New Parti Qubcois leader Pauline Marois is back from vacation. But unlike André Boisclair, she wants to make a quick entry into the National Assembly.
Within a few days, chances are she'll announce that she'll run in the Charlevoix riding currently held by veteran PQ MNA Rosaire Bertrand. Given Boisclair's refusal to say if he'll quit his riding of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Marois had to shop elsewhere.
If, as expected, Bertrand hands his riding to Marois, Boisclair's dilly-dallying will have been a blessing in disguise. Charlevoix is a prize riding in the Quebec City area where the Action dmocratique is a powerful player.
So it wouldn't be a bad move for the beleaguered PQ to have its leader elected, and present, somewhere within reasonable distance of Quebec City.
Originally from the capital, Marois would have a familiarity with the place that would help her in a region that doesn't take well these days to Montrealers parachuted into their ridings.
Since it's a safe bet that Premier Jean Charest will extend the usual courtesy to an opposition leader and call a quick by- election, Marois could be sitting in the National Assembly in time for the fall session.
With a minority government and a popular Mario Dumont, it's imperative for the PQ to have its leader in parliament, ready for an election that could come anytime.
It will also allow Marois to try to exercise some authority over a caucus that's still suffering from the aftershock of the divisive 2005 leadership race, Boisclair's performance and the terrible results of the last election.
Marois has also picked a new director-general for the PQ, Simon Bissonnette, a long-time supporter and an effective organizer. He'll have his job cut out for him with a party deep in debt and members who might be less than excited to work in the next election now that Marois has shelved the referendum platform.
With this, the scene is set for her to shuffle her caucus critics. As the MNA who rushed to call for Marois's return, it's pretty sure that Bernard Drainville will be asked to play a major role. Pierre Curzi should also be given a role befitting his gift for communicating.
But it's the job of house leader that should cause the biggest upset. Current leader Diane Lemieux is expected to be replaced. As way back as Lucien Bouchard's resignation in 2001, Lemieux refused to support Marois as a potential leader, quickly rallying behind Bernard Landry at the time, and Boisclair in 2005.
Being house leader is too sensitive a responsibility for someone who doesn't have the confidence of the party leader. A possible candidate could be Stéphane Bédard from Chicoutimi. He's the current whip, has a sharp mind and is a definite Marois fan.
Stéphane Bergeron, the colourful environment critic, who has also been in the House of Commons as a Bloc MP, is another possibility.
But Marois faces an uphill battle. Stuck in third place in the National Assembly and with empty coffers, the PQ is still in jeopardy. Dumont has held out his hand to Péquistes disappointed by Marois.
Since the PQ won't be doing much for its own option, Dumont said, Péquistes would be safer to move to the ADQ and its "autonomist" plank. Yesterday, in an interview on Radio-Canada's C'est bien meilleur le matin, Marois was hardpressed to say how she'd push sovereignty without a referendum in sight.
She said she'd ask party members to prepare "little series of arguments" - something that's sure to leave Péquistes wanting more. But it's still early and Marois's real platform remains a mystery.
In the meantime, how she leads her troops in the assembly and how she manages, or not, to pump energy into her very tired party should give some hint as to whether the PQ has any hope of getting out of that third-party doghouse come the election.
Marois is back and raring to take over
She wants to get a seat in assembly and to shuffle her MNAs' jobs