PQ leadership candidates accuse Alexandre Cloutier supporters of shutting them out
Caucus meeting in Gatineau comes just over a month ahead of leadership vote
Three Parti Québécois leadership candidates are accusing frontrunner Alexandre Cloutier's supporters of blocking their access to party members, essentially limiting their chances to be heard.
A majority of MNAs, including many long-time party stalwarts, are behind Alexandre Cloutier. A Léger Marketing poll from June put him in front with 37 per cent support among PQ voters, more than double the support of his nearest rival, Jean-François Lisée with 15 per cent.
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Véronique Hivon, who quit the race last week due to health reasons, was in third with 14 per cent, followed by Martine Ouellet with 7 per cent and Paul St-Pierre Plamondon with 2 per cent.
At the start of two days of caucus meetings in Gatineau, Ouellet said it's been clear from the beginning of the race that the party's establishment is behind Cloutier.
"What I feel from the field is that the members are fed up with the power of the establishment in the party. The power should go back to the members," she said.
Lisée said it's been too difficult to get face time with grassroots party members.
"We say, 'We're in this area can you tell your members that we'd like to meet them at that restaurant at that time?' [but] there's resistance. We have to overcome it," said Lisée.
According to Cloutier, such challenges are simply the nature of a leadership race.
"That's the name of the game, said the MNA for Lac St-Jean."What I'm telling to Mr. Lisée is 'welcome to the race.' This is my second race. I know exactly what it is. I know it's difficult to meet some members sometimes."
Candidates call for more access to members
Lisée is calling on Cloutier to tell MNAs and their riding executives to allow all candidates easier access to party members.
St-Pierre Plamondon, who unlike his rivals is not currently an MNA, said he believes caucus members have a disproportionate influence in the race once they throw their support behind one or another candidate.
He said riding associations that support Cloutier are excluding him from speaking at grassroots activities. He wants the rules changed to allow for more access to members.
"Everyone agrees that there is an issue with respect to the internal democracy of the race. So why don't we find solutions to ensure members can meet and hear all the candidates?" he said.
In the meantime, he is asking party members who would like to hear from him or from any other candidates in their riding to call or write to their riding executive.
Jockeying for position
With the recent departure top contender Véronique Hivon and just over a month to go before Parti Québécois members choose a new leader, the remaining candidates in the party's leadership race have started jockeying for position.
The five MNAs who backed Hivon have yet to commit to any particular candidate.
"For two or three weeks, we want to let the dust settle," said Claude Cousineau, one of Hivon's key supporters.
Cloutier, Lisée, Ouellet and St-Pierre Plamondon are in the homestretch of their party's second leadership race in the less than two years.
PQ members will vote between Oct. 5 and 7 by phone and online. The winner will be announced Oct. 7.