01/10/2012 09:11 EST | Updated 03/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Former PQ MNA says Legault can lead Quebec

François Rebello, the member of the national assembly for La Prairie on Montreal's South Shore, denies accusations he's an opportunist for switching political parties.

He said he's leaving the Parti Québécois to join the nascent Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) because of its leader and its ideas.

Rebello, 41, told reporters assembled in St-Constant, Que. Tuesday for his official announcement that Quebec needs a leader "who is able to achieve great things" and said François Legault is that man.

Rebello mentioned Legault's track record before entering politics as co-founder and CEO of Air Transat.

Rebello also explained it was natural for him to defect to the right-leaning CAQ, since he worked alongside Legault for many years when the latter was a member of the left-of-centre sovereigntist option, the Parti Québécois.

The MNA for La Prairie becomes the third Péquiste to leave the party for the Coalition, which is leading in provincial public-opinion polls.

The new Coalition has said it will set aside the independence debate, despite its leader coming from the sovereignty camp.

The CAQ will likely open the national assembly session with nine sitting members, as its merger with the flailing ADQ is awaiting approval by the latter's members.

Rebello announced his decision to PQ Leader Pauline Marois' chief of staff Monday; Marois was out of the country on holiday.

Marois wrote in a news release released late Monday that she was disappointed in Rebello for joining a party with such a different outlook than the PQ, saying his actions are "purely opportunistic".

The beleagered PQ leader, who has now seen seven MNAs abandon her party, said there's always room for honesty in politics and that "lies never pay".

Rebello said Tuesday he's still a sovereigntist, and does not find it incoherent to work for a party who's pledged not to fight for an independent Quebec. He said once the problems plaguing Quebec, such as how to profit economically from the province's vast natural resources, are fixed, the door to sovereignty will remain open.

Legault told reporters Rebello's arrival was a coup for the CAQ since he was a rising star in his former party.