Parti Quebecois (PQ) leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon and former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe put down any claims that the sovereignist momentum and cause are in the past on Friday, with the former saying he even senses “momentum” and “a comeback.”
“The best is yet to come,” St-Pierre Plamondon said in a speech to the Bloc Québécois convention taking place over the weekend in Drummondville.
“We’re probably looking at a historic window of opportunity,” he added, assuring the audience that he was not looking to celebrate too quickly.
The PQ leader said that, a few months ago, many would have considered it a “bold gamble” to predict any rise in support for the sovereignist cause.
He also wanted to serve a warning “to all federalists” in English to “be sure to be heard in the rest of Canada” to signify that the sovereignist dream is far from dead and buried.
To get his message across, he drew inspiration from a well-known inscription that appears on car mirrors, saying “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”
The PQ leader argued that he sensed, in addition to encouraging poll results, a resurgence of sovereignist fervour in the population.
“They are more numerous everywhere in Quebec, to find the taste to speak about the future, about our national destiny, and particularly among the young people,” he said. “There is a kind of return of the pendulum. It’s as if there is a spontaneous regrowth that is beautiful to see.”
St-Pierre Plamondon gave credit to Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet, saying that he has a great capacity to face adversity.
Before St-Pierre Plamondon spoke, Duceppe argued that support was only at 20 per cent in 1989 before rising again within a year. He said it is currently at 30 per cent, suggesting that it could rise again soon.
“You have to be ready at any time to seize the opportunity,” he told the enthusiastic supporters.
He pointed out that no journalist would have dared to predict such a rise at the time.
“They would have said, ‘You’re going to the dogs, you don’t understand anything,'” he said. “Yet, a year later, that’s exactly what happened.”
He pointed out that in 1990, Lucien Bouchard, who was until recently a Progressive Conservative in the House of Commons, went to lead the newly formed Bloc Québécois.
The man who led the Bloc Québécois from 1997 to 2011 and in 2015 also attacked those who argue that the political party is useless, such as federal Liberal Minister Mélanie Joly.
In a speech to the Liberal Party’s national convention a few weeks ago, Joly said that when there were 49 Bloc MPs, they could not prevent the former Harper government from cutting funding to the CBC.
The former Bloc leader retorted that Bloc Québécois MPs voted against all budgets during those years except one when there were 51 of them.
“So she wasn’t talking about that one… We voted against those budgets. How is it that they passed? And then I remembered, but I checked… and I realized that every time, it was because the Liberals voted for it,” he said.
Duceppe and St-Pierre Plamondon were warmly applauded as they arrived in the plenary convention hall, as was former Quebec PQ premier Pauline Marois.
Her arrival was acknowledged by Bloc Québécois representatives, as was that of the two guests who were to deliver speeches later in the evening.
The closeness between the Bloc Québécois and the Parti Québécois could be seen in the adoption of a proposal that will be put to a vote so that the Bloc Québécois recognizes the Parti Québécois as the only political party in the National Assembly to carry the sovereignist cause.
The resolution also seeks to have the Bloc Québécois commit to supporting its sovereignist cousin “until Quebec becomes fully independent.”
The proposal will be debated and voted on in committee, where it could still be amended, before being submitted to all delegates on Sunday.
Blanchet will take a vote of confidence on Saturday and deliver a speech.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 20, 2023.