August 7, 2009 / 2:18 PM / in 8 years

Canada separatists deny rumors that leader to quit

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s separatist Bloc Quebecois party, which holds the balance of power in the federal Parliament, denied rumors on Friday that leader Gilles Duceppe will announce next week he plans to quit.

<p>Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 15, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

Duceppe, 62, became Bloc leader in June 1997 and has led the party -- which wants independence for the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec -- through five federal elections.

Duceppe will meet party aides at a private meeting next Thursday. Bloc spokeswoman Karyne Duplessis Piche said there was no truth to the rumors circulating in Ottawa that Duceppe would tell the group he plans to quit.

“Mr. Duceppe meets his main advisors every year. His timetable is packed for the entire autumn and during the campaign for the last election he promised to contest the next one,” she said.

In the October 2008 election the Bloc won 49 seats. Its dominance in Quebec effectively prevents any other federal party from gaining a majority in Canada’s 308-seat House of Commons. Canada has had minority governments since the June 2004 election.

If Duceppe did announce he was stepping down, it could have major implications for the timing of the next election. The official opposition Liberals say they may introduce a motion of non-confidence in the minority Conservative government when Parliament reconvenes in late September.

For the motion to succeed, all three opposition parties have to vote in favor. If Duceppe did step down, the Bloc could decide to abstain on the grounds that it was looking for a new leader.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway

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