If anything was emblematic of the embattled MP’s time as leader, it was her arrogance and lack of practicality.
Ouellet, the MP from Vachon, led the Bloc through one of its more tumultuous eras since its conception in 1991, but much of it—to the chagrin of her voter base—was largely unsuccessful. She was constantly under a shroud of controversy that she simply could not overcome, ranging from her comments towards Jagmeet Singh—in support of religious neutrality—to her dogmatic devotion to Québec separatism, at the expense of other issues.
Above all, her legitimacy as leader was sorely questioned, following the mass exodus in February, of seven of the party’s then-ten Bloc MPs.
Now, the latter aside, her controversial leadership style had a seemingly irrevocable effect on the image of the Bloc, for she disenfranchised her colleagues and created uncertainty over the future outlook of the Party. In layman’s terms, she failed to generate enough excitement for the once popular party, which has since faded into the background.
Now, sitting with a measly five seats in the House of Commons—a far cry from their nearly forty-nine in 2008—the Bloc—a once powerful voice for the francophone community—has now become a mere footnote in Canadian politics. Though two of the seven MPs from the February exodus returned, the remaining five separated and formed their own party, the Québec debout.
The Bloc had even formed the official opposition, at a time that the NDP was most often the 4th party in the house.
Amidst the chaos, the furthering of cleavages within the already fractured Party was a symptom of what many attributed to Ouellet’s “controlling and uncompromising” demeanour. And as the weeks went by, it became increasingly apparent that Ouellet’s tenure was coming to an end—a blindside that everyone saw coming, except for the incumbent herself.
During a vote of non-confidence on June 3rd, that potentiality became reality when the Party voted her out of power. Given her abysmally low approval rating of 32%, this ultimately painted a picture of the incumbent that was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination.
As seen in her final speech as leader, her arrogance simply knew no bounds—an alarming testament to her overall character.
During said speech, she blamed everyone but herself for the party’s recent turbulence, stating “I’m far from the worst” and “the reason francophones no longer support sovereignty is because they aren’t hearing enough about it”, suggesting it was mostly the fault of past sovereigntist leaders for the issues that the Bloc were faced with today.
But as former leader Gilles Duceppe puts it, “At 50 per cent plus one, it’s already ridiculous, at 32 (per cent), to me it seems clear [that Ouellet’s leadership is illegitimate at present-time]”, so perhaps she was just disheartened by the nature of the results? Perhaps.
Whatever the case may be, the writing was on the wall for her as leader—there was no doubt about it—and the vote of non-confidence proved to be the final nail in her coffin, spelling the end for Martine Ouellet—a politician as stubborn as they come.