MONTREAL -- Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet defended himself on Sunday against accusations that he skirted party rules in order to get rid of a candidate.

Blanchet said the party's rules were “applied in full, to the letter” after an open letter, signed by 30 party members, accused him of “breaking the democratic principles of Rene Levesque” by refusing to hold a nomination assembly for the Terrebonne riding. That riding has been represented by Bloc MP Michel Boudrias since 2015. In their letter, the signatories said Blanchet refused to hold the assembly in order to promote the candidacy of economist Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagne.

Earlier this week, the National Office of the Bloc Quebecois decided to suspend nomination meetings until Aug. 23 and to instead select candidates to represent the party without consulting members.

During a caucus meeting in Shawinigan, Blanchet addressed roughly 40 candidates who have already been selected, saying he understood the frustration.

“It's an eminently unpleasant moment and it's a moment I'm not comfortable with either, but we don't have a choice but to prepare for the possible calling of an election,” he said.

Regarding Boudrias, Blanchet said the MP was “far” from having met the conditions necessary for candidacy. The party's national office requires each constituency executive to have raised $19,000, paid off all debts and have at least 350 members in good standing.

In their letter, the signatories said that in the Bloc “the choice of candidates has always been the business of members not the leader,” and went as far to call on other Bloc members to abstain from voting in the next federal election.

Some party members who didn't sign the letter have also come out in opposition to the move. Claude Andre, who ran as a candidate in 2015 and 2019 in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie riding and Andre Parizeau, a candidate for Ahuntsic-Cartierville in 2019, have both said they were excluded from the nomination process.

“After several attempts, it became very clear to us that the national office wanted to appoint someone, despite the democratic rules of the party,” Andre wrote in a Facebook post.

The turmoil comes as the Bloc hopes to build on its success in the 2019 federal election, when it tripled its number of MPs to 32.  

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Aug. 8, 2021.