Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A crumbling Bloc

Andre Boisclair's resignation as leader of the PQ is grabbing the headlines so far. But while that may have been sufficiently predictable to lead to few lasting implications, there's another story today which seems to have far more potential to damage the separatist movement, as Gilles Duceppe's agreement to apologize to Stephane Dion for libel within the Bloc's 2006 campaign materials should result in serious questions about both the leader and the party:
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe will publicly apologize to Stephane Dion as part of an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit after the separatist party published a French pamphlet in 2005 linking the Liberal leader to the sponsorship scandal.

Mr. Duceppe has agreed to apologize for the offending pamphlet, which was distributed to thousands of homes in 22 ridings in Quebec just before the launch of the 2006 winter election. The pamphlet, titled "La route de l'argent" (the money trail), showed arrows pointing to Mr. Dion and other Liberal politicians. In papers served on Mr. Duceppe, Mr. Dion pointed out that the Gomery commission absolved him of any links to the scandal and the pamphlet libelled him by suggesting he benefited financially.

A spokesperson for Mr. Duceppe's office confirmed the separatist leader will sign an apology in a similar pamphlet to be distributed in the same 22 ridings in June.
Given that the Bloc has defined itself primarily in opposition to the Libs in Quebec, it would seem to be a major blow to its credibility to publicly admit that it falsely portrayed its strongest issue in the last election. And the damage would both spill over to the PQ and be amplified if the leader most responsible for the fabrication is then anointed the new face of separatism within Quebec.

Mind you, the federal Libs may not see themselves having much incentive to try to discredit Duceppe or the Bloc. And that likely explains the relative silence about the agreement so far.

But even if Dion isn't motivated to highlight Duceppe's retraction, the issue doesn't figure to go away entirely...particularly if Jean Charest can dismiss criticism of his own government on the provincial level by showing how Duceppe was off the mark federally. And that only figures to send Quebec's political scene into a state of even greater flux - with plenty of room for surprises as a result.

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