In the old days, the Bloc Québécois was a formidable federal beachhead for sovereigntists, a living, breathing existential menace to Canada's national order complete with Commons seats and a parliamentary budget. Now, it's apparently a part-time gig.
Martine Ouellet, a former provincial cabinet minister and Parti Québécois leadership candidate, has announced she will seek the leadership of its federal cousin. She will do this while keeping her seat in Quebec's National Assembly.
In fact, Ms. Ouellet says she'll remain the MNA for the suburban Montreal riding of Vachon, should she triumph. (There are, somewhat implausibly, five declared candidates.)
The decision is sparking a predictable partisan outcry, and perhaps Ms. Ouellet will reconsider. Either way, it speaks volumes that the thought was even entertained.
When the party emerged in 1990 in the aftermath of the collapsed Meech Lake Accord, leader Lucien Bouchard estimated it would only need to exist for one or two mandates – enough time to negotiate Quebec secession. It is now well into its third decade, and is a mere husk of its former self.
Lest anyone forget, this is a political organization that once carried 54 seats in Quebec and served, not without some irony, as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
But since 2011, the BQ has had three full-time leaders and four interim leaders, including Gilles Duceppe, twice. With 10 seats, it no longer enjoys full party status.
Sovereigntist opinion has long been split as to the Bloc's usefulness; the reasoning goes it's never a good idea to play on federal turf according to federal rules. Its relevance has even been called into question by Mr. Bouchard himself. The doubters now have another argument to muster.