The Action Démocratique du Québec unveiled its prize catch yesterday, announcing that former Montreal mayor Pierre Bourque will run for the party in the next provincial election.
"Our party is building a coalition," ADQ Leader Mario Dumont said as he proudly announced Mr. Bourque's candidacy in Montreal. "The vision that is being presented corresponds to the coalition of change that we are building, one that is united in its desire to break with the eternal, divisive debate on the [Canadian]constitution."
Mr. Bourque, a formidable campaigner, said he decided to run for the ADQ because the time had come for all Quebeckers -- francophone, anglophone and ethnic communities alike -- to reconcile their differences and work together within Canada.
The former mayor had been identified as a Parti Québécois supporter.
The PQ government even took the controversial initiative of supporting municipal mergers and helping Mr. Bourque achieve his dream of creating a single city on the island of Montreal.
"I am very proud of the merger. The [PQ]government achieved it and should be thanked. As a society we took a stand. And now, if we can unite Quebec rather than divide it, by uniting the francophones and anglophones, we can go far," Mr. Bourque said.
His candidacy could bring a major breakthrough at a time when the ADQ trails in public-opinion polls among voters on the island of Montreal.
They have only 14 per cent support according to one poll released this week.
The former mayor always capitalized on his popularity among ethnic voters. He toured neighbourhoods, kept close personal contact with city residents and even slept one night at an immigrant's apartment to illustrate his desire to understand the problems of integration facing ethnic communities.
Mr. Bourque, who was named the ADQ spokesperson for economic development, will run in the Montreal riding of Bourget against Cultural and Communications Minister Diane Lemieux.
The ADQ is carefully targeting ridings where the PQ appears to be the most vulnerable and where Liberal support remains soft.
In Mr. Bourque, it has not only attracted a star candidate but inherited an impressive political organization. As leader of the municipal party Vision Montreal, he was elected mayor for two terms. He lost to Gerald Tremblay, who became the new megacity's first mayor following the November, 2001, municipal election.
Mr. Bourque will now put Vision Montreal, which he led as opposition leader at city hall, at Mr. Dumont's service and will likely convince other prominent Montreal area candidates to run under the ADQ banner.
Public-opinion polls show that Quebec is headed for a hotly contested three-way race in this year's provincial election with the notoriety of local candidates becoming more important than in other elections.
The former mayor's influence could extend beyond Montreal. Mr. Bourque's friend, former PQ minister and current Mayor of Lévis, Jean Garon, is also considering running for the ADQ in a riding located on the south shore of the St-Lawrence River near Quebec City. And former federal Tory MP Gilles Bernier, who was once Canadian ambassador to Haiti, is being solicited to run in Beauce-Sud.