QUEBEC — The struggling Parti Quebecois has suffered another setback with a decision by the Speaker relegating it to fourth place in the provincial legislature.
Francois Paradis ruled Wednesday that the departure of Catherine Fournier, who last week quit the PQ to sit as an Independent, means the party is now officially the third opposition party behind the Liberals and Quebec solidaire.
For the first time since its creation in 1968, the PQ is no longer the leading sovereigntist party in the national assembly, eclipsed by the 13-year-old Quebec solidaire.
Fournier said she had lost faith in the PQ's ability to achieve independence. Her departure left the PQ with nine seats compared with 10 for Quebec solidaire. The Liberals have 29.
The PQ had argued it should maintain its status as the second opposition party because that was what had been decided in an all-party agreement reached last November after the election won by the Coalition Avenir Quebec.
But the Speaker agreed with Quebec solidaire's position. "It would be hard to justify that a party that now has nine elected members should occupy a higher position than one that has 10," he said.
Fournier took the opportunity to take another dig at her former party. "What should concern sovereigntists is not the order of the opposition (parties) but our capacity to all come together to win," she wrote on Twitter. "That a party's status depends on a single member demonstrates the whole problem."
Martin Ouellet, PQ house leader Martin Ouellet said the caucus remains stable despite the Speaker's decision. "Is it sapping the morale of the troops? Definitely not!" he said.
The reduced status means the PQ will have less speaking time in the legislature and will be moved to the back of the opposition benches.
The Canadian Press