Gilles Duceppe has confirmed he is returning to lead the Bloc Québécois into the next federal election, taking over from current leader Mario Beaulieu and promising to push back the "orange wave" of NDP dominance seen in the Quebec election in October.
The pair made the announcement at a news conference at the party's Montreal headquarters Wednesday morning.
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"I realized after nine months of hard work that we needed to breathe new life into the Bloc campaign," Beaulieu said.
"So I asked Gilles Duceppe to return to the scene and once again become leader of the Bloc Québécois."
Duceppe said his first reflex was to refuse the offer, but Beaulieu's humility moved him.
"It took a lot of courage to make that decision. What convinced me above all to return was this will to bring people together," he said.
Duceppe resigned as Bloc leader after the 2011 election, which saw the party go from 49 seats to four. It was the NDP that largely benefitted from the Bloc's collapse.
Duceppe takes aim at NDP
Duceppe wasted no time in attacking the NDP.
"For the NDP, which has the majority of MPs from Quebec in the House of Commons, it's Canada first and Canada all the time," he continued.
'For the NDP, it's Canada first and Canada all the time.' - Gilles Duceppe
Duceppe pointed out that when a Quebec shipyard lost out on a lucrative $35 billion contract to build federal vessels to shipyards in Vancouver and Halifax in 2011, the NDP celebrated it a "great day for Canada" without commenting on what a loss it was for Quebec.
As to whether Quebecers who hope to unseat Stephen Harper might be more inclined to vote for the NDP or Liberals — which will run candidates across the country — Duceppe said he wasn't worried.
"I'll tell them one thing: Let us beat Harper in Quebec and you do your job in the rest of Canada. That would be a great help," Duceppe said.
'Back to the Future'
Speaking in Ottawa, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair fired back.
"For four years, the NDP has been standing up very strongly against Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Quebecers have been reacting very positively about that," Mulcair said.
"It shows in our numbers but far more importantly, it shows in public reaction to us. I know that Quebecers want positive change, they want something positive moving forward. They don't want to play as extras in Back to the Future 4," he continued.
Conservatives, Liberals dismiss Duceppe
Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel also addressed Duceppe's return in Ottawa Wednesday.
"For [Conservatives], it isn't really a question of who leads the Bloc Quebecois, it's a question of its relevance in Ottawa," Lebel said.
"We're working to make Quebec a very strong province within a united Canada. That's what's important for me," Lebel said.
"I hope we're returned to government. And in that sense, I want Quebec to have more seats at the table where decisions are made."
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau sounded a similar note.
"What we're going to be proposing is to give Quebecers a chance to re-engage with the government in Ottawa, and that's a direct contrast to the Bloc's determination to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada," Trudeau said.
Duceppe denies 'Hail Mary'
Duceppe deflected reporters' questions that his return was a "Hail Mary pass" designed to revive a party on life support.
"It's very rare a football game starts with a Hail Mary. I never saw that before. Never, never, never," Duceppe said.
He said his decision to return, "comes from a will to say 'Let's roll up our sleeves, prepare ourselves and fight with all our energy and political conviction to demonstrate to Quebecers that yes, it's possible.'"