(Quebec) The new interim leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), Marc Tanguay, fails his first leadership test: reintegrating Marie-Claude Nichols into his caucus. Despite an apology, the latter said Tuesday that she will not return as long as Mr. Tanguay is at the head of the party, and will wait to see who will win the next leadership race.
“No, I will not be going back to the pre-sessional caucus today. What am I going to say? I have the impression of living for a second time an expulsion. And sincerely, I will be frank with you, I have the impression that I am not wanted in my own caucus, ”said the MP for Vaudreuil in the morning, in an interview with 98.5 FM. She criticized the work of Mr. Tanguay, newly elected interim leader of the PLQ, as he begins the first day of the PLQ’s pre-sessional caucus at the Salon Rouge in Quebec City.
Marc Tanguay replied a few hours later at a press briefing at the National Assembly. He claims that the door is still open and that he has offered his apologies to Mr.me Nichols for the fate reserved for him. She was expelled from the caucus by the former leader of the PLQ Dominique Anglade following a dispute over who was going to get the post of third vice-president of the National Assembly, an honorary position where the elected “n ‘exercise any administrative function’.
“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Quebec, and on behalf of the caucus of deputies, I had the opportunity to tell Marie-Claude that I regret the way it happened, that I offer her my apologies on a personal basis and as a leader […]. Apologies are pronounced. We apologize. I would like to do them next to her, but still, you will have given me the opportunity to express them,” said Mr. Tanguay. Caucus Chairman Enrico Ciccone also offered an apology. He had implied that Congresswoman Nichols was not a team player.
He affirms for his part that the discussion he had on Sunday with the independent MP to convince her to return to the PLQ had only one subject: the position of third vice-president. “Never has the third vice-presidency of the National Assembly, in our history, created such a stir,” said Mr. Tanguay from the outset. This title, which comes with few responsibilities, nevertheless makes it possible to receive a bonus of $35,546 per year.
Last month, M.me Nichols had expressed his desire to hold this position. The former party leader, Dominique Anglade, had instead chosen to support the candidacy of Frantz Benjamin. After refusing the parliamentary responsibilities that Mme Anglade wanted to entrust to him, Mr.me Nichols had been kicked out of the caucus.
During Sunday’s meeting, Mr. Tanguay submitted a hypothesis: allow Mr.me Nichols to alternate with Mr. Benjamin. She would do two years, then give way to the member for Viau. But this plan did not pass within the caucus. In an interview with The Canadian Press, Mr. Benjamin said Monday that without the third vice-presidency, he would begin to reflect on his political future. Late Monday evening, Mr. Tanguay withdrew his proposal.
Mme Nichols, for his part, claims to have learned in this way, in the media, that the compromise offered by Mr. Tanguay for her to rejoin the Liberal team no longer held.
“I can’t go back to the party”
In an interview with Paul Arcand on Tuesday, Marie-Claude Nichols said that her refusal to return to the Liberal Party — even though she still calls herself a proud liberal in her values — is not attributable to the fact that she no longer gets a post of Vice-President of the National Assembly. The elected representative of Vaudreuil now explains her choice to remain an independent MP since she was offered a compromise and the offer was withdrawn in the public square, without warning her.
“I can’t go back to the party. We negotiated an agreement [puis] I am told that the agreement is torpedoed. I learn in the media that the agreement no longer works,” she lamented. “I remain liberal and I will wait for the next leader. If he wants to, I’ll be painted in the corner red, but I’m done. I will wait for the next chef,” she concluded.
Mr. Tanguay reiterates that the door is still open. But some deputies do not seem to have appreciated the morning outing of Mme Nicholas. The PLQ whip, Filomena Rotiroti, rolled her eyes and let out a “frankly” good feeling when a journalist quoted the interview at 98.5 FM. Mme Rotiroti then claimed that his facial expression was more related to conjunctivitis.
But what should voters who voted for the Liberal Party understand from this saga? Are the elected members of the official opposition more interested in fighting for a position with a higher salary than in monitoring the government? “I wouldn’t be reductive to that point. The functions that we occupy are not nothing,” retorted Mr. Tanguay. He now wants the crisis to be behind him. “Marie-Claude, you know, the door is open. There, it is high time that we start working, ”he said.