POLITICS
04/29/2014 04:00 EDT | Updated 06/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Head of Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste to seek Bloc Quebecois leadership

MONTREAL - The president of a pro-independence nationalist group in Quebec says he is joining the race to become leader of the Bloc Quebecois.

Mario Beaulieu, head of the Societe Saint-Jean Baptiste, says he wants to run because the only other candidate to declare so far isn’t serious enough about sovereignty.

Beaulieu says current Bloc MP Andre Bellavance wants the party to be just an "advocate" for Quebec in Ottawa when it should actually be striving for independence.

The Bloc was reduced to just four seats in the Commons in the 2011 election from the 49 it held after the 2008 vote.

A new Bloc Quebecois leader will be chosen by June 14 at the latest. However, if there is only one entrant in the race, that person will be named leader May 7 when the nomination period closes.

Beaulieu needs to gather 1,000 signatures before he can officially become a candidate.

He said focusing on independence will help the Bloc increase its number of MPs in the 2015 election.

Beaulieu also said that if he becomes leader, he would defend the rights of francophones outside Quebec.

The new leader will replace Daniel Paille, who stepped down last December due to health reasons.

The party will gather for a weekend convention in late May in Rimouski.