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Emilise Lessard-Therrien's shadow looms large over Quebec solidaire general convention

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Despite her absence, the shadow of Émilise Lessard-Therrien hangs over the opening of the Québec solidaire (QS) general convention.

The reasons for her resignation resurfaced on Saturday, forcing the party's parliamentary leader, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, to make an act of contrition.

"I regret having failed to prevent his departure. I have my share of responsibility," he admitted in his speech on Saturday morning to a few hundred supporters gathered in Jonquière.

Alongside him, Christine Labrie, who replaced Émilise Lessard-Therrien at short notice, said: "Everyone would have preferred Émilise to be at the microphone right now. I'm well aware of that."

On Saturday, Radio-Canada reported on a document in which the party's former co-leader recounts the recriminations against her party that prompted her to resign.

She says she was invalidated, that she didn't have the resources to do her job and that she was rebuffed after an interview with the public broadcaster. Lessard-Therrien also claims that there was no chemistry between her and her male counterpart, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

"It's time to modernize Québec solidaire"

The resignation sent shockwaves through the party. After a difficult few weeks punctuated by a multitude of written exchanges, the general convention is a pivotal moment for Nadeau-Dubois, who wants to get the Saguenay Declaration across to his members. He also wants to slim down the party's program to make it more "pragmatic."

It's time to modernize Québec solidaire, as we've done several times in the past," he told supporters. The Québec solidaire parliamentary leader got a boost this week, however, when CAQ Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau tabled a bill to better protect senior tenants, a long-standing demand of QS.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois was quick to point out this eventual gain during his opening speech.

"We all make sacrifices in our political commitment for a reason. Well, here's my reason," he said.

The party is clearly looking forward to some heated debates this weekend. Saturday opened with a speech by Martin Roy, a member of the QS ethics committee, aimed at making discussions at the convention more harmonious.

"I invite us to free ourselves from the blame game, because that's detrimental to the climate activism," he told the members. This intervention "is a new practice developed as part of our reflections on improving our healthy debate practices", says the party.

This week, QS MNA Alexandre Leduc wrote a letter in anticipation of the weekend's debates, urging activists to stay with the party despite possible disappointment. On Saturday, he acknowledged the risk of members tearing up their cards.

"I hope there will be as few as possible ... I'm always heartbroken when that happens," he said.

Referendum against immigration

During his speech, Nadeau-Dubois took the opportunity to slam the Parti Québécois.

"We can't let Paul St-Pierre Plamondon turn the great and beautiful project of Quebec independence into a referendum against immigration," he said, drawing applause from the supporters.

The QS parliamentary leader drew a parallel between the PQ leader and Premier François Legault. "More often than not, they agree. Housing, schools, French, public services; whatever the problem, for these two, it's always the fault of immigration," he argued.

He also attacked the "good old" Liberal Party for "dreaming of the return of austerity measures."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 24, 2024.

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