MONTREAL – The sovereignty movement has taken a hit with allegations that the Bloc Quebecois used public funds to pay its political staff, the leader of the Parti Quebecois said Monday.
Pauline Marois suggested she even regretted seeing former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe under a microscope, even if he had been the leading candidate to replace her in a leadership crisis.
“When Gilles Duceppe is singled out as he is today, I don’t think it helps sovereignty,” Marois told reporters before speaking to students. “I’m sorry this is happening, let me tell you.”
Duceppe, who quit the top Bloc job after his party’s MPs were virtually wiped out by the NDP in the last federal election, said Sunday he’s out of active politics until he clears his name.
He had been touted as a possible successor to Marois, whose leadership had been under occasional attack. The recent controversy appeared to put to rest any such possibility.
Marois told a radio show that while some may think Duceppe’s situation is a blessing for her, that’s not the case.
“On the contrary, it taints our party,” she said.
While Marois said she has the utmost confidence in Duceppe’s integrity, she also wants him to clarify things.
Daniel Paille, the new leader of the Bloc, said the rules have changed and that the party’s director general is now paid by the party, not taxpayers.
He also found no fault with Duceppe but wants to see things cleared up.
But Stephane Bedard, the PQ’s house leader in the legislature, says there’s a simple explanation for everything: he believes Duceppe is the victim of a federalist plot.
He says he believes influential federalists have an interest in “attacking and destabilizing” a “credible” sovereigntist spokesman like Duceppe.
“The only ones who profit from the situation are the federalists,” he said, suggesting that it is unusual that the matter comes up now as the popular Duceppe is being heralded as a potential sovereigntist saviour.