When the National Assembly resumes sitting on Tuesday, expect some fiery debate in an already hostile climate about a familiar issue.
Premier Jean Charest's Liberals are once again facing allegations of corruption.
Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois plans to table a motion demanding a public inquiry into the construction industry and, in a bid to embarrass Mr. Charest, she is urging Liberal members to defy their leader's refusal to hold one and express the will of their constituents by supporting the probe.
"Your real boss isn't Jean Charest, it is the population of Quebec," Ms. Marois said Monday in calling for a free vote on her motion. "In facing corruption, in facing organized crime, in facing the mafia, our most powerful weapon ... is democracy."
Last spring, Mr. Charest appeared to have weathered the political storm started in 2010 with allegations of influence peddling by party financiers over the nomination of judges. Those allegations tarnished the government's reputation and cast doubts over its integrity, but were later dismissed by a public inquiry.
Recent public polls even showed the Liberals ahead of the Parti Québécois, which is plagued by dissent and internal divisions over Ms. Marois's inability to present political independence as a viable option.
The upheaval within PQ ranks has given birth to a new separatist party, headed by Jean-Martin Aussant, who quit the caucus last spring with three other MNAs over Ms. Marois's moderate approach to sovereignty.
'Option nationale' is the name given to the party that would seek to govern the province as an independent state before holding a referendum to adopt a constitution for a sovereign Quebec. Mr. Aussant rejected Ms. Marois's charges that the new party would divide the sovereignty vote.
"The sovereignty vote is already divided," Mr. Aussant said Monday. "It is already divided because there is no clear message ... and the sovereignty vote will only disperse towards other parties if nothing is done."
Divisions within the PQ have taken a back seat to a devastating report by a Ministry of Transportation anti-collusion squad headed by former Montreal police chief Jacques Duchesneau. The report, leaked to the media last week, confirmed suspicions that organized crime had not only infiltrated the construction industry but was also on the government's doorsteps.
The report served to divert attention away from the PQ troubles and focus instead on an issue much more compelling for many Quebeckers – corruption in an industry that receives huge public funding. Road construction alone accounts for more than $4-billion in government funding this year.
The Duchesneau report described an industry plagued by corruption, collusion, bid-rigging and intimidation tactics. It also underscored manoeuvres aimed at funnelling public funds into the pockets of political parties. No names were mentioned in the report, however.
The PQ has also asked that Mr. Duchesneau testify before a National Assembly committee, which Mr. Charest agreed to.
While the PQ seeks to build momentum on the issue, so too will François Legault, whose yet-to-be created political party could eventually engulf the Action Démocratique du Québec party. Mr. Legault is poised to form a new party later this year and polls show that it already considered the most popular and most likely to form a government.
The emergence of new parties on both the right and left of the political spectrum has hurt Ms. Marois's chances of winning an election just as Mr. Charest's chances fade as a result of the Duchesneau report.