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Gilles Duceppe
Gilles Duceppe 2011 (cropped).jpg
Duceppe in 2011
Leader of the Opposition
In office
March 15, 1997 – June 1, 1997
Preceded by Michel Gauthier
Succeeded by Preston Manning
In office
January 16, 1996 – February 17, 1996
Preceded by Lucien Bouchard
Succeeded by Michel Gauthier
Leader of the Bloc Québécois
In office
June 10, 2015 – October 22, 2015
Preceded by Mario Beaulieu
Succeeded by Rhéal Fortin (interim)
In office
March 15, 1997 – May 2, 2011
Preceded by Michel Gauthier
Succeeded by Vivian Barbot (interim)
In office
January 16, 1996 – February 17, 1996 (interim)
Preceded by Lucien Bouchard
Succeeded by Michel Gauthier
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Laurier—Sainte-Marie
In office
August 13, 1990 – May 2, 2011
Preceded by Jean-Claude Malépart
Succeeded by Hélène Laverdière
Personal details
Born (1947-07-22) July 22, 1947 (age 76)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Political party Bloc Québécois
Other political
Workers' Communist Party of Canada (formerly)
Spouse(s) Yolande Brunelle
Children Amélie, Alexis

Gilles Duceppe (French pronunciation: [ʒil dysɛp]; born July 22, 1947) is a Canadian retired politician, proponent of the Quebec sovereignty movement and former leader of the Bloc Québécois. He was a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons of Canada for over 20 years and was the leader of the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois for 15 years in three stints: 1996, 1997-2011 and in 2015. He was Leader of the Official Opposition in the Parliament of Canada from March 17, 1997, to June 1, 1997. He resigned as party leader after the 2011 election, in which he lost his own seat to New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Hélène Laverdière and his party suffered a heavy defeat; however, he returned four years later to lead the party into the 2015 election. After being defeated in his own riding by Laverdière again, he resigned once more.

Early life and education

Duceppe was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Hélène (née Rowley) and actor Jean Duceppe. His maternal grandfather was John James Rowley, British by birth, Irish by descent, and a home child. Duceppe once joked about his British roots, saying, "I'm a bloke who turned Bloc."

Duceppe has told the story of an anglophone Grade 6 teacher slapping him after he complained about preferential treatment being given to anglophone students. Duceppe claimed he slapped the teacher back. He became a sovereigntist by the age of 20, inspired by René Lévesque and the founding of the Mouvement Souveraineté-Association.

Duceppe completed his high school studies at the Collège Mont-Saint-Louis. He then studied political science at the Université de Montréal but did not complete his program of study. While attending the Université de Montréal, he became general manager of the school's newspaper, Quartier Latin. In his youth, he advocated communism, and held membership in the Workers' Communist Party of Canada (WCP), a Maoist group. Duceppe later claimed that his three-year membership in the WCP was a mistake brought on by a search for absolute answers.

However, during this period (which lasted well into his thirties) he subscribed to militant Maoist ideology and was fired from his job as a hospital orderly for belligerent activities. Duceppe even went so far as to intentionally spoil his 1980 sovereignty-association referendum ballot arguing that Québécois should instead focus their efforts on staying united to fight capitalism.

Early career

Before becoming a member of Parliament, Duceppe worked as a hospital orderly and later became a trade union negotiator. In 1968 he became vice-president of the Union générale des étudiants du Québec (General Union of Quebec Students) and in 1970 manager of the Université de Montréal student paper, Quartier latin. In 1972 he launched his career in community and union settings, as moderator for the citizen's committee of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, then in 1977 as a representative for the Royal Victoria Hospital employees. In 1981 he became a union organizer for the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (Confederation of National Trade Unions), where he became a negotiator in 1986.



In 1990, Duceppe was elected to the House of Commons of Canada in a by-election for the eastern Montreal riding of Laurier—Sainte-Marie. He defeated Liberal Denis Coderre, who would later serve alongside Duceppe in Parliament before becoming Mayor of Montreal. Duceppe would be handily re-elected at each election from 1993 to 2008.


Duceppe originally sat as an independent because the Bloc had not been registered by Elections Canada as a political party. All of the Bloc's other Members of Parliament had crossed the floor from either the Progressive Conservative Party or the Liberal Party earlier that year. Duceppe's victory demonstrated — for the first time — that the party had electoral support in Quebec and could win elections. Previously, many pundits (and members of other parties) predicted that the Bloc would not gain traction with ordinary voters in Quebec.

