ADQ solid despite defections: Dumont

The ADQ caucus is still solid and committed to the party to the despite two stunning defections this week, said leader Mario Dumont.
ADQ renegade MLA Pierre Michel Auger, left, is applauded by government caucus members after he announced his decision to cross the floor to join the Liberal government Oct. 23. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))
The ADQ caucus is still solid and committed to the party despite two stunning defections this week, said leader Mario Dumont.

The embattled head of Quebec's Action Démocratique said he doesn't expect any other caucus members to leave the opposition, as MNAs André Riedl and Pierre Michel Auger did Thursday in what is seen as a political coup for the province's premier.

Liberal Leader Jean Charest warmly welcomed Riedl and Auger to the ruling minority government after the pair announced they were fed up with the ADQ and what they called Dumont's strong-arm tactics.

The defections come as the ADQ gathers for its general council meeting this weekend as talk of a snap election in Quebec intensifies.

Dumont accused the Quebec Liberals of governing the province "from week to week … without a vision."

He said the ADQ is worried about the economy, but is ready to move forward with its autonomy plan which includes the possibility of reopening constitutional talks with Ottawa in order to get Quebec to sign the Constitution.

The Bloc's domination in Quebec in the recent federal election is proof Quebecers haven't yet digested the unilateral repatriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982, said Stéphane Le Bouyonnec, the ADQ's political commission president.

Charest's Liberals now have 48 of 125 seats in the Quebec legislature, while the ADQ caucus has dropped to 39.

The Parti Québécois has 36 seats and there are two vacant ridings in regions generally regarded as Liberal strongholds.

People in Riedl's riding react to defection

Many ADQ supporters who voted for Riedl in Montreal's South Shore Iberville riding say they feel betrayed by their representative's defection to the Liberals.

ADQ renegade MLA André Riedl, centre, shakes hands with government legislature leader Jean Marc Fournier as he is welcomed by the Liberal caucus. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))
Riedl's move was the talk of the town in downtown Iberville Friday morning.

People who supported Riedl in the 2007 provincial election voted for the Action Démocratique, not the Liberals, said Christian St-Jean, a local resident.

"When you vote for a party, you vote for a party," he said over breakfast at a popular downtown diner.

The ADQ received more than 40 per cent of the popular vote in Iberville in the last election, with Riedl cruising to victory on a 5,000-vote margin.

His defection surprised everyone, including his campaign manager, Guy Berger. "I don't understand what's going on with this man," he said. "I don't understand."

Taxi driver Marcel Paquette, said he thinks Riedl saw the writing on the wall, and decided to jump the ADQ ship early. The party's gains in the last election were only a "protest vote," Paquette said, adding the ADQ has no chance of winning Iberville again.

With files from the Canadian Press