In a bitter, resentful and defiant speech, Martine Ouellet announced Monday she will step down as head of the Bloc Québécois in the wake of a crushing defeat in a leadership vote where she collected 32 per cent support.
Ouellet, 49, has been leader since March 2017 and said her resignation will take effect June 11.
She called the Quebec independence movement “sick” and said it is full of internecine warfare.
“My principal conclusion is that the main obstacle to the realization of the republic of Quebec comes from within the sovereigntist movement,” she told reporters. “It’s not normal; the movement is sick.”
“If all the energy that was deployed toward small internal fights … was deployed to the realization of the republic of Quebec — I am convinced that today, (independence) would be a done deal.”
The Bloc has been in disarray since late February when seven of its 10 MPs quit over Ouellet’s leadership style.
Of the three who remained, only two still backed her heading into the weekend vote.
The dissenting MPs accused Ouellet of talking about independence at all times instead of working to defend Quebec’s interests within the current parliamentary system.
Ouellet wanted to bring up sovereignty as the answer to all files, despite the fact support for an independent Quebec remains low in the province and has been for years.
‘Nothing is finished for me’
The tension within the Bloc highlighted the fact its members remain deeply divided on the purpose and future of the party.
Former leader Gilles Duceppe publicly denounced Ouellet after the seven members departed, saying she didn’t know how to get along with others and that she should resign.
Ouellet spoke directly to her detractors, arguing the purpose of a pro-independence party in Ottawa is to fight the federal system — not support it.
“The work of a sovereigntist party in Ottawa is not to improve the Canadian system — it’s to leave it,” she said. “The fact I talk of independence all the time … it bothers people. It bothers our opponents, the federalists, which is normal.
“But it also bothers some sovereigntists — that’s not normal.”
She spoke for roughly 30 minutes before announcing — through tears — her decision to step down.
Ouellet said she was the victim of leaks in the media, sabotage, and “a slew of unimaginable personal attacks over the last three months.”
She accused party president Mario Beaulieu of running a “negative, aggressive, denigrating and intimidating” campaign against her.
And Ouellet didn’t spare Duceppe, saying the ex-leader worked to reverse the democratic decisions of Bloc members.
Ouellet said she isn’t done in politics and will keep fighting for Quebec sovereignty.
“Rest assured,” she said.
“I will continue. Nothing is finished for me.”