Leadership of the Bloc Québécois

Gilles Duceppe1
Gilles Duceppe during a 2007 protest.

In 1996, when Lucien Bouchard stepped down as Bloc leader to become leader of the Parti Québécois, Duceppe served as interim leader of the party. Michel Gauthier eventually became the official leader later that year. However, Gauthier's lack of visibility in both Quebec and English Canada coupled with his weak leadership resulted in the party forcing him out in 1997. Duceppe won the ensuing leadership contest and became the official leader of the Bloc Québécois and Leader of the Opposition.

In the 1997 general election, the Bloc lost official opposition status, slipping to third place in the House of Commons behind Preston Manning's Reform Party. During the campaign, Duceppe visited a cheese factory where he was photographed wearing a hairnet resembling a shower cap, which was widely parodied on Canadian television.

The Bloc lost more support during the 2000 election, winning just 38 seats. Over this period, critics derided Duceppe as an ineffectual campaigner, though no serious challenge to his leadership emerged.

When Jean Chrétien stepped down as Prime Minister, to be succeeded by Paul Martin, the Bloc's fortunes improved markedly, particularly after the sponsorship scandal erupted. Duceppe strongly criticized the Liberals over the misuse and misdirection of public funds intended for government advertising in Quebec. During the election's national debates, Duceppe's lucid explanations of Bloc Québécois policies and his chastising of the other national party leaders' promises, resulted in both the French and English media ruling him the best speaker. In the 2004 election, Duceppe's Bloc won 54 seats in the Commons, nearly equalling what it had won in its 1993 breakthrough, while Martin's Liberals were reduced to a minority government.

With Chrétien's departure, Duceppe became the longest-serving leader of a major party in Canada. With the recent success of the Bloc, and his recently well-received performance as leader, speculation mounted that Duceppe might seek the leadership of the Parti Québécois – particularly when Bernard Landry stepped down as party leader on June 4, 2005. On June 13, 2005, Duceppe announced that he would not run for the leadership of the PQ.

Duceppe Limoilou 15042011-4
Gilles Duceppe discussing with a voter during the 2011 federal election campaign.

Duceppe's Bloc, along with the Stephen Harper's Conservatives and Jack Layton's NDP, worked together on November 28, 2005 to pass a motion of no confidence in the minority Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin after findings in the Sponsorship Scandal. In the resultant 2006 federal election, many Bloc insiders believed that Duceppe's popularity, combined with the unpopularity of the federal Liberal Party in Quebec, would push the Bloc Québécois over the symbolic majority vote mark among Quebec voters. Many Quebec separatists felt that a strong performance by the Bloc in the 2006 federal election would boost the sovereignty movement and perhaps set the stage for a new referendum on secession after the anticipated Quebec provincial election expected in 2007. In actuality, a late surge in Conservative and federalist support kept the Bloc's share of the popular vote below 43% giving the Bloc only 51 seats. The Conservatives' gains in Quebec, as well as Ontario, gave the party enough seats to form a minority government with Harper as prime minister, replacing the Liberals' Paul Martin. The unimpressive and lackluster results on election night called into question the level of separatist support in Quebec.

In the March 26, 2007 Quebec provincial election, the Parti Québécois found itself reduced to third place in the National Assembly of Quebec, behind both the governing Quebec Liberal Party and the opposition Action démocratique du Québec. Following this disappointing result, the PQ leader, André Boisclair, announced his resignation on May 8, 2007. Duceppe confirmed on May 11, 2007, that he would seek the PQ leadership but the next day he withdrew from the race. After his withdrawal, Duceppe announced that he would support two-time leadership hopeful Pauline Marois.

2008 federal election

In the 2008 federal election, Duceppe led the Bloc Québécois to 49 seats, up one from its pre-dissolution standing of 48. However, the Bloc's share of the popular vote fell again, to 38%, its lowest result since 1997. After the election, Liberals and NDP reached a deal form a minority coalition government with support from the Bloc Québécois, which would have toppled the minority Conservative government, however the Governor General agreed to prorogue parliament before the vote could take place. After prorogation, the Liberals underwent a change in leadership and distanced themselves from the coalition agreement and supported the Conservatives' budget. However Duceppe's Bloc and Jack Layton's NDP remained committed to voting against the Conservatives.

