Less than a month after narrowly winning a divisive leadership race, Gilles Taillon, the leader of the floundering Action démocratique du Québec party called it quits last week. Mr. Taillon announced his resignation only days after his main rival for party leadership, Eric Caire, and ADQ colleague Marc Picard left the party to sit as independents in Quebec's National Assembly. Mr. Caire and Mr. Picard accused Mr. Taillon of betraying the party's right-wing ideology. Their departure left the ADQ with only four representatives in the National Assembly.
At a news conference last Tuesday, Mr. Taillon explained that he was stepping down in an attempt to "put an end to the futile infighting that has diverted the ADQ from pursuing its real objectives." In the same news conference he also raised concerns about what he called the party's "troubling" funding practices and announced that he was considering asking the provincial police to investigate.
Mr. Taillon's resignation combined with his "bombshell" accusation had the Quebec press sounding the death knell (yet again) for the party formerly known as "the little third party that could."
Le Soleil columnist Gilbert Lavoie labelled Mr. Taillon's accusations a "kamikaze operation" aimed at "sabotaging any faint hopes" that remain for the party's renewal.
Mr. Lavoie's colleague, Brigitte Breton concurred that the timing and nature of Mr. Taillon's accusations seemed like a "settling of accounts" aimed at hurting his successor. Ms. Breton went on to argue that Mr. Taillon's handling of the situation only further demonstrated that he simply "does not have the makings of a leader."
In a post to her blog on Wednesday, Voir's Josée Legault agreed that Mr. Taillon's concerns about party financing was probably more about "settling accounts" than about taking the moral high ground. Ms. Legault went one step further and wondered whether we were witnessing "not only a settling of accounts between two egos [Mr. Caire's and Mr. Taillon's] but also between those in the ADQ who want to stay glued to Harper and the Conservatives and those who, for a wide variety of reasons, prefer to remain as far away as possible."
Mr. Taillon added some weight to Ms. Legault's hypothesis in an open letter he sent to the press on Wednesday. In it he alleged that former party leader Mario Dumont and his cronies had conspired (with the help of Mr. Caire) to push him out of the party because he refused to maintain close ties with the federal Conservative party. "For some," wrote Mr. Taillon, "my election as leader signified the end of an untouchable allegiance." Mr. Taillon also named Gerard Deltell - the ADQ MNA who is likely to be crowned interim party leader - as a potential co-conspirator.
In a column published the same day, La Presse's Vincent Marissal contemplated the future leadership of the ADQ and questioned who in his right mind would want to take over at this point. "It's like being promoted to captain on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg," he quipped.
Some pundits refused to speculate about any possible future for the ADQ and skipped straight to post-mortem-style analyses of the once-mighty third party. Mr. Marissal's colleague, Alain Dubuc, declared that it would be "very surprising" if the party managed to come back from the difficulties of the pasty few months. He admitted that it was possible for the party to survive as a "marginal" entity, but doubted that it would ever regain its former status as the official opposition. Le Devoir's Bernard Descôteaux offered a similar assessment and declared the party to be "a caricature of what it once was" that is now "slowly dying" from the inside out.
In an editorial published on Thursday, La Presse's André Pratte called the implosion of the ADQ a " sad spectacle." He suggested that the very existence of the ADQ helped to redefine Quebec's political debates by de-emphasizing the nationalist issues that "have haunted us for 40 years" and argued that the disappearance of a legitimate third party would represent "a missed opportunity" in terms of the evolution of the Quebec political landscape.
Over at Le Journal de Montreal, Joseph Facal (a separatist foil to the staunchly federalist Mr. Pratte), argued that the continued primacy of the federalist/separatist divide in Quebec politics was one of the main reasons why a third party has such a hard time thriving in Quebec. "Quebec should either be part of Canada, or not. There is no third option," Mr. Facal wrote. He contended that a party [like the ADQ]composed of federalists and separatists is a "strictly fragile and short term arrangement" in the province, since the nationalist question remains "irreparably divisive."
Blogue post of the week
Chantal Hébert lightens things up with a mock recruitment ad on her blog seeking a " Quebecois version of Stephen Harper to fix a young right wing party in free fall." Possibilities for advancement? "Somewhere between unlimited and inexistent."