Founder of Quebec independence party moves to England

MONTREAL – The founder of Quebec’s newest pro-independence party is moving to England to pursue career opportunities there.

Jean-Martin Aussant, who recently resigned as leader of the upstart Option Nationale, has announced his return to London to resume his past career in international finance.

In a blog post Monday, he said he will rejoin Morgan Stanley Capital International where he was a vice-president before entering politics.

Aussant said he’s been getting job offers in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and London — but nothing similar at home.

“No substantial offers came in Montreal or Quebec City,” Aussant said in the post Monday on the Urbania website.

“Was this the result of a soft market in Montreal or was I hurt within certain circles by my too-close association with sovereignty? I don’t know.

“I’d like to believe it’s not the latter reason. Not in 2013, for heaven’s sake.”

Aussant was elected as a member of the Parti Quebecois and was considered one of its rising stars.

However, lamenting the PQ’s timid approach to achieving independence, he resigned as the PQ’s finance critic and created Option Nationale. In a subsequent election the PQ won a minority government, Option Nationale didn’t win any seats, and Aussant lost his own riding.

The new party still attracted a young energetic base, had a strong online presence, and won support from some traditional sovereigntist stalwarts like ex-premier Jacques Parizeau.

Aussant is encouraging his party to continue working for electoral success in his absence, and Option Nationale has been organizing a leadership race.

He has promised to stay in touch with old allies back home.

“There are so many of us who believe in this objective (of independence) that it seems obvious to me that we will see each other again, as we work to get ever closer,” he said. “Until it happens.”

It will be Aussant’s third stint in London. He studied there in 1991-92, and worked there in 2003-05.

When he resigned from politics in June, the 43-year-old Aussant said he wanted to spend more time with his young family. He suggested he might return eventually.

Option Nationale finished fifth in the popular vote in last year’s general election, winning 1.89 per cent of the electorate. That was double the next-best finisher, the Green party, but less than one-third of the 6 per cent generated by Quebec solidaire.

Still, Aussant expressed pride that the party, which was only an idea a couple of years ago, had recruited 8,000 members and attracted many young people to become engaged in politics.

It was also increasingly seen as a threat to the PQ in terms of personnel recruitment, resources, and votes.

Although nearly 50 per cent of Quebecers voted to separate in the 1995 referendum, recent polls place support for independence far lower and there is no timetable for another sovereignty vote.

In an interview with The Canadian Press last year, Aussant explained how he would try to succeed where the PQ has failed.

His plan: Start building the country first, ask the referendum question later.

Aussant said that armed with a majority mandate, an Option nationale government would immediately begin seeking to repatriate powers from Canada to control all of its own taxes; negotiate and sign its own international treaties; and lay out its own criminal code.

The Canadian government could agree or disagree. In any case, an Option nationale government would already be writing Quebec’s own constitution with broad public input.

The constitution would include a declaration of sovereignty.

Finally, he said the people of Quebec would be asked to vote on the document in a referendum — which, in Aussant’s opinion, Ottawa and the rest of the world would likely deem legitimate.