Parizeau was greeted by a half-full room of partisans.
Mr. Duceppe was questioned Tuesday on whether the Bloc had reached its expiry date.
"Absolutely not. Sovereignty is not past its expiry date, the Quebec nation is not past its expiry date," Mr. Duceppe said.
"When you see the other three parties together, left and right, they are opposed to the Quebec consensus. We carry a youthful idea, to make Quebec a country."