The seven MPs who quit the Bloc Quebecois in late February over Martine Ouellet’s leadership are considering forming a new political party.
“The Bloc Quebecois you have known, and to which we devoted so much energy, unfortunately no longer exists,” Rheal Fortin told a news conference Tuesday alongside his six colleagues.
Their decision to cut all ties to the Bloc came two days after Ouellet, 49, accused the seven of spreading “fake news” about her and of breaking with the party’s “internal democracy.”
The seven have accused Ouellet of constantly zeroing in on independence instead of defending Quebec’s interests on the federal scene.
Ouellet, meanwhile, has refused to resign despite criticism of her leadership style, which has been described as controlling and uncompromising.
The former Bloc MPs said they believe Quebec is poorly defended in Ottawa and that its interests are “sacrificed for votes in the West, in Ontario and in the Maritimes.”
“We want to be the voice of Quebec, the voice of Quebecers, without compromise,” said Gabriel Ste-Marie, one of the seven.
A member of the group said the theoretical new party would not accept federalists into its ranks.
“No – and it’s a categorical no,” MP Michel Boudrias said late Tuesday afternoon.
A few hours earlier, however, Fortin said that while the MPs describe themselves as sovereigntists, they would be willing to work with federalists.
“We’re inviting everyone,” he said. “Bloquistes, but also members of the NDP, the Liberal party and the Conservative party. Everybody.
“People who want to work in Quebec’s interests are welcome to join us.”
Of the three MPs who decided to back Ouellet, one of them, Mario Beaulieu, is now contemplating his future.
Other members of the party quit Tuesday, including the Bloc’s director general, Paul Labonne, and its head of finances, Sylvain Gauthier.
The crisis is a far cry from the days when the Bloc was a key player on the political scene.
In six consecutive elections, between 1993 and 2008, it won at least half of the seats in Quebec, even forming the official Opposition under Lucien Bouchard in 1993 when it won 54 of the province’s 75 ridings.
Ouellet, who has been leader since March 2017, was an engineer at Quebec’s hydro utility before first being elected with the provincial Parti Quebecois in 2010.
She was re-elected twice and remains a member of the national assembly as an Independent.
Bloc members will vote on Ouellet’s leadership in early June as well as on whether the party should focus on promoting Quebec independence on a daily basis.