Three veteran members of the Parti Québécois have signalled they won't run in the fall election, dealing the sputtering sovereignist party a blow ahead of the fall provincial election.
Alexandre Cloutier, a former leadership candidate, as well as two other longtime MNAs, Agnès Maltais and Nicole Léger, are all quitting politics.
Cloutier, 40, said it's time to pursue other opportunities.
"I have no regrets," he said at a news conference in Alma, a town in his riding. "I can say that I have tried everything, that I gave everything."
Cloutier was viewed as a rising star within the party not so long ago. He didn't rule out an eventual return to politics.
The former cabinet minister was considered the front-runner in the 2016 party leadership race. He ended up finishing second to Jean-François Lisée.
He also finished second to Pierre Karl Péladeau in the 2015 leadership race.
Cloutier said his decision to leave is "in no way" linked to Lisée's leadership, despite a tense campaign that centred on identity issues.
He did say, however, that Quebec politics "needs to change."
"I think there are ways to do things differently. I believe strongly in the intelligence of people," he said.
"We need to work together more rather than sow divisions."
Cloutier has represented the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean since 2007.
Maltais, 62, said that after 20 years of spending long days, nights and weekends working for the people, she wants her life back.
"I no longer have the energy to devote myself 100 per cent, and giving less than 100 per cent is not my style," she told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
Maltais said she still believes in the sovereignty project and pledged to continue the fight, but as a supporter.
Léger, 62, was first elected in a Montreal riding in 1996. She fought back tears as she announced her departure at a morning news conference.
"It's time for me to pass the torch,'' she said. "It's a personal choice."
Speaking alongside Léger, Lisée said the PQ decided to make the announcement the changes now, at the start of the year, out of "respect for voters."
The next provincial election is in October. The PQ has placed third in recent opinion polls behind both the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Québec.
Other PQ, Liberal MNAs jump ship
Two other MNAs, François Gendron and Claude Cousineau have also decided to opt out, while Nicolas Marceau is reflecting on the possibility, Radio-Canada confirmed.
There are also several Liberal MNAs who either aren't planning to run again or are thinking about it.
Norbert Morin, who represents the Côte-du-Sud riding, won't run again, while Jean-Marc Fournier and Lise Thériault are reflecting on their political futures, according to Radio-Canada.