The leader of the Bloc Québécois reacted with indignation to the resignation from his party of Jean-François Fortin, saying the MP quit the Bloc Québécois because of plans to start his own party and "torpedo" the sovereignty movement.
“I think Mr. Fortin lacked loyalty and transparency,” Mario Beaulieu said at a news conference this afternoon. "Just as we are about to launch a campaign to promote independence... he torpedoes the Bloc Québécois and the cause of independence."
Beaulieu said he learned of Fortin’s plans through an intercepted email sent on July 21 and tried to find a compromise with the MP.
"I gave him the chance to come around,” said Beaulieu. “If he had had the courage of his convictions as he claims, he would have told me he was leaving rather than making a scene as he did today."
Beaulieu said he’s anxious to continue working with all Bloc MPs who “put the independence movement above their personal interests.”
Fortin admits discussing new party
Fortin said he had considered creating a party that would focus on the needs of different regions in Quebec.
He said the discussions did not touch on sovereignty, and there were no plans to develop a party platform.
"I talked with some of those close to me about how the Bloc Québécois should create a message that speaks to all regions in Quebec. In what manner can the Bloc Québécois — or a new political party — create this necessary anchor in communities?" said Fortin.
'Divisive' and 'radical' leadership
Fortin announced this morning he was quitting the party, accusing Beaulieu, who was elected leader June 14, of being divisive and radical.
Fortin, 40, will sit as an Independent until the 2015 federal election.
"The Bloc Québécois in which I believed, which we believed, no longer exists," he said in a statement.
"The arrival of new leader Mario Beaulieu, who is pushing a one-dimensional, unrigorous and uncompromising approach, has put an end to the credibility established by Gilles Duceppe and continued by Daniel Paillé, two leaders who deserved great respect."
After a summer of reflection, Fortin said he believes his constituents would be better served if he completed his mandate outside the party, which will now have only three MPs.
Beaulieu has made no bones about focusing on the promotion of sovereignty — an approach that differs from that of his predecessors.
Beaulieu, who is on a provincewide tour to drum up support for independence, has accused Duceppe and Paillé of having a defeatist attitude with regard to sovereignty.
Fortin has represented Haute-Gaspésie-La Mitis-Matane-Matapédia since 2011. A political scientist and former municipal politician, he did not indicate if he would seek re-election next year.
Fortin says Beaulieu has radicalized the party with his dogmatic approach.
"It is not by rejecting those who seem less 'pure' and abandoning the rigour which has always characterized the Bloc in favour of repeating old...formulas that he will convince Quebecers to follow him," Fortin said.
"This is not the way to serve Quebecers or advance sovereignty. In behaving this way, Mr. Beaulieu is dividing sovereigntists instead of uniting them."
His departure leaves leadership runner-up André Bellavance, Claude Patry and Louis Plamondon as the party's only MPs.
The Bloc has been in turmoil since its staggering defeat at the polls in 2011, when it was reduced to four seats from 47.
Fortin ran for the party leadership in 2011 and lost to Paillé.
The runner-up in that race, Maria Mourani, was expelled from the Bloc caucus in September 2013 by Paillé for criticizing the Parti Québécois's now-defunct proposed charter of values.
She has since been sitting as an Independent and has denounced sovereignty.
Paillé quit as leader in December 2013 because of health reasons, with Beaulieu replacing him this past June.