Montreal

Françoise David, voice 'for the disenfranchised,' leaves politics

Françoise David will immediately give up her seat in Quebec's National Assembly, explaining that, at 69, she found it increasingly difficult to handle the demands of her position in today's "troubled" political climate.

Co-founder of Québec Solidaire first elected MNA in 2012

Françoise David announced her decision Thursday in her home riding of Gouin. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Françoise David, a longtime activist and one of the founders of Québec Solidaire, is leaving political life. 

David told a news conference Thursday she will immediately give up her seat in the National Assembly, explaining that, at 69, she found it increasingly difficult to handle the demands of her position in today's "troubled" political climate. 

"I promised to give a voice to the voiceless, challenge the establishment and solve Quebec's political gridlock," David said, fighting back tears.

"I am proud of what we achieved."

With David's departure, the pro-sovereignist, left-wing party holds only two seats at the National Assembly, occupied by Manon Massé and Amir Khadir.

Massé will act as parliamentary spokesperson at least until the party's congress in the spring.

David said she's confident a new generation is ready to take over the reins, hinting that former student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois would be a good fit to lead the party.

Decade in provincial politics

David has been with Québec Solidaire since it launched in 2006 and played a key role in its formation.

In a bid to create a unified left-wing movement, her former party, Option Citoyenne, merged with Union des Forces Progressistes to become Québec Solidaire.

David ran as candidate for the party in 2007 and again 2008, but failed to win a seat at the National Assembly.

She finally broke through in 2012 in the riding of Gouin, beating Nicholas Girard of the Parti Québécois by nearly 5,000 votes. 

In the 2014 general election, David's popularity with her constituents was reaffirmed when she received more than half the ballots cast in her riding.

Françoise David earned praise for her performance in the 2014 leadership debates. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

She also earned praise for her performance in the leadership debates that same year, when she took on Philippe Couillard, Pauline Marois and François Legault.

But overall, the party failed to make major inroads at the ballot box, particularly in the 2014 race, in which it garnered eight per cent of the popular vote and three seats at the National Assembly.

Thierry Labrosse, who voted for her in the last election, said she will be missed in Gouin.

"It's too bad. She was a great politician. I wish we had more people like her," said Labrosse, sitting in a café across the street from David's riding office on Beaubien Street.

"She ... pulled the agenda towards something more social. We're in great need of that."

People in the riding of Gouin tell CBC how the feel about the news their MNA is quitting politics 1:30

'A strong voice for women' 

David, a longtime activist, is a former president of the Quebec Federation of Women.

In 1995, she helped organize a 10 day march, called the Women's March against Poverty, from Montreal to Quebec City to demand economic justice for women. 

She was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec for her activism in 1999.

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée acknowledged David's years of activism in a tweet. Lisée called her "a strong voice for women, for the disenfranchised and the forgotten."

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      with files from Brennan Neill and Anslie MacLellan

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