Two more Parti Québécois members of the national assembly, Deux-Montagnes MNA Benoît Charette and Groulx MNA René Gauvreau, have left the party to sit as independents.
The two are the fifth and sixth MNAs to resign from the party in the last two weeks.
Charette told reporters Tuesday morning that his decision to quit has nothing to do with PQ Leader Pauline Marois, who he said he respects immensely.
The former PQ immigration critic said he was pushed to resign because he believes the PQ's refusal to reject the idea of holding a referendum in its first mandate after election is a mistake.
Charette, who has been thinking about leaving the PQ caucus since March, said Quebecers are not ready for a referendum and that "a third failure [of the Yes side] would be disastrous."
Charette, 34, is one of the 12 younger members of the PQ who recently signed an open letter addressed to former premier Jacques Parizeau, asking him to allow the young blood of the party to lead the way to sovereignty.
Gauvreau asked to step down
Gauvreau, whose riding is just north of Montreal, has agreed to leave the PQ caucus after being asked to do so by the party's leader.
Marois asked the MNA to step aside temporarily, pending a probe into alleged siphoning of riding office money by a former aide.
Gauvreau, 56, has been absent from the national assembly for months due to health problems.
His Groulx riding is located in the lower Laurentians and contains the towns of Boisbriand, Rosemère and Sainte-Thérèse, Que. Charette's Deux-Montagnes riding is just west of Groulx, and contains the town of Saint-Eustache.
The crisis within the PQ began when three prominent members — Louise Beaudoin, Pierre Curzi, and Lisette Lapointe — quit on June 6, citing issues with Marois and the direction the party was moving in. They were also unhappy with proposed legislation dealing with management of a future Quebec City arena, a bill that Marois had asked her caucus to support.
The following day, they were joined by Jean-Martin Aussant, a promising younger member of the PQ, who said he was upset with the party's lack of a clear path towards sovereignty.
All four are now sitting as Independents.
Charette distanced himself from the reasons given by his four former colleagues, who were more concerned with what they perceived as Marois's reluctance to move towards the goal of sovereignty as quickly as possible.
New separatist party in the works?
Some of the former Parti Québécois MNAs who have left the caucus are being linked to the idea of a new separatist party in Quebec.
Curzi has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday evening in Otterburn Park, in his Borduas riding, to talk about his resignation and the current political situation, a meeting Beaudoin and Lapointe are expected to attend.
When asked about his future, Curzi, a former actor and popular politician, told online sovereigntist magazine L'aut'journal that he was "open to anything."
Aussant will not be at Tuesday's meeting due to a scheduling conflict, but he told French-language daily Le Devoir that he would have loved to be there.
The former PQ MNA for Nicolet-Yamaska said creating a new party is an option that he and others are considering.
"It's not as easy as saying we'll create a party and going for it," Aussant said, warning that it will take a lot more discussion before a new political party becomes a reality.
Marois will be discussing that and more at an emergency caucus meeting she has called for Wednesday afternoon in the Quebec City area.
The latest resignation leaves the PQ with 47 members in the 125-seat national assembly, while the governing Liberals have 65.