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Bloc Québécois leader Martine Ouellet salutes supporters during a rally on March 18, 2017, in Montreal.Paul Chiasson

The infighting between current and former Bloc MPs shows no signs of abating, with the party now looking at stripping the membership of the seven dissidents who opposed the leadership of separatist hawk Martine Ouellet.

"By leaving the caucus, they indirectly decided to leave the Bloc Québécois," said House Leader Xavier Barsalou-Duval, one of three remaining Bloc MPs. "If they are loyal to the Bloc Québécois, they should join the Bloc Québécois caucus – it's as simple as that."

The final decision on membership will be made at a meeting on Saturday of the Bloc's executive committee, which is chaired by Mario Beaulieu, another of the three MPs loyal to Ms. Ouellet. Deciding the status of the other seven will determine under which banner they will be able to run in next year's federal election.

One of the seven MPs who left the caucus on Wednesday said he hopes he will not be kicked out of the party. "They said the door was open to our eventual return, so I'd be very surprised," Gabriel Ste-Marie said. "It's up to them to decide how they want to proceed."

The internal turmoil in the Bloc – a party that attracted the support of almost 20 per cent of Quebeckers in recent public-opinion polls – is widely seen as a battle between hard-line separatists and political pragmatists.

The MPs elected under the Bloc banner in 2015 are all sovereigntists, but they no longer agree on whether their priority in Ottawa should be promoting secession at every opportunity or defending Quebec's interests in the House.

"For Martine Ouellet, there is only one thing that is important; namely, promoting and getting ready for independence. The rest doesn't seem to interest her," said Luc Thériault, one of the dissidents.

Even though she has lost the support of 70 per cent of her caucus, Ms. Ouellet seems firmly ensconced in her position, with her loyalists controlling the party apparatus. The Bloc has lost key players after being almost wiped out by the NDP in 2011, and the remaining pool of members is increasingly composed of staunch sovereigntists.

An MNA since 2010 and a former PQ leadership candidate, Ms. Ouellet does not have a seat in the House of Commons. She is expected to run in the next federal election.

There have been tensions ever since she became Bloc leader last year, in part because she was generally directing the activities of the party from either Montreal or Quebec City.

There is no hope of a third referendum on Quebec sovereignty in the near future, as the Parti Québécois has put off a vote on secession even if it wins the next provincial election.

Still, Ms. Ouellet wants her party to use every single opportunity to promote the independence of Quebec. While some of her MPs wanted to improve key elements of the federal government's marijuana-legalization bill, for example, Ms. Ouellet pushed for full provincial jurisdiction over the production of the drug.

Her position was not aligned with the concerns of the Quebec government, prompting Mr. Thériault to say that, on this issue, the Bloc "was out of step with the population."

Louis Plamondon, the Dean of the House of Commons, made it clear that his decision to leave the Bloc caucus was partly based on his fear of losing the seat between Montreal and Quebec City that he has held since 1984.

"The Bloc has room to grow in the next election, but we couldn't do that with the current leader," he said. "We had to break out before we headed for the slaughterhouse."

Former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe called for Ms. Ouellet to resign this week.

"When 70 per cent of a caucus doesn't see its priorities reflected by the leader, he or she has to leave," Mr. Duceppe said.

"Secondly, I don't think the Bloc has to choose between promoting sovereignty or defending Quebec's interests. You can do both at the same time, as we used to do."

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