Sovereignty 'alive' says PQ

In the void left by the Bloc Québécois' staggering collapse, sovereigntists are vowing to keep the fight for an independent Quebec alive.

Parti Québécois says Bloc election annihilation not death rattle for movement

Gilles Duceppe called on PQ Leader Pauline Marois to boost the sovereignty camp late in the campaign. (Canadian Press)

In the void left by the Bloc Québécois' staggering collapse, sovereigntists are vowing to keep the fight for an independent Quebec alive.

The movement's main leader is refusing to see Monday's election results as a setback for the cause, even though the Bloc was reduced to a rump of four members in Parliament.

"Sovereignty was not an issue in this campaign," PQ Leader Pauline Marois said in Quebec City on Tuesday.

"The sovereignty numbers that were there before the campaign are still there. Sovereignty is as alive as it was. But there is work to do to convince Quebecers."

The NDP stormed to victory in 58 Quebec ridings to turn the province's political map on its head.

That number is more than the Bloc ever managed and is the most one party has captured in Quebec since Brian Mulroney's Conservatives took 63 seats in 1988.

NDP looks for forge third way in Quebec

Delivering a fatal blow to the Bloc, and to Quebec sovereignty itself, has been an elusive goal for both Conservative and Liberal leaders.

The sovereignty movement isn't dead, warned Que. premier Jean Charest ((Canadian Press))
No party has been able stop the Bloc from taking more than half of the province's 75 seats. That is, until now.

But the party that finally brought the Bloc to its knees isn't characterizing its victory as a wholesale rejection of sovereignty.

"We just ran a positive campaign," Thomas Mulcair, the NDP's Quebec lieutenant, said Tuesday.

"Part of that positive campaign... is that we think it is about time that we start giving concrete recognition to 'les Québécois' as a nation within Canada."

Asked whether he thought sovereignty is now dead, Mulcair replied: "Does anybody have another question?"

In avoiding to appear anti-sovereignty, the NDP is hoping to forge a third way between the other federal parties and those who dream of an independent Quebec.

Mulcair said the party's priorities will include lobbying for an extension of Quebec's language laws to federally regulated institutions in the province.

He also committed the party to lobbying for bilingual judges on the Supreme Court.

Such measures are bound to please Quebec nationalists and help explain to some degree why the NDP was so successful in tapping into Bloc support.

The Conservatives congratulated themselves for rolling back the sovereigntist tide, despite losing several seats in Quebec. 

"If you... compare the overall situation of the Bloc Quebecois and the sovereignty movement today with where it was in 2005, before we came into office, you see just an enormous change," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in Calgary.

"I think a lot of that has to do... with how we've managed relations in the federation, and with Quebec."

Sovereignty spirit endures in Quebec

Inside Quebec, federalist politicians were more reticent about sounding sovereignty's death knell.

The NDP hopes to forge a third way in Quebec politics. ((Canadian Press))
"Quebecers voted yesterday [Monday] in a very significant way to reinvest themselves in the Canadian political framework," Liberal Premier Jean Charest said in Quebec City.

"Let me add this: this does not mean the sovereigntist movement has disappeared. We need to be very clear about that."

Charest added that the Bloc's defeat was likely to shift the sovereignty debate to Quebec, more than anywhere else.  

But the loss of the sovereigntist voice in Ottawa will be significant. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, the Bloc removed the comments function on its blog and Facebook page.

Marois pleaded for patience from those ready to proclaim the Bloc dead: "Let's take some time to let the dust settle," she said.

"I remain convinced that this is not a message delivered against sovereignty. Sovereignty is as necessary as ever."