Quebec separatist leader defiant despite mutiny

Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:49pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leader of a separatist party seeking independence for the Canadian province of Quebec brushed off complaints on Tuesday from mutinous legislators in her party who say she is not up to the job.

The opposition Parti Quebecois (PQ) lost its once commanding lead in opinion polls after a group of influential legislators quit the party in June in protest against the performance of leader Pauline Marois.

"I think the events of last June clearly shook up public opinion about our (party) but apart from that, it doesn't fundamentally change anything," Marois told French-language public broadcaster Radio Canada.

The PQ, which has spent the last 40 years pressing for Quebec's independence, is notorious for treating its leaders roughly and Marois is just the latest chief to face internal dissent.

To break away from Canada, the party would first have to regain power in the province and then hold a referendum on secession. Its two previous referendums, in 1980 and 1995, both failed.

Marois has declined to say when a PQ government led by her would launch another referendum, prompting criticism from hard-liners that she is not serious enough about independence.

Marois said she was determined to create a new country. But in the short term, the party will stick to her policy of paving the way for Quebec independence while remaining inside Canada.

"The strategy we've adopted (to secede) is different from the one followed by the Parti Quebecois in the past. So give us a chance," she said. "The previous policy did not produce all the expected results."   Continued...