Canada's separatist party in disarray amid infighting, resignations

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The separatist party that has fought for Quebec independence from Canada was in disarray on Wednesday after seven of its 10 legislators quit the party, opening the door for possible electoral gains by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2019.

The Bloc Quebecois, which spurred a failed 1995 referendum that would have split the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec from Canada, said in a statement that the seven departing members would form a separate group in parliament after a dispute with the party leader, Martine Ouellet.

While the party no longer has much sway or profile in Ottawa, the Bloc’s schism could open the door to electoral gains for the Liberals or other federal parties in Quebec, Canada’s second most populous province.

“The crisis shaking the Bloc Québécois is harmful for both the party itself and the sovereignty movement,” the party said in a French statement. “The differences we have with our leader are unfortunately too great for a lasting peace to be possible.”

Even though it fields federal candidates in just one province, the Bloc was once a major force in Canadian politics, becoming the largest opposition party in the 1993 election, with 54 seats. It won just 10 seats in the 2015 vote.

Ouellet, who became leader in March 2017, does not herself have a seat in parliament.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Lisa Shumaker