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PQ ousts left-wing 'political club' Add to ...

The Parti Québécois has expelled a left-wing "political club" from its ranks, claiming the group's vocal criticism of Leader Pauline Marois's shift to the right was undermining party unity.

The purge took place at a PQ forum on the weekend at which Ms. Marois said rank-and-file party members had grown weary of the attacks and decided to sever all ties with Syndicalistes et progressistes pour un Québec libre.

"Rank-and-file members no longer related to the group," Ms. Marois said at a news conference. "But we continue to be a progressive party, more to the centre-left."

SPQ-Libre spokesman Marc Laviolette called the expulsion an attempt to silence a dissident voice in the PQ, which is becoming more conservative and right-wing under Ms. Marois.

"As far as democracy goes, there is nothing glorious about what just took place," Mr. Laviolette said as he left the party forum. "There is no future in adopting right-wing policies, but some party members remain stubborn enough to think so."

The two-day forum was organized to modernize the PQ's social-democratic platform by placing the emphasis on helping Quebeckers achieve individual wealth with less government intervention as the primary tool of Quebec's economic development.

Tensions between the party and the left-wing group had been brewing for months. SPQ-Libre emerged as a political club within PQ ranks in 2004 under former leader Bernard Landry as a way to maintain ties with labour groups dissatisfied with the party. The group has accused Ms. Marois of distancing the party from labour organizations, especially after she said public-sector worker salary demands were a "bit too high."

"I can't wait to see what the response from unions will be when she goes asking for their support in the next election campaign," Mr. Laviolette said.

The group also called Ms. Marois a federalist over her defence of her party's plan to seek more powers and political autonomy from the federal government, rather than focusing on achieving sovereignty, should the PQ win the next election.

Ms. Marois invited Mr. Laviolette and others to continue as party members individually. But SPQ-Libre's more than 300 members will determine in the coming weeks whether to stay or quit the PQ altogether.

"We aren't slamming the door. We are just closing it softly and saying we will be back," Mr. Laviolette said.

Ms. Marois had been seeking to expel the group ever since taking over the party leadership in June, 2007. The need for unity became more urgent because the PQ plans to adopt a new political platform next year in preparation for an election perhaps as early as 2012.

On Saturday, Ms. Marois unleashed an aggressive offensive against Premier Jean Charest, calling him a "crook" and the Liberals the most "corrupt" government Quebec has ever known.

She suggested that the province's Chief Electoral Officer undertake an inquiry into the Liberal Party's fundraising practices, questioning how the party could get $9-million in donations a year, three times as much as the PQ.

"Nine-million dollars, that's a lot of money … It raises questions," Ms. Marois said.

The PQ also called on Mr. Charest to explain why he receives $75,000 a year from the party when his salary as Premier should be enough.

"Why is that money needed? What does he have to hide?" she asked. "Is that why he refuses to call a public inquiry into allegations of corruption in the construction industry? Is it because he doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him?"

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