Caucus gathers around leader St-Pierre Plamondon as PQ slumps

It was a tough few weeks for the Parti Québécois. Gloomy polls, party supporters jump to the Coalition Avenir Québec and then someone forgot to invite party leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon to a memorial to René Lévesque.

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QUEBEC — Members of the Parti Québécois caucus say they stand behind their leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, despite the party’s declining fortunes in the polls and a string of bad headlines.

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“We all stand behind Paul,” PQ MP Joël Arseneau told reporters, inviting them to read some more positive comments about his leadership written by Quebec’s political columnists.

Many, he said, praised St-Pierre Plamondon’s “dignity, authenticity and beliefs” despite bad news, including the decision of two prominent sovereignists, Bernard Drainville and Caroline St-Hilaire, to jump to the Coalition Avenir Québec.

On Thursday, in his weekly column in La Presse, former Quebec mayor Régis Labeaume suggested to the PQ that it may be time to change leaders for the fall general election.

Labeaume proposed the PQ MNA for Matane-Matapédia, Pascal Bérubé, to replace St-Pierre Plamondon. Labeaume said that with all the bad news reaching the PQ, the atmosphere on the third floor of parliament – ​​where the PQ has its offices – must be quite gloomy.

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“I invite him to visit us because yesterday there was a meeting of the whole caucus and everyone is very happy with Paul’s work,” said Arseneau.

“And seeing what’s happening with our friends up front, we’re not jealous of their decision to turn their backs on sovereignty or independence and not really have a clue of where they’re going with their third path, the path of denial.”

But it wasn’t an easy week for the PQ. The latest Léger poll shows that the party has the support of just 8 percent of voters. Quebecers also don’t see St-Pierre Plamondon as their prime minister.

Last week, at the unveiling of a statue of former PQ leader and Prime Minister Jacques Parizeau, former Prime Minister Lucien Bouchard cast doubt on the future of the PQ, saying it may no longer be the right vehicle to achieve independence.

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This week, St-Pierre Plamondon learned that he had not been invited to speak at a special ceremony that Monday marked the start of a year of celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of PQ founder René Lévesque.

Other big names, including Prime Minister François Legault and Bouchard, have their say.

After St-Pierre Plamondon expressed his disappointment, the committee organizing the event got confused and invited him to speak.

“The message has been heard and we are happy,” Arseneau said.

pauthier@postmedia.com

twitter.com/philipauthier

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