There are better than even odds that there will not be a single incumbent running for re-election under the Bloc Québecois banner next year.
Of the four MPs who survived the NDP wave three years ago, two have since turned their backs on the Bloc. A fifth who crossed over from the NDP after the election is not expected to run again.
Ahuntsic MP Maria Mourani was shown the door by then-leader Daniel Paillé in the heat of the debate over the Parti Québecois' proposed secularism charter last fall. She has since renounced sovereignty. Jean-FranÁois Fortin who represents the eastern Quebec riding of Haute-GaspÈsie-La Mitis-Matane-MatapÈdia slammed the door on his way out last week. In a statement that was more akin to a manifesto than to a resignation letter, Fortin had nothing but harsh words for new leader Mario Beaulieu whose approach to sovereignty the MP described as folkloric.
Claude Patry was elected in Jonquiere-Alma on Jack Layton's ticket three years ago only to decide he did not belong in a federalist caucus a year later. But now he is chaffing under Beaulieu's leadership and the new leader scrambled on Monday to talk him out of following Fortin out the door. Under any scenario, few expect this MP to seek re-election next year.
Of the remaining MPs, one - Richmond-Arthabaska's Andre Bellavance - has yet to say a supportive word about his new leader since he narrowly lost the leadership to Beaulieu in June.
That leaves Richelieu MP Louis Plamondon who will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his first election (as a Tory) on Sept. 4. At 71, he is both the dean of the House of Commons and the most (only?) likely Bloc incumbent to stick around for another election. If he does he may get to turn off the lights on the party that he helped create almost 25 years ago.
The Bloc's audience is shrinking in tandem with its elected body count. Mourani was the party's last remaining MP in the Montreal area and the only one to hail from a cultural community. Her summary expulsion has set the clock back on decades of outreach outside its core francophone base.
Fortin had the kind of regional sensibilities that the Bloc desperately needs to win back francophone Quebec. He has been musing about launching a party devoted to the interests of regions such as his own. Even if the plan never gets off the ground the suggestion is that, going forward, the Bloc cannot be counted on to be the voice of the Quebec regions. Patry hails from the union side of the landscape. Since the Bloc first appeared on the scene it has enjoyed the support of Quebec's major trade unions. But as the party shrinks into parliamentary oblivion that support can no longer taken be for granted.
All this is unfolding against the backdrop of a larger internal malaise. Beaulieu's credentials as a militant activist - determined to turn the Bloc into a vehicle for a relentless pursuit of Quebec's independence - are less than suited to the current mood of the soft nationalist voters that used to be the federal party's backbone.
In Quebec's spring election, scores of them pushed back against the PQ's bid to rekindle the debate over the province's political future.
It would be hasty to draw a straight line between the meltdown of the BQ and the future of the Parti Québecois but there are parallels between the travails of the federal party and those of its provincial ally.
The charter episode has deepened the gulf between the PQ and many of Quebec's cultural communities and cost it support in Montreal.
The prospect that Quebecor tycoon Pierre-Karl Péladeau could be the next PQ leader is cooling the pro-PQ ardours of many trade unionists and more than a few progressive sovereigntists.
Finally, at a time when a critical mass of Quebec voters have just signalled that they are not in the mood to listen to the siren song of sovereignty, the campaign to succeed Pauline Marois is lining up to be a contest to determine who can most raise the volume on the party's pro-independence talk.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer.