Just what Andre Boisclair needs: an invitation to more dissidents to join the ones already in the Parti Quebecois.
Quebec Solidaire's balloon having burst in last week's provincial by-elections, SPQ Libre has invited the members of the fledgling left-wing party to bolster its ranks within the PQ.
SPQ Libre is a structured "political club" within the PQ that is officially recognized by the party. It was given official recognition and the right to dissent from party policy in an effort to bring disaffected leftists back into the PQ. In effect, it's the PQ's official left wing.
Its secretary is Pierre Dubuc, a fringe candidate who opposed Boisclair in last year's PQ leadership election, and its president is Marc Laviolette, a former president of the CSN labour organization and a Dubuc supporter.
The latter was outspokenly critical of Boisclair during the leadership campaign, and he still is. Last Sunday, in a report on the Radio-Canada program Dimanche Magazine, Dubuc questioned Boisclair's nationalism on the language question.
Quebec Solidaire's future appears dim after last week's by-elections in Pointe-aux-Trembles and Taillon ridings.
Some Pequistes had feared - and some Liberals had hoped - that QS would hurt the PQ by drawing off left-wing votes. And third parties such as QS have a relative advantage in by-elections because voters are not choosing a government.
But QS was simply not a factor in the by-elections, receiving less than 10 per cent of the vote in both and finishing behind even the Green Party in Pointe-aux-Trembles.
When Quebec Solidaire was founded last February, Dubuc said SPQ Libre looked forward to "collaborating" with the new party and "finding with them a new formula that will allow us to unite our forces to overthrow the Charest government in the next election."
But since last week's by-election, SPQ Libre wants to absorb the Solidaires, not collaborate with them. A few days after the by-elections, Laviolette and Dubuc issued a statement saying the results showed the "immense majority" of social-democratic voters remain faithful to the PQ.
They argued, however, that in a close general election, the Solidaires and the Greens could still take away enough votes from the PQ to swing "several ridings" to the Liberals. They gave several examples of how, in Quebec and elsewhere, the division of left-wing votes has allowed the right to win elections.
Even so, Laviolette and Dubuc predicted QS and the Green Party would be "inexorably marginalized" in the general election because of the electoral system. And they questioned the relevance of the two small parties, since there was no clear difference between their by-election platforms and the PQ's.
So, ominously for Boisclair, they invited all labour unionists and progressives to "join (SPQ Libre's) ranks and those of the Parti Quebecois"- in that order - "to strengthen the progressive current" within the PQ.
The fewer Solidaires who accept that invitation, the better it would probably be for Boisclair.
The by-election results suggest QS probably won't be much of a threat to the PQ in a general election anyway. Left-wing voters will probably rally behind the PQ to defeat the Charest government. And the continued presence of the QS on its left makes the PQ in comparison look more reassuringly moderate to centrist voters.
But the stronger SPQ Libre is, the more influence it can exert to push the PQ farther to the left, and the stronger a potential threat to Boisclair's authority as leader it represents.
The history of the PQ is instructive. When Rene Levesque founded the party in 1968, he hoped that its more radical sovereignist predecessor, the RIN, would continue to exist and keep radicals and radicalism out of the PQ.
But RIN leader Pierre Bourgault had his party disband and its members join the PQ, where they represented a constant headache for Levesque. The present-day hard-line sovereignists are the Rinistes' successors.
That was before Boisclair's time. But it's a part of history the young PQ leader probably doesn't want to repeat.
Boisclair could fly better without his left wing
PQ leader probably is hoping QS won't disband and join his party