Tuesday, January 24, 2012
If it's not dead it is on life support and fading fast. Pauline Marois is trying to survive, but the cost of her survival seems to be to destroy the separatist movement. I couldn't be more pleased. The window for sovereignty that opened in 1990 is now closed Published On Mon Jan 23 2012 Despite major concessions to sovereignist hardliners, including a controversial tougher language regimen, they are clamouring for Pauline Marois' head, writes Chantal Hébert. By Chantal Hébert National Columnist MONTREAL—It could reasonably be argued that former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe was swept out of federal politics by an undiscriminating NDP tsunami last spring. The Bloc, more so than its leader, was seen by many Quebecers as having exhausted its welcome. The weekend’s decisive blow to Duceppe’s provincial ambitions on the other hand had all the features of an ordered hit. There is little doubt that the hand that delivered the coup de grâce to his attempt at reincarnation as Parti Québécois leader was that of a sovereignist comrade-in-arms. Only a Bloc insider could have had enough access to the party’s jealously guarded books to leak the fact that for seven years its chief political operative had been paid out of the House of Commons budget. Whoever leaked the information had to be fairly high up the ladder. Former MP Michel Guimond — who was the third highest-ranking MP in the Bloc’s pecking order — told the Journal de Québec he had never been privy to such details. BQ Leader Daniel Paillé washed his hands of the affair within hours of it breaking in La Presse’s Saturday edition. Upon becoming leader last fall, he fired Duceppe’s former associates. His newly appointed director-general is paid out of party funds. The Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP all stand to benefit from a controversy that they may yet pursue in a parliamentary committee. With only four MPs, the BQ is in no shape to mount much of a defence of its former leader — even if it wanted to. But in the immediate, it is PQ leader Pauline Marois who has gained the most from the episode. The leak stopped the latest challenge to her leadership in its tracks on the eve of a fractious caucus meeting and a make-or-break party gathering. Duceppe has formally ruled out a return to active politics. This was his second aborted attempt at becoming PQ leader. Few expect that there could ever be a third. Without him, those most unhappy with Marois’ leadership no longer have a dog in the fight. But this latest victory comes at the price. Despite the Bloc’s rout last May, Duceppe remained more popular than Marois. Polls suggest he was the only sovereignist who might have had a shot at leading the PQ to an election victory. Now he is damaged goods. And that is only the latest parcel of scorched earth left behind Marois as she struggles to keep a step ahead of her sovereignist critics on the way to a do-or-die election campaign.