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New party in Quebec to focus on PQ's left

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

QUEBEC — Quebec will witness the birth of a new, left-wing pro-sovereignty political party this weekend, one that may play havoc with Parti Québécois chances of forming a government in the next provincial election.

More than 1,100 delegates are expected to attend a convention in Montreal at which the Union des forces progressistes will merge with Option citoyenne, a progressive feminist movement, to form the yet unnamed political entity that will compete with the PQ for left-wing sovereigntist votes.

Party spokesperson Françoise David explained that the new party will become a political alternative for those seeking social justice, equality between men and women, a safe environment and a progressive vision of Quebec's economic development. Sovereignty, she said, would be a means to achieving "a major transformation of Quebec" and not an end in itself.

"We are giving birth to a party whose first objective is not sovereignty but rather a Quebec that is green, ecological and that promotes social justice. For us, sovereignty is one of the tools to achieve this. There are thousands of Quebeckers who are hungry for a party that reflects these values," Ms. David said yesterday.

She called PQ leaders hypocritical, saying they speak in defence of social democracy, but once in office, often treat women and the underprivileged with contempt. The PQ has only itself to blame for its inability to unite progressive forces in Quebec, she said.

Former PQ leader Jacques Parizeau said that the emergence of a new sovereignty party reflects the PQ's failure to maintain an open dialogue with the more progressive groups in Quebec society.

"I don't like the way sovereigntists are splitting up into all kinds of groups. I always take that as a failure," he said. "You fail when you allow new sovereigntist parties to appear."

The PQ fully understands the dangers of the new party, which boasts more than 4,000 members. It only has to look at what happened in the Montreal riding of Outremont in the Jan. 23 federal election to see how a third party can split the left-wing vote and harm the PQ's chances. There, a popular NDP candidate took nearly 7,000 votes, allowing Liberal Jean Lapierre to hold on to his seat against the Bloc Québécois candidate.

This weekend, the party will adopt a declaration of principles to guide it when it adopts an official platform for the next provincial election. A party name will also be unveiled. The names Quebec solidaire or Union citoyenne du Québec were among the four choices members were asked to vote on before the convention.

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