2011 federal election and resignation

In 2011, the Bloc cooperated with the Liberals and NDP to find the Conservative government in Contempt of Parliament, after all three opposition parties indicated that they would not accept the Conservatives' budget, leading Prime Minister Harper to request the dissolution of parliament. The Bloc demanded $5 billion for the province, including compensation for damages from the January 1998 North American ice storm and $175 million towards a new hockey arena to bring back the Quebec Nordiques, which the Conservatives dismissed outright.

In the resultant 2011 federal election, the Bloc suffered a massive 43-seat loss—including many seats they'd held since their 1993 breakthrough—cutting them down to a rump of four seats. Much of that support bled to the NDP who ascended from fourth place to second place to become the Official Opposition, largely by winning 58 seats in Quebec which included a sweep of the Bloc's heartlands in Quebec City and eastern Montreal. The NDP, which entered the election with only one seat in the province - Tom Mulcair - had surged in the last weeks of the campaign at the expense of the Bloc due to NDP leader Jack Layton's charismatic personality and leftist nationalism policies, while Bloc "over the years defend[ed] Quebec's interests, but the sovereigntist agenda is no longer very relevant". Duceppe lost his own seat to NDP challenger Hélène Laverdière by 5,400 votes.

Accepting responsibility for the Bloc's crushing defeat, Duceppe announced his pending resignation as Bloc leader soon after the result was beyond doubt. He remained defiant, however, vowing not to rest "until Quebec becomes a country".

Spending allegations

In January 2012, Duceppe was accused of having used funds designated for his parliamentary office to pay the Bloc Québécois' general manager over a seven-year period. Duceppe denied any wrongdoing when testifying before the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy in February. In November 2012, the partisan House of Commons Board of Internal Economy found that Duceppe misused funds. However, the board cannot take disciplinary action as the money was spent before the by-laws around the issue were changed.

