POLITICS
05/07/2014 03:07 EDT | Updated 07/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Mario Beaulieu gets enough signatures to join Bloc leadership race

MONTREAL - Mario Beaulieu says he has collected enough signatures to join the Bloc Quebecois leadership race and that he is confident of stealing support from his rival.

The outgoing head of the nationalist Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste said Wednesday about 2,000 people have endorsed his candidacy — double the required number.

The Bloc is expected to rubber-stamp his bid later this week.

Bloc MP Andre Bellavance is the only other candidate so far in the race to succeed Daniel Paille, who resigned last December for health reasons.

The new leader will be chosen by June 14.

The Bloc's three other MPs — Claude Patry, Jean-Francois Fortin and Louis Plamondon — have all come out in favour of Bellavance, but Beaulieu said he believes he will be able to eat into that support

"I think some MPs will probably come out (and back me)," he told a news conference in Montreal.

That wasn't the impression given by the three MPs on Wednesday.

"It's good for democracy that people want to get involved in a leadership campaign but it doesn't change anything for me — I'm still supporting Andre Bellavance," Patry said in an interview.

A few minutes later Fortin's press attache, Benoit Levesque, confirmed that Fortin is still backing Bellavance.

And Plamondon also made it clear that Bellavance remains his preferred option because of his experience.

"I believe he has the support of about 40 riding association presidents," Plamondon said. "He collected signatures in 50 (out of 75) ridings. He has a very broad network and very good support within the party."

Beaulieu reiterated his idea of getting all Bloc MPs after the next election to donate $50,000 of their salary to a fund to promote sovereignty.

An MP earns a base salary of $163,700, compared with $89,950 for a member of the Quebec legislature.

"Fifty-thousand times 20 MPs gives us $1 million," he said.