The man most likely to succeed Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard launched a scathing attack against federalism Tuesday, comparing the Canadian flag to "bits of red rag."

Bernard Landry was speaking at a Parti Qubcois caucus meeting just outside Quebec City when he took direct aim at the federal government.

Landry called Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stephane Dion "the most detested politician in the history of Quebec."

He also said, "The central government of Canada considers Quebec as Alberta or New Brunswick or Saskatchewan, which is an absurdity in itself."

"Quebec is not for sale" Landry

Then Landry accused Ottawa of trying to prostitute Quebec by offering millions of dollars to a Quebec zoo if it posts English signs and flies the Canadian flag.

"Quebec is not for sale," said Landry. "We have no intention of selling ourselves on the street for bits of red rag."

Later in the day, Landry tried to clarify his remarks, telling reporters he meant no disrespect to the Canadian flag. Landry said he was just using colourful imagery to make a point.

"When I spoke of the red rag, I was not speaking of the Canadian flag," Landry said, "I meant the red cloth used in front of a bull to make it charge. Bilingualism is provocation hence the red cloth in front of the bull."

Bouchard, who made his first public appearance since his sudden resignation announcement last week, refused to comment on the question of his successor.

A smiling Bouchard said, "I'm learning to exercise my right of discretion."

Meanwhile, Landry got a big boost in his leadership bid Tuesday, when Francois Legault a cabinet minister once considered a possible rival gave his support to Landry.

The party will meet in Quebec City on Saturday to draw up the rules for the leadership race.