The Parti Québécois has lost another member in a high-profile defection to the high-flying, fledgling party that proposes a moratorium on Quebec's independence debate.
Legislature member François Rebello has jumped ship to the new Coalition party, which is leading in provincial public-opinion polls.
'If Quebecers take their economy in hand, they will become less dependent in spirit and in fact. An economy of entrepreneurs will make us more independent.'—François Rebello, in an open letter to Le Devoir
Rebello becomes the third Péquiste to join the new party, which will begin the winter legislative session with nine members.
A 41-year-old suburban Montreal MNA, Rebello is former president of Quebec's largest student group and has held several formal functions within the PQ.
He announced his decision Monday to PQ Leader Pauline Marois' chief of staff; Marois was out of the country on holiday.
The new Coalition Avenir Quebec (Coalition For Quebec's Future) says it's committed to bringing together politicians of different stripes and setting aside the 40-year independence debate.
Despite the appeal of that unifying message, the Coalition's most famous members so far stem from the sovereigntist camp, starting with leader François Legault.
The party is seeking to address that imbalance – and to bolster its claim to be a true coalition – by working to recruit prominent federalists, including former federal Liberal MP Marlene Jennings.
It's also expected to merge with the Action démocratique du Québec, although some ADQ members are fighting the move because they don't consider the new party conservative enough.
The Coalition needs 12 members to gain official party status in Quebec's national assembly.
Rebello pens open letter
In an open letter, published on the website of Le Devoir, Rebello explained the rationale for his decision.
He described his longtime admiration for Legault, a former airline executive with an appreciation for entrepreneurship as well as cultural issues.
Rebello also expressed his desire to see a more nationalist party defeat Jean Charest's Liberals, whom he described as weak-kneed when dealing with Ottawa.
He said he hoped to see a Coalition government focused not on left- or right-wing ideology, but on offering citizens the best services at the lowest possible tax rates.
And he said it's time to take a break from the issue that has defined Quebec politics since the early 1970s.
"You can't help but note that the sovereigntist strategy hasn't worked," Rebello wrote.
"The majority of Quebecers are not ready, for now, to vote for sovereignty. That doesn't mean sovereignty is no longer possible. Especially if Quebec improves its hand.
"If Quebecers take their economy in hand, they will become less dependent in spirit and in fact. An economy of entrepreneurs will make us more independent.
"So I am still a sovereigntist while conscious of the fact that the current stakes aren't about the holding of a referendum, but about choosing the best government led by the best premier."