Quebec Liberals interim leader backpedals on offer to Marie-Claude Nichols

Marie-Claude Nichols, centre, had sought the deputy speaker position before being kicked out of caucus in October.  (Sylvain Roy-Roussel/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Marie-Claude Nichols, centre, had sought the deputy speaker position before being kicked out of caucus in October. (Sylvain Roy-Roussel/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The Quebec Liberal Party interim leader publicly apologized Tuesday after withdrawing an offer made to an ousted former member of the party.

Marc Tanguay had previously offered Marie-Claude Nichols the position of deputy speaker, in exchange for her rejoining the fold.

"I would have really hoped for it to work out, precisely for the sake of cohesion," Tanguay said at a news conference. "I had the chance to tell Marie-Claude personally that I regret the way things happened, and I apologized on a personal level and as the leader of the political party."

Nichols, the former MNA for Vaudreuil, had been kicked out in October after she turned down the role of transport critic. Nichols had sought the deputy speaker position, but then leader Dominique Anglade had set her sights on Viau MNA Frantz Benjamin for the role.

Anglade stepped down as the leader of the party last week, with Tanguay taking over the role.

Tanguay had proposed that Benjamin and Nichols share the role, each taking up the mantle for two years. But he withdrew the offer to avoid the possibility of Benjamin leaving the party if he didn't get the job for his entire mandate, according to the Canadian Press.

The party's executive office rejected the idea of extending the new offer to Nichols, after learning, mid-evening Monday, that she had accepted an offer to become the deputy speaker of the National Assembly.

Tanguay said in a news release sent Monday evening that after consulting with members of the caucus, the offer was "no longer viable and would not promote cohesion of the Liberal team."

Maya Arseneau/Radio-Canada
Maya Arseneau/Radio-Canada

Benjamin furious over deputy speaker snub

He added that the door was still open to Nichols if she would like to return.

"It is high time that the Liberal caucus devotes itself to the task of preparing for the imminent return to the Assembly and defending the interests of all Quebecers," he said.

Frantz Benjamin, the original nominee for the deputy speaker position, said he was furious and refused to accept the Liberals would give him the short end of the stick, the Canadian Press reported.

According to someone close to Benjamin, the Liberal MNA will "never accept any form of humiliation."

"He's standing for something bigger than a position or a bonus at the National Assembly," the source added.

At the news conference, Tanguay refused to provide details about his conversations with Nichols and Benjamin, saying the issue surrounding the deputy speaker position is "behind us."

"Frantz Benjamin is a member of the team and he's ready to work with all his colleagues," he said.