Gilles Duceppe returns to lead Bloc Quebecois
Michelle Zilio, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, June 10, 2015 4:07AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 10, 2015 2:47PM EDT
Gilles Duceppe is returning to lead the Bloc Quebecois, after a four-year hiatus from federal politics.
Duceppe made the announcement at party headquarters in Montreal on Wednesday morning, alongside former leader Mario Beaulieu, who will stay on as party president.
Duceppe said his arrival will breathe new life into the Bloc, which has been lagging in the polls under Beaulieu’s leadership.
“Since 2011, the force of Quebec has become weaker. Quebec loses ground in Ottawa because, except for the BC (Bloc Quebecois), no one is there to defend Quebec’s interests,” said Duceppe, speaking in French.
Duceppe, who led the party from 1997 to 2011, admitted he originally turned down the leadership offer. But after consulting with others, including Parti Quebecois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau, he reconsidered.
“I told myself there is a responsibility, this is what life is all about,” said Duceppe. “There’s a new era.”
In Duceppe’s view, Quebec is being ignored in Parliament. For instance, he cited the federal government’s decision to grant Halifax and B.C. contracts through the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, leaving Quebec’s shipyards out of the lucrative deals.
Duceppe encouraged Bloc supporters who have left the party to come back, adding that the door is open to anyone who wants to join the sovereigntist cause.
When asked if this move was a “Hail Mary” attempt to revive the party, Duceppe rejected the statement and said the decision to make him leader comes with “energy and conviction.”
Quebec political commentator Jean Lapierre said the party’s executive held a vote accepting Beaulieu’s resignation, and then the approval of Duceppe as the new leader. Lapierre said he wasn’t surprised the party skipped a vote, as a leadership vote is just a formality.
“When are you are in a desperate situation, you find a desperate solution,” said Lapierre. “They’re fighting for survival so anything can go by.”
The Bloc’s general council will ratify Duceppe as leader on July 1. Lapierre says the council will, without a doubt, approve the decision.
The Bloc Quebecois suffered a major defeat when it won only four seats in the 2011 federal election, succumbing to the so-called “orange wave” that saw a slew of NDP candidates claim Quebec’s seats instead. The Bloc is now down to just two seats in the House of Commons.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the NDP is confident it can deliver a strong performance in the province again, despite Duceppe’s return.
“We’ve taken on these issues before. I’ve been dealing with them for 35 years. I know that Quebecers want positive change. They want something moving forward. They don’t want to play as extras in Back to the Future IV,” said Mulcair.
But the switch in leadership hasn’t changed former Bloc MP Andre Bellavance’s mind about leaving the party and not running again. Bellavance issued a statement Wednesday, saying while he respected Duceppe’s decision to lead the Bloc again, he stands by his decision to not seek re-election in the fall. Bellavance quit the Bloc last August, saying he could not work with then newly-elected leader Beaulieu.