Bernard Drainville quits, calling secular charter 'debate that remains to be concluded'

Bernard Drainville steadfastly defended his failed secular charter on Tuesday while announcing his decision to quit the Parti Québécois. "I think it's a debate that remains to be concluded," he said.

Former Parti Québécois leadership hopeful will take job as Quebec City radio host

Bernard Drainville, seen here with his wife Martine Forand and his children Lambert and Rosalie, confirmed Tuesday he is leaving politics. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Bernard Drainville steadfastly defended his failed secular charter on Tuesday while confirming his decision to quit political life. 

The former Parti Québécois house leader and one-time leadership hopeful said the 2013 proposed legislation sparked a debate in the province that remains unresolved.

"I think it's a debate that remains to be concluded," Drainville said during a news conference in his riding of Marie-Victorin in Longueuil.

"I think it's a very sound democratic principle so I stand by what I proposed. It was not concluded the way I wish."

The charter, which would have prohibited employees in the public service such as daycare workers, teachers and doctors from wearing overt religious symbols on the job, was abandoned after the PQ lost the 2013 election.

Bernard Drainville defends secular charter

5 years ago
Bernard Drainville defends secular charter 0:36

While the proposal came under criticism in Quebec and across Canada, Drainville maintained that a majority of Quebecers — and 30 per cent of allophones — supported the idea.

Back to the airwaves

Drainville, a former reporter at Radio-Canada, announced he will work as a talk-show host on Quebec City's FM93 radio station, starting Tuesday afternoon.

He said Pierre Karl Péladeau's decision in early May to quit as PQ leader affected him deeply and was a signal for him to move on.

"I still have a lot to give, but it won't be in politics," Drainville said.

Bernard Drainville and his family are seen leaving a news conference Tuesday where he announced his resignation. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Drainville has been critical of politicians who leave mid-mandate in the past. 

In 2013, he told reporters that doing so would mean breaking what amounts to a "moral contract" with voters. 

Under legislation passed last year by the Couillard government – a bill which was championed by Drainville – he won't receive a severance bonus for leaving in the middle of his term.

A key figure in PQ caucus

While he will best be remembered for introducing the charter, Jean-François Lisée said Drainville was "instrumental" in holding the Liberal government to account over the past year.

"It's not good news. Bernard was a pillar of our team," Lisée, a fellow PQ MNA and a party leadership candidate, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Jean-François Lisée said Drainville was a key member of the Parti Québécois. (Canadian Press)

Lisée described how every morning at 8 o'clock, Bernard would arrive at the National Assembly having already "read every newspaper clipping" and briefing.

"He led the charge that made us show time and time again how the Liberals were mired in a number of difficulties," he said.

Lisée added that Drainville saw "himself as a future leader of the Parti Québécois, and he had made a determination that this could not happen in the near future."

Drainville's decision comes following the recent departures of two other high-profile members of the PQ: former leader Péladeau and former interim leader Stéphane Bédard.

Lisée, however, said "there's no question that a roster of good candidates" will be set for the 2018 provincial election.