Nino Colavecchio, a close associate of former federal Liberal minister Alfonso Gagliano, resigned yesterday as president of the National Congress of Italian-Canadians in Quebec to run for the Parti Quebecois in the next provincial election.
Colavecchio, 51, said he has been a card-carrying PQ supporter for a year and was drawn to the party by the leadership campaign of Andre Boisclair.
"Everyone evolves at one point," Colavecchio said in a telephone interview.
"There's a few things that have happened and the major one is the arrival of Andre Boisclair on the political scene," he said.
"Mr. Boisclair talks about a sovereignty that is not based on blood. Not 'de souche' or 'pure laine.'
"It's a lot more a sovereignty that's a civic sovereignty," he explained.
"That's a very important change in the discourse of the Parti Quebecois and that particularly appealed to me as an Italian Canadian."
Montreal's Italian community has traditionally offered strong support to the Quebec Liberals and Colaveccchio said he cannot reverse that trend overnight.
"I'm quite sure that the Italian community will not follow me in a massive movement toward sovereignty," he said.
"On the other hand, I think it is time that the project be explained to them properly. I think that it is time that they understand that the project does not exclude them.
"I hope that they will be able to make a decision based on knowledge of the facts and not a decision based on fear when the time comes."
Colavecchio said he does not want to be a sacrificial lamb for the PQ. He wants to run in a Montreal-area riding where he has a chance of winning.
"My value to the PQ and my value to our community, as a representative within the PQ, is only worthwhile if I'm sitting in the National Assembly," he said.
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe raised Colavecchio's name in the Commons three years ago, because his communications company, TNC Multicom Inc., was awarded $3.3 million in federal government contracts, calling Colavecchio "this friend of Alfonso Gagliano."
Colavecchio's contracts were not scrutinized by the Gomery commission inquiry into the federal sponsorship scandal.
Yesterday, a spokesperson for Duceppe said the Bloc would not comment on his possible candidacy.
"He is not an official candidate," Karine Sauve said.
Boisclair aide Joel Menard Simard confirmed that Colavecchio supported Boisclair for the PQ leadership but said it was up to the party members to decide whether he will be a candidate.
Public records under Quebec's political party financing law show that in 2001, Colavecchio gave the $3,000 maximum contribution to the Quebec Liberal Party, and he gave another $295 in 2003, the election year.
Gagliano pal turns to PQ
Might run in provincial election. 'I'm quite sure that the Italian community will not follow me ... toward sovereignty'
Crise de leadership au PQ