Former BQ MP appointed Martin's Quebec lieutenant

Former BQ MP Jean Lapierre appointed Liberal's Quebec lieutenant.

A former member of Parliament who quit the Liberals after the death of the Meech Lake Accord and helped found the Bloc Québécois is back with the party.

Jean Lapierre announced he will run for the Liberals in the upcoming election in the Montreal riding of Outremont. Prime Minister Paul Martin immediately named Lapierre his political lieutenant in Quebec. The two men are good friends. Lapierre co-chaired Martin's unsuccessful leadership bid in 1990.

Lapierre's been out of politics since 1992, but he says it remains not only his passion but his "mission."

He left the Grits in 1990 because Jean Chrétien opposed Meech Lake. Now he's returning to the Liberals because Martin is a friend and besides, he never really believed in sovereignty.

"I never saw myself as a separatist," he said on Thursday. "I saw myself as somebody who wanted to bring about a level playing field for Quebec."

Although Martin says Lapierre is ready to help build Canada, Lapierre wanted to share other views with the media. He ridiculed the Clarity Act, which sets out the ground rules if there's ever another referendum on Quebec separation.

"It's useless because it wouldn't change anything. If there was a will in Quebec, a clear will to separate, they would not be able to stop a will like that by trying to have tricks."

Some Liberal colleagues were shocked, including Stephane Dion, the former intergovernmental affairs minister, who was responsible for the bill.

"Useless bill?" said Dion. "That's completely wrong. It's the most important thing we have done for the unity of the country."

Dion and others say the Clarity Act is a crowning achievement of the Chrétien government. He continued to express his surprise at Lapierre's comments.

"Are you sure that he said that? I'm very surprised. It's not the view of the federal government."

Coming from Martin's new political lieutenant, it is a view the Liberals' opponents will no doubt try to exploit in the months leading up to a federal election.

Meanwhile, it looks as if another opposition MP is ready to jump onto the Liberal bandwagon.

New Brunswick MP John Herron, who refused to join the new Conservative Party of Canada, is sending out strong signals that he's ready to be a Liberal. Herron may announce as early as Friday that he'll seek the Liberal nomination in his riding of Fundy Royal.