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Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe waves to supporters as he leaves party headquarters in Montreal after his election defeat on May 2, 2011 . (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe waves to supporters as he leaves party headquarters in Montreal after his election defeat on May 2, 2011 . (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Bloc Québécois

Whither the Quebec sovereignty movement? Add to ...

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe traditionally meets reporters the morning after a general election for a formal debrief. This time around, the word autopsy might be more appropriate.

The meeting has yet to be formally announced, as Bloc officials wondered openly on Monday night what Mr. Duceppe would actually have to say so suddenly after his party was nearly obliterated.

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Mr. Duceppe might simply decide to take some time to conduct his own analysis and decide on future steps, including a leadership race, in consultation with his advisers. But this time around, there will be no news conference afterward.

In a short speech on election night, he announced his retirement after losing in the riding of Laurier-Ste-Marie that he first won in a by-election in 1990, more than 20 years ago. He is also leaving as leader, a position he has held since 1997.

What is left for the Bloc, and Quebec's sovereignty movement, are questions.

Who will lead the party? The best known surviving member of the Bloc caucus is Maria Mourani, a fiery MP from Montreal who is an expert on youth crime. André Bellavance, from the Eastern Townships, has been an advocate on agricultural issues.

If the Bloc wants to choose a new leader from outside the House of Commons, a potential scenario would be for that person to eventually replace Louis Plamondon in a by-election in the riding of Bas-Nicolet-Richelieu-Bécancour. Mr. Plamondon is the dean of the House of Commons, having first been elected as a Conservative MP in 1984.

What is the impact on the sovereignty movement? The results are an embarrassing blow, especially since the Bloc and the Parti Québécois spent the last week of the campaign calling on Quebec sovereigntists to come out and vote. If they followed the directive, the movement is much weaker than previously thought. Otherwise, many of them decided to cast their lot with a progressive, federalist alternative in the form of the NDP.

The poor showing confirms that many sovereigntists didn't like the Bloc's presence in Ottawa, and they will be happy to see the focus of the movement being placed on the provincial stage and PQ Leader Pauline Marois. She recently won a comfortable confidence vote at a PQ congress and is leading in the polls in the province.

It remains to be seen whether Ms. Marois interprets Monday's results in Quebec as a formal rejection of the sovereigntist agenda, which many in the PQ want to see aggressively promoted.

Is there any positive in the results? The Bloc only retained four of its 47 seats, but it still finished in second place in Quebec, with 23.4 per cent of the vote. It was far off the NDP at 42.9 per cent, but ahead of the Conservative Party at 16.5 per cent and the Liberal Party at 14.2 per cent.

What's next for the Bloc? Mr. Duceppe said during his farewell speech that the NDP surge in Quebec constituted a last attempt by Quebeckers to give constitutional reform a try. The NDP has talked about reopening the thorny file in a bid to obtain Quebec's approval, although there was no formal proposal.The Bloc now intends to push the NDP to lay out a specific plan.

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