MONTREAL - A group of prominent Quebec sovereigntists has penned a manifesto that slams the Parti Quebecois as a spent force in the fight for independence.
The group is calling itself the New Movement for Quebec and is composed of former members of both the PQ and the Bloc Quebecois.
In a manifesto published online today, the group says the independence movement is undergoing a serious crisis and needs to be transformed.
"The crisis that the sovereigntist movement is going through is not banal," the manifesto reads. "It crystallizes the end of an era and the start of a new one."
The sovereignty movement emerged as a political powerhouse in the late 1960s when the Parti Quebecois was created in a union of various parties and fringe groups.
Now, the reverse phenomenon appears to have begun taking place.
Not only does another pro-independence party — left-wing Quebec solidaire — have an elected member in the provincial legislture, but recent disunity in the PQ has members talking about creating new parties or NGOs.
Some recent frustration stems from the PQ's reluctance, since 1995, to push for a quick sovereignty referendum. The party now sits in opposition but isn't promising to hold an independence vote if it takes power.
Leader Pauline Marois suggested Tuesday that the naysayers risk producing a historic setback for the cause.
"Dividing to conquer isn't a great attitude, if you ask me," Marois told reporters while touring a region hit by floods during the spring.
"It's absolutely useless to divide ourselves at this point... We want to give ourselves a country. The best way to do it is to remain united."
But the new manifesto accuses the PQ of having "trivialized the idea of independence" under Marois' leadership.
It rejects her plan to slowly build momentum towards an independent Quebec by gradually seeking more powers from the federal government.
Instead, the group wants to see a more ambitious assertion of Quebec's separate political identity, such as the drafting of a constitution.
But the PQ has left little room for disagreement with its approach to sovereignty, the group says.
"Today the sovereignty movement is no longer a movement: it is an institutionalized party," the manifesto says.
"So much so that the PQ considers itself the sole legitimate representative of the 'will of a people.'"
Among the notable signatories of the manifesto are former Bloc Quebecois MP Antoine Dube and former PQ legislature member Jocelyn Desjardins, who spearheaded the writing of the document.
Desjardins was among several high-profile PQ members who quit the party earlier this summer over its support for a controversial bill supporting a new arena for Quebec City.
The group's creation comes amid a broader flurry of activity on the Quebec political scene, where new groups are challenging the dominance of traditional parties.
The most prominent of these new groups is the Coalition for Quebec's Future which, like the New Movement for Quebec, was set up by a disgruntled former PQ member.
But whereas one seeks to re-energize the drive for Quebec independence, the other proposes to put it on hold while focusing on the province's economic woes.
The New Movement for Quebec's manifesto accuses its counterpart of "trying to bait Quebecers" by re-packaging the status quo.
The Coalition for Quebec's Future is expected to form a political party, led by ex-PQ cabinet heavyweight Francois Legault, and compete for power in an election expected as early as next year.
Legault hopes to win over both sovereigntist and federalist voters who are tired of debating the national question and would rather focus on other policy challenges.