Skip to main content

The NDP almost wiped out the Bloc Québécois in 2011. The hardline separatists might be about to kill what's left of the party. Under the leadership of Mario Beaulieu, who was elected to helm the Bloc last weekend, the party will be marginalized, even scorned, by many mainstream sovereigntists, beginning with former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe.

Mr. Beaulieu, in his mid-50s, is a professional activist who's been a permanent and visible fixture of the ultranationalist scene for more than two decades. As president of a Parti Québécois riding association, he made life miserable for several PQ premiers by pushing for radical policies at party conventions. After having been defeated as a Bloc candidate in the 1997 federal election, he managed to be appointed as spokesperson for various groups promoting a hardening of the province's language laws. In 2009, he became president of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, an old nationalist institution that is now a hotbed of radicalism, especially on language issues.

Mr. Beaulieu has no charisma, he is not a good public speaker and he has never said or written anything memorable, apart from his anti-English diatribes and his knee-jerk, independentist rhetoric. His latest exploit is a video in which he acts as a tour guide showing how Montreal has been totally submerged by English – a ridiculous, paranoid delusion.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Beaulieu has his strong points, though: his relentless devotion to the "cause" and his organizational skills. And so, there he was again when the leadership of the Bloc became vacant. Mr. Beaulieu had the support of a dozen high-profile sovereigntists, such as former premier Bernard Landry and language activist Pierre Curzi, who hope against all odds that a new, more aggressive style of leadership can revive their lifelong dream. Mr. Beaulieu won handily over the other contender, André Bellavance, one of the four remaining Bloc MPs.

Life won't be easy in the Bloc, with Mr. Beaulieu being the non-elected leader of a caucus whose four members voted against him. Several Bloc officials resigned this week; more are expected to follow suit.

Mr. Beaulieu vowed to change the culture of the Bloc, which he accuses of having been too lame in fighting for independence and too accommodating with English Canada. From now on, he declared, Bloc MPs will spend most of their time outside Parliament, touring Quebec to sell independence. And they will contribute $50,000 from their federal salaries to sovereigntist groups – a rule that will do nothing to attract candidates, since one reason why the Bloc was an interesting career choice was the attractive salaries and pension plans of federal MPs.

The Bloc in its heyday could count on the votes of the "soft nationalists" because under its founder, Lucien Bouchard, and Mr. Duceppe, who succeeded Mr. Bouchard in 1997, the party dutifully collaborated with other federal parties on certain issues and presented itself as the "defender of Quebec's interests." It left to the PQ the job of campaigning for sovereignty – a logical strategy since it's only in Quebec that sovereignty can be achieved.

Mr. Duceppe is horrified with the evolution of his former party. He was especially incensed when he heard some of Mr. Beaulieu's partisans chant "Nous vaincrons!" (We shall overcome!), a slogan associated with the Front de libération du Québec, a terrorist group active in the 1960s.

Good news for Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau: The road is wide open for them. The Bloc will only get, at best, the support of the dwindling group of diehard sovereigntists.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter