ST-HYACINTHE - The first day of the Parti Quebecois national congress Saturday was dominated by discussions over a political party that doesn't exist.

Leader Pauline Marois and her team of MNAs spent a great deal of time downplaying former party members Francois Legault and Joseph Facal declaring their intention to form a new, right-of-centre provincial party.

A poll released last week suggested the hypothetical new party would beat both the Liberals and the Parti Quebecois.

Several PQ MNAs, such as Bernard Drainville of the South Shiore riding of Marie-Victorin, insisted on the hypothetical and abstract nature of the new party, underlining the perfectly normal phenomenon that anything new will attract attention but ultimately would not be difficult to stamp out.

Though the new party does not yet have a platform or even a name, it has already declared its intention to set aside the issue of Quebec separation to focus on economic issues.

Marois said that Quebec does not need another political party that avoids the province's nationhood. That's what the Liberals are for, she joked before about 500 supporters at the meeting.

And in what was a clear response to former PQ premier Bernard Landry, who said Friday that the party is more concerned with the idea of forming the government rather than Quebec's independence, Marois reminded supporters that the party's number one objective remains sovereignty.