LONGUEUIL -- One of Québec Solidaire's leaders seemed to dismiss the federalists on the left at its congress in Longueuil, as the party will lean on independence to win the next election.

"I never met at Quebec Solidaire, federalists on the left," said party co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois at the QS congress in Longueuil Saturday. "If there were any, I would ask them to explain to me how they want to make the ecological transition, reconciliation with the First Peoples and fiscal justice inside Canada."

Some 600 QS activists are meeting at the QS congress this weekend to talk about independence and the environment.

The theme of the conference is "Take power, transform Quebec."

The political party is trying to distinguish itself from the Parti Quebecois (PQ) by voting on specific measures to make Quebec a country.

Several "break-ups" with Ottawa are envisioned by the party as soon as QS comes to power.

If QS wins the next election in 2022, it would call a constituent assembly, write a new constitution and submit it to a referendum in its first term.

While waiting for Quebec to become fully independent, there would be "breaking gestures": all taxes, duties and federal contributions paid in Quebec would henceforth be collected by the Quebec government, for example.

Never has a political party in Quebec had such a clear and unselfish independence approach, said Jean-Lesage MNA Sol Zanetti.

"The goal is not to say to federalists: 'You are not welcome.' The idea is to say, 'Let's engage in the discussion,'" he said.

Long-time activist Francois Saillant, a QS candidate in the riding of Rosemont in 2007, 2008 and 2012, contradicted Nadeau-Dubois and said QS also had federalists.

These people are not quite comfortable with the QS independence project, but they are welcome, he said. 

Rosemont MNA Vincent Marissal said supporters know what they're getting with QS.

"I think it's crystal clear that Quebec Solidaire is a sovereignist party and has been since the beginning," he said.

Several MNAs said Quebec is unable to meet its goals in the fight against climate change while still being part of Canada.

"As long as we don't have all the controls in our hands we will suffer from the decisions made in Ottawa and Toronto," said Marissal. 

"We have a new emergency that pushes us and the population in front of the contradiction of a Canada who still wants to export Alberta petroleum," added party co-spokesperson Manon Masse.  

Notable MNA absent

One of the party's most high-profile MNAs was not in Longueuil this weekend.

The MNA for Taschereau Catherine Dorion is not at the convention that opened Friday. Dorion has been the subject of scrutiny over her casual attire in the National Assembly. 

She, however, addressed the activists through a video.

Dorion and her party agreed, by mutual agreement, that she should rather spend her weekend campaigning in the riding of Jean-Talon, Quebec, supporting candidate Olivier Bolduc.

QS is pulling out all the stops to win the by-election in Jean-Talon, a Liberal Party stronghold for the past half a century that could this time pass into the hands of the CAQ.

A by-election in the riding was triggered by the resignation of Sebastien Proulx in August.

The vote will be held on 2 December. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2019.

This is a developing story that will be updated.