Dissent over Pauline Marois' leadership has reignited with rank-and-file members of the Parti Québécois preparing to call on former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe to take over the party.
Members of the executives of PQ riding associations are calling on Ms. Marois to "do the right thing" and step down as leader. They fear the party could be wiped off the political map in the next provincial election under Ms. Marois' leadership, and claim that her days as party leader are numbered.
"I refuse to be a part of the band playing music on the bridge of the Titanic," said Marc Laviolette, vice-president of the PQ Beauharnois riding association. "We are publicly voicing what many members are saying privately."
Pressure on Ms. Marois had seemed to ease in recent weeks as polls showed a slight improvement for the party. However, the leadership issue is back on the front burner as the PQ caucus prepares for a two-day meeting next week and an important party gathering at the end of the month.
A few days ago, an influential PQ caucus member, Bernard Drainville, told the Montreal daily Le Devoir that if nothing is done soon to rally the sovereigntists, "the PQ could disappear" in the next election.
Mr. Laviolette, who once headed a left-wing faction of the party, said members of other riding associations are poised to make public their discontent with Ms. Marois and call on Mr. Duceppe to take over and revive the PQ's fortunes.
"Before speaking out, we talked to people who are close to Mr. Duceppe. We had to make sure he was willing to become PQ leader," Mr. Laviolette said. "Mr. Duceppe is the only one who could rally sovereigntists who have quit the party."
Since last June, seven PQ MNAs have left the caucus, three of them joining the newly formed Coalition Avenir Quebec created by former PQ cabinet minister François Legault. Dissension has continued to simmer, and the PQ has plunged into third place in public opinion polls behind the CAQ and the governing Liberals.
Mr. Duceppe reiterated his support for Ms. Marois on Wednesday, yet didn't exclude returning to political life on the provincial scene. He refused to comment the PQ crisis. "I have no comments to give you. I have nothing to add to what I've said before," Mr. Duceppe said in a telephone interview, sounding angry and annoyed that his name was being mentioned as a potential successor with Ms. Marois still leader.
Mr. Duceppe's former chief of staff, François Leblanc, didn't deny that if Ms. Marois quits, Mr. Duceppe would likely consider taking the job. "In no way will he do anything to push Ms. Marois out of her job. That's up to the PQ to decide. But if the job becomes available, he is in good health and he will consider his options," Mr. Leblanc said.
Ms. Marois refused to comment. The party released a statement saying that "informal" efforts are being made to forge alliances with other pro-sovereignty parties such as the socialist Quebec Solidaire and the newly formed Option nationale.
However, Quebec Solidaire co-leader Françoise David denied the party is talking to the PQ. The pro-sovereignty forces will announce next month a gathering to debate ways to achieve Quebec independence. But efforts may come too late if Mr. Charest calls an election in the spring while the Quebec political scene is in upheaval.
Members of the Action Démocratique du Québec party are voting on a merger with the CAQ and the result will be unveiled on Sunday. Several right-wing members of the ADQ have denounced the merger, saying that Mr. Legault is too left-wing.
The protest has paved the way for two former federal Conservative MPs to revive the Conservative Party of Quebec. Daniel Petit and Luc Harvey said the province is ready for a staunchly federalist right-wing provincial party.
"Our party will promote a flat tax, help businesses prosper … give parents the right to send their children to the school of their choice regardless of language or religion … and we want more private health care services," Mr. Harvey said in an interview. "We are a conservative party who believes in right-wing ideals."
He said the party, which was first created a few years ago, has 300 members but will have an organization ready to field candidates in time for the next provincial election.