Electoral record

Canadian federal by-election, August 13, 1990: Laurier—Sainte-Marie
Death of Jean-Claude Malépart
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independent Gilles Duceppe 16,818 66.9
Liberal Denis Coderre 4,812 19.1 −19.9
New Democratic Louise O'Neill 1,821 7.2 −14.4
Progressive Conservative Christian Fortin 1,120 4.5 −25.2
Green Michel Szabo 395 1.6 −1.9
Independent Daniel Perreault 123 0.5
Independent Rejean Robidoux 42 0.2
Total valid votes 25,131 100.0
Canadian federal election, 1993: Laurier—Sainte-Marie
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppe 25,060 61.79 $39,969
Liberal Robert Desbiens 9,940 24.51 −14.56 $41,625
Progressive Conservative Yvan Routhier 2,156 5.32 −24.34 $19,947
New Democratic Alain Gravel 1,237 3.05 −18.57 $5,169
Green John Tromp 1,050 2.59 −0.93 $1,304
Natural Law Pierre Bergeron 652 1.61 $0
Marxist–Leninist Normand Chouinard 205 0.51 +0.19 $80
Communist League Michel Dugré 131 0.32 $507
Commonwealth of Canada Sophie Brassard 127 0.31 +0.12 $0
Total valid votes 40,558 100.00
Total rejected ballots 1,592
Turnout 42,150 71.29 +1.96
Electors on the lists 59,126
Source: Thirty-fifth General Election, 1993: Official Voting Results, Published by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. Financial figures taken from the official contributions and expenses: submitted by the candidates, provided by Elections Canada. Percentage change figures are made in relation to the 1988 general election, not the 1990 by-election.
Canadian federal election, 1997: Laurier—Sainte-Marie
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppe 26,546 54.7 −7.0
Liberal David Ly 11,154 23.0 −1.6
Progressive Conservative Yanick Deschênes 5,808 12.0 +6.6
New Democratic François Degardin 2,180 4.5 +1.4
Independent François Gourd 1,255 2.6
Green Dylan Perceval-Maxwell 1,167 2.4 −0.2
Marxist–Leninist Serge Lachapelle 338 0.7 +0.2
Independent Mathieu Ravignat 123 0.3
Total valid votes 48,571 100.0
Canadian federal election, 2000: Laurier—Sainte-Marie
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppe 23,473 52.8 −1.9
Liberal Jean Philippe Côté 11,451 25.7 +2.8
Green Dylan Perceval-Maxwell 2,169 4.9 +2.5
Marijuana Marc-Boris St-Maurice 2,156 4.8
New Democratic Richard Chartier 2,121 4.8 +0.3
Progressive Conservative Jean François Tessier 1,879 4.2 −7.7
Alliance Stéphane Prud'homme 960 2.2
Marxist–Leninist Ginette Boutet 269 0.6 −0.1
Total valid votes 44,478 100.0
Canadian federal election, 2004: Laurier
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppe 28,728 60.1 +7.3 $69,284
Liberal Jean-François Thibault 8,454 17.7 −8.1 $52,945
New Democratic François Grégoire 5,779 12.1 +7.3 $5,400
Green Dylan Perceval-Maxwell 2,912 6.1 +1.2 $2,801
Conservative Pierre Albert 1,224 2.6 −3.8 $4,658
Marijuana Nicky Tanguay 572 1.2 −3.7
Marxist–Leninist Ginette Boutet 154 0.3 −0.3
Total valid votes/expense limit 47,823 100.0 $79,214
Note: Conservative vote is compared to the total of the Canadian Alliance vote and Progressive Conservative vote in the 2000 election in the riding of Laurier—Sainte-Marie.
Canadian federal election, 2006: Laurier—Sainte-Marie
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppe 26,773 54.69 −5.4 $74,181
New Democratic François Grégoire 8,165 16.67 +4.6 $20,195
Liberal Soeung Tang 6,095 12.45 −5.2 $12,436
Green Dylan Perceval-Maxwell 4,064 8.30 +2.2 $2,265
Conservative Carlos De Sousa 3,124 6.38 +3.8 $15,665
Marijuana Nicky Tanguay 338 0.69 −0.5
Independent Jocelyne Leduc 157 0.32 *
Marxist–Leninist Ginette Boutet 137 0.27 −0.0
Communist Evelyn Elizabeth Ruiz 100 0.20 * $926
Total valid votes/expense limit 48,953 100.00 $79,692
Total rejected ballots 392 0.79
Turnout 49,345 61.26
Canadian federal election, 2008: Laurier—Sainte-Marie
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppe 24,103 50.24 −4.45 $71,127
Liberal Sébastien Caron 8,798 18.33 +5.88 $30,225
New Democratic François Grégoire 8,209 17.11 +0.44 $31,151
Green Dylan Perceval-Maxwell 3,801 7.92 −0.38 $7,171
Conservative Charles K. Langford 2,320 4.83 −1.55 $5,590
Rhinoceros François Yo Gourd 447 0.93 $388
Marxist–Leninist Serge Lachapelle 118 0.24 −0.03
Independent Daniel "F4J" Laforest 93 0.19
Communist Samie Pagé-Quirion 86 0.17 −0.03 $898
Total valid votes/expense limit 47,975 100.00 $84,641
Total rejected ballots 406 0.84
Turnout 48,381 61.10
Canadian federal election, 2011: Laurier—Sainte-Marie
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
New Democratic Hélène Laverdière 23,373 46.64 +29.53 $22,982
Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppe 17,991 35.90 −14.34 $81,167
Liberal Philippe Allard 4,976 9.93 −8.40 $16,728
Conservative Charles K. Langford 1,764 3.52 −1.31 $4,611
Green Olivier Adam 1,324 2.64 −5.28 $1,532
Rhinoceros François Yo Gourd 398 0.79 −0.14 none listed
Communist Sylvain Archambault 137 0.27 +0.10 $1,606
Marxist–Leninist Serge Lachapelle 77 0.15 −0.09 none listed
Independent Dimitri Mourkes 73 0.15 none listed
Total valid votes/expense limit 50,113 100.00
Total rejected ballots 471 0.93
Turnout 50,584 63.41
Electors on the lists 79,772
New Democratic gain from Bloc Québécois Swing +21.94%
Source: Official Results, Elections Canada: and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
Canadian federal election, 2015: Laurier—Sainte-Marie
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
New Democratic Hélène Laverdière 18,129 37.76% -8.88
Bloc Québécois Gilles Duceppe 13,565 28.25% -7.65
Liberal Christine Poirier 11,729 24.43% +14.50
Conservative Daniel Gaudreau 2,048 4.26% +0.74
Green Cyrille Giraud 1,673 3.48% +0.84
Libertarian Stéphane Beaulieu 541 1.13%
Independent Julien Bernatchez 143 0.30% +0.15
Marxist–Leninist Serge Lachapelle 95 0.20% +0.05
Communist Pierre Fontaine 90 0.19% -0.08
Total valid votes/Expense limit 100.0     $221,434.26
Total rejected ballots
Turnout 48,013 57.34%
Eligible voters 83,730
Source: Elections Canada

See also

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