"Join the Quebec Liberal Party," reads the invitation on the party's website, "and join forces with 75,000 people who share the same values."
Well, make that 75,000 minus one, and maybe two.
The first is Pierre Descoteaux. He remains the Liberal member of the National Assembly for Groulx riding, even after saying he'd probably vote Yes in another referendum on sovereignty.
And the second is Premier Jean Charest, who not only let Descoteaux stay in the Liberal caucus but persuaded him to reverse his decision to switch to the Parti Quebecois.
Last week, Radio-Canada reported Descoteaux approached the Parti Quebecois last September about switching parties. "He simply told me that he was interested in crossing over to our side, and that if I made him an offer, he'd cross over," said the president of the PQ riding association in Groulx, Judith Roy.
Descoteaux confirmed to Radio-Canada that he met with PQ organizers and then submitted his resignation from the Liberal Party to Charest. Radio-Canada said Descoteaux summoned the Groulx PQ executive to his riding office on the evening of Nov. 27 to inform them that he had submitted his resignation. But Charest persuaded him to change his mind.
Later, he denied having approached the PQ. But a party wouldn't normally bother to approach an opposing MNA about switching unless it has some reason to believe he might.
And Descoteaux made it sound as though his defection has merely been put off. When Radio-Canada asked him whether he would vote Yes in another sovereignty referendum, as he did in 1995 before he entered active politics, he replied:
"The day when Quebecers are ready to decide their future themselves, I will probably be one of the Quebecers who will be in the parade."
He doesn't know when or in what context another referendum might be held. But he already knows that, even though the leader of his present party would probably be leading the No side, Descoteaux would "probably" join the "parade" for sovereignty. He still intends to betray the party for which he was elected, but is just waiting for the right moment.
Only recently, when federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion was faced with a similar situation, he rightly forced Wajid Khan to choose between remaining a Liberal member of Parliament and continuing to "advise" Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the Middle East by junketing through that region at public expense.
But Charest is allowing Descoteaux to keep a foot in each camp, even bragging this week about having retained an MNA of such dubious loyalty, if only for the time being. Actually, it's PQ leader Andre Boisclair who's lucky, since the last thing he needs right now is another MNA he can't trust.
Thomas Mulcair and Pierre Paradis also remain in the Liberal caucus, after dissenting publicly with Charest last year over the sale of part of the Mont Orford provincial park to a private condo developer.
Maintaining Quebec's ties to Canada is more than a policy of the Liberal government, however; it's one of the "main Liberal values" listed on the party's website (www.plq.org). And as Liberal leader, Charest is supposed to uphold those values.
But while sharing its values is supposed to be a condition for joining Charest's Liberal Party, it's not necessary in order to remain one of its representatives. What's apparently more important to Charest than the fundamental values of his party is to hold onto a single swing seat that went Liberal in the last election by only 303 votes.
Three weeks ago, another Liberal MNA met Charest to inform him of his decision not to seek re-election. In announcing his decision, at age 64 and after four terms as MNA for the north Montreal riding of L'Acadie, Yvan Bordeleau deplored the widespread "negative perception of politicians," which he called "unfair," and which he said discourages people from entering politics.
But it's not only the media that make politicians look bad. It's also the cynicism of politicians such as Bordeleau's Liberal colleague Descoteaux - and of his leader, Charest.
Charest's more interested in hanging on to seats than principles
MNA is still in the Liberal caucus despite hinting he might vote Yes in a referendum