A prominent member of the Parti Québécois says the sovereigntist party is finished if it doesn't get its act together.

"We're at the edge of the abyss," said Bernard Drainville, who has been touted as a possible leader of the party.

Drainville said Thursday the PQ must take swift action to address a slide in popularity  that has left it trailing the governing Liberals as well as a right-leaning political group that isn't even a party yet.

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Bernard Drainville is a prominent member of the PQ. (Canadian Press)

If it doesn't, Drainville said, "It's over."

He noted that recent opinion polls have put support for the the PQ at 16 or 18 per cent.

Drainville published a 4,000-word missive on his website in which he insisted that Quebecers must be brought into the heart of the sovereigntist strategy.

The former broadcaster suggested that a PQ government should hold a "popular referendum initiative," which would involve getting people to sign a petition indicating their support for a third referendum.

Once 850,000 people – or about 15 per cent of the province's population – signed up, the government would be obligated to hold a referendum.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois has rejected the idea, saying a referendum should only be held at an opportune time.

"We're at the point where we have to be ready to consider solutions which we might have rejected before," said Drainville, saying he believes the idea would be attractive to many sovereigntists.

Drainville said Marois was "very open" when he gave her a copy of his remarks but he doesn't know if she will make the necessary changes.

His proposals, which also include electoral reform such as fixed election dates, will be discussed at a PQ meeting in Saguenay next week.

Rough year for Quebec's sovereignty movement

Sovereigntists have already lost two referendums – in 1980 and 1995.

Drainville, who represents Marie-Victorin riding near Montreal, started consulting people after the departure this summer of five PQ legislature members, including heavyweights Pierre Curzi, Louise Beaudoin and Lisette Lapointe, wife of former premier Jacques Parizeau.

They are now sitting in the legislature as Independents.

The sovereignty movement has been in turmoil most of this year, particularly in the wake of the annihilation of the Bloc Québécois in the May federal election when it was reduced to a mere four seats.

Drainville says his proposals are not an ultimatum and that he still wants to be on Marois' team.