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'They've lost their way': PQ MNA Catherine Fournier quits party
The youngest MNA is leaving her political party, and in doing so is placing the Parti Quebecois in fourth – and last – place among the ranks of the National Assembly.
Catherine Fournier confirmed Monday morning that she is leaving the PQ because she feels the party will never succeed in its goal of making Quebec an independent country.
"The sovereignist movement needs an electroshock," said Fournier.
"I think there is room in Quebec for a new independence movement and that is what I am working toward today."
Fournier, who was first elected under the PQ banner three years ago, said she is proud of having been part of the party but feels that Quebecers have "stopped listening" to its message and that the party does not know how to achieve its goal.
"The PQ has lost and by losing, the PQ became a loser and lost much of its relevance," said Fournier.
"Even if they change it's too late, they've lost their way."
Fournier said she believes that many Quebecers still believe in making Quebec independent which cannot happen without the support of younger Quebecers.
"My generation must be at the heart of any independence movement," said Fournier, who is 26 years old.
Fournier will continue to represent the voters of Marie-Victorin, a riding in Longueuil, as an Independent.
"You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs," said Fournier. "But we need a movement to unite the separatist parties within Quebec."
Fournier specified, however, that the "last thing we need is another sovereignist party in Quebec's landscape."
Surprise to the party
Fournier didn't tell the PQ she planned to leave the party; her fellow MNAs, including interim leader Pascal Berubé, found out at Monday's news conference.
“She says it's not good to divide, but then left the Parti Quebecois for, I don't know what, maybe a party, maybe something else,” he said.
Fournier has, however, the backing of Daniel Blanchard, her executive in the riding.
“She will be free to discuss with sovereignists, without having to follow party lines,” he said. “That's what we need to rebuild the movement.”
Her supporters include Pierre Marois, a former PQ minister in René Levesque's government 40 years ago.
“When we look at the PQ's election results,” he said, “it doesn't exactly make for a strong movement.”
Body blow for the PQ: Mulcair
Political analyst Tom Mulcair said Fournier's departure, especially because she is the youngest MNA in the National Assembly, was a body blow for the Parti Quebecois.
"She's going out of her way to say just how irrelevant the PQ is. She says that she is a dyed-in-the-wool, true believer sovereignist. And the reason she went into politics in her mid-twenties was to fight to get Quebec as an independent country," said Mulcair.
"What she's saying at the same time is the PQ are a bunch of tired, old pretenders who are not fighting for their main cause, which is supposed to be fighting for sovereignty, and that is not going to go unnoticed."
Mulcair pointed out that Fournier's decision is being celebrated by federalists, because the governing CAQ is full of former sovereignists, while Quebec Solidaire also promotes itself as "the growing force for sovereignty."
Mulcair said that worldwide, independence movements have fallen by the wayside.
"In 2019, does it make sense to start breaking up really successful countries that are admired by most people in the world for one good and simple reason, we've got it right?" said Mulcair.
"You want to break apart from Canada? Exactly for what reason? And why would you put the average working family through that sort of upheaval? They'll never give you a straight answer for that."
PQ has struggled with how hard to promote independence
MNAs have left the PQ before because they felt the party was not doing enough to promote the separatist movement in Quebec, among them Jean-Martin Aussant.
Fournier said while she has spoken to many sovereignists she denied having been in discussion with Aussant, a former PQ MNA who abandoned the party in 2011 and later formed a new party, Option Nationale, to promote Quebec's independence.
No candidate running under the Option Nationale banner was elected, and in 2013 Aussant abandoned that party to work in the U.K.
Five years later he returned to Quebec and ran for the PQ in Pointe Aux Trembles but was defeated.
In the interim Option Nationale dissolved and its members joined Quebec Solidaire.
Martine Ouellet also strove for a stronger independence movement while a member of the PQ, and became the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. However she repeatedly fought with the MPs elected under the Bloc banner because they disagreed with her approach to sovereignty, and last year she quit as leader.
Rearrangement of positions in National Assembly
With Fournier's departure the PQ now becomes the smallest party in the National Assembly with just nine members, one fewer than Quebec Solidaire.
Quebec Solidaire is now asking the Secretary General of the National Assembly for a change in seating and procedural status.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois pointed out that since his party has more seats than the PQ, it should now have more prominence in debates.