Jacques Parizeau endorsed Jean-Martin Aussant, leader of the Option and national candidate in the riding of Nicolet-Bécancour, offering him a $200 cheque.
Credits: GUILLAUME JACOB/QMI AGENCY
MONTREAL - A legendary former Parti Quebecois premier embarrassed his former tribe on Saturday after he donated to a rival separatist party.
Jacques Parizeau, the last premier to preside over a sovereignty referendum, gave $200 to the newly formed Option Nationale (National Option).
The ON was formed by Jean-Martin Aussant, a former PQ MNA who quit the party in 2011 because he said it wasn't moving fast enough on the sovereignty issue.
Aussant told QMI Agency that Parizeau is his friend and mentor. And Aussant's strategy on sovereignty is similar to Parizeau's.
Aussant's new party pledges that if elected, it will immediately start moving towards separating from Canada and will hold a referendum within its first mandate.
Parizeau also ran an election campaign on a promise to hold a referendum on sovereignty. When the PQ beat the Liberals in 1994, Parizeau held a referendum on Oct. 30, 1995. He lost, and then quit the PQ and resigned as premier the next day.
Parizeau did not make any public announcements regarding his donation.
His wife, Lisette Lapointe, another former PQ MNA who quit the party in 2011 over the sovereignty issue, said her husband's donation was "an endorsement for Aussant personally."
She did not say that Parizeau endorsed the ON, however. Lapointe added that her husband wanted to see Aussant in Quebec's legislature.
"It's not that he's against any other party," she said. "It's just that (Parizeau) finds the ON platform very interesting."
PQ leader Pauline Marois had to spend the majority of her Saturday news conference playing down the endorsement. She chose her words carefully, trying not to say anything negative about a man who is highly respected in nationalist circles.
"I have the utmost respect for Mr. Parizeau," she told reporters Saturday. "It's his decision and I respect it."
However, she added that the only way that Quebec will separate is if citizens elect a sovereignist party with a majority mandate.
The latest Leger Marketing poll placed the PQ in first place with 33% of the vote, good enough for a minority government. The ON, by contrast, polled at 2%.
It remains to be seen how Parizeau's quasi-endorsement will affect the fortunes of the upstart ON party and if it will further split the sovereigntist vote.