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Majority of Bloc Québécois MPs question leader Martine Ouellet’s judgment

By Kristen Shane      

Seven of the 10 Bloc MPs rally around former acting leader Rhéal Fortin after they say a staffer close to Ouellet attempted to smear him in the media.

Bloc Québécois MPs hold a press conference on Parliament Hill on June 7 to express their support for former acting leader Rhéal Fortin, pictured at the podium. From left, Monique Pauzé, Mr. Fortin, Gabriel Ste-Marie, Michel Boudrias, Simon Marcil, and Louis Plamondon. Luc Thériault is hidden behind Ms. Pauzé. The Hill Times photograph by Kristen Shane
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PARLIAMENT HILL—Most of the Bloc Québécois’s 10-member caucus say their confidence in their party leader has been shaken after they say a staffer close to her intended to leak information to the media about the party’s former interim leader in an attempt to discredit him.

Seven Bloc MPs held a brief news conference Wednesday afternoon on Parliament Hill to publicly state their support for former acting leader Rhéal Fortin (Rivière-du-Nord, Que.) after a Huffington Post Quebec article published earlier on Wednesday said party leader Martine Ouellet’s chief of staff, Louis-Philippe Dubois, planned to leak information to the media meant to disparage Mr. Fortin.

“Firstly, be assured that the Bloc MPs have full confidence in Rhéal Fortin. He is an extraordinary MP. He’s doing a super job and we are pleased to work with him,” said Bloc MP Gabriel Ste-Marie (Joliette, Que.), the party’s finance critic, at the news conference, flanked by Bloc MPs Michel Boudrias (Terrebonne, Que.), Mr. Fortin (Rivière-du-Nord, Que.), Simon Marcil (Mirabel, Que.), Monique Pauzé (Repentigny, Que.), Louis Plamondon (Bécancour-Nicolet-Saurel, Que.), and Luc Thériault (Montcalm, Que.).

The other members of the Bloc caucus are: Mario Beaulieu (La Pointe-de-L’île, Que.), Marilène Gill (Manicouagan, Que.), and Xavier Barsalou-Duval (Pierre Boucher-Les Patriotes-Verchères, Que.), the party’s parliamentary leader in Ottawa.

Ms. Ouellet, who ran unopposed to become the party’s leader in March, is not an MP. She is a former Parti Québécois cabinet minister who remains sitting in Quebec’s legislature as an independent.

Mr. Ste-Marie said her chief of staff, Mr. Dubois, “is working more against the Bloc MPs than for the Bloc.”

A half-hour before the MPs’ press conference began, Ms. Ouellet and her parliamentary leader, Mr. Barsalou-Duval, released a statement to the Parliamentary Press Gallery noting that they had fired Mr. Dubois because he no longer had the necessary confidence of the whole parliamentary wing to do his job. Ms. Ouellet and Mr. Barsalou-Duval added that they condemn all leaks to the media. Mr. Dubois is listed on the government’s electronic directory service as having been the constituency assistant of Mr. Barsalou-Duval.

But it’s clear there’s a rift between most of the Bloc caucus and Ms. Ouellet over the employment of Mr. Dubois.

“Our confidence in Martine has been affected,” Mr. Ste-Marie said in French at the press conference, adding that it will take lots of work to re-establish trust.

He said it was an immense lack of judgment to hire Mr. Dubois as chief of staff.

Mr. Fortin suggested during the press conference that the leak would have been meant to intimidate the rest of caucus.

The caucus chair, Mr. Plamondon, will hold a special caucus meeting on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in Ottawa with Ms. Ouellet where she will be asked to explain what happened.

Tensions within the Bloc caucus have been rising since Ms. Ouellet was acclaimed leader on March 18, taking over from Mr. Fortin, who served as acting leader since just after the October 2015 election.

Some MPs were unhappy she named Mr. Barsalou-Duval as parliamentary leader. The caucus has also been instructed to clear all public communications through her before publication.

“It’s a little bit harder to work because of the way that Mrs. Ouellet wanted to work, she wanted to control it,” said Mr. Fortin, after the press conference.

As for whether he and the six MPs who supported him Wednesday would leave the Bloc caucus and form their own separate group under his leadership, he said he wouldn’t respond to hypotheticals.

“I don’t know. We will see tonight. Everything is possible,” he said, referring to the special caucus meeting that was originally planned to happen Wednesday evening.

kshane@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

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