Bloc Quebecois losing their way, official says

Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:07pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's separatist Bloc Quebecois, which holds enough seats in Parliament to prevent any party from gaining a majority, has lost its way, a senior member of the independence movement said on Wednesday in the latest blow to the party's electoral hopes.

The Bloc, which wants French-speaking Quebec to split from the rest of Canada, has 48 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons. It was created in 1991 to push for independence but has since started to focus on defending Quebec's rights.

But polls show support for the Bloc is waning and the ruling Conservatives are targeting at least 15 of the Bloc's seats as ones that they could win as they seek an elusive majority government in the October 14 election.

Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe's mood was not improved when leading separatist Jacques Brassard said the party had drifted far from its founding principles by playing down talk of an independent Quebec.

"Sovereignty has more or less been put on the back burner. It's not discussed any more. The circumstances aren't suitable. But the fact remains that that's why the Bloc exists... I'm sorry, but this does not suit me. I don't recognize myself in this party," he told La Presse newspaper.

The independence movement is notorious for its infighting, so the comments by Brassard -- a former minister in a provincial government run by the separatist Parti Quebecois -- were not in themselves surprising.

But the remarks dominated a Duceppe news conference.

"In a democracy there are people who belong to a family who do not necessarily agree with what happens in that family," Duceppe said, denying that he was soft-pedaling the idea that Quebec should become independent.   Continued...