Parti Quebecois will allow non-party members to elect next leader

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The Parti Quebecois says that for the first time, non-members will be able to cast a ballot for its leader.

The PQ body that determines the leadership race rules says the new status of affiliated supporter will open the door for Quebecers to take part in party proceedings and, for a $5 donation, to vote for the new chief.

"There are people who become members to vote for the leadership, but this pool could grow because people are interested," said Agnes Maltais, who will oversee the vote.

Affiliated supporters must sign a declaration in favour of PQ direction, but do not need to become members.

"It's exciting, as an idea, that you can participate in the election of a party leader directly," said Maltais, a PQ legislator for 20 years before stepping down in 2018.

Party president Dieudonne Ella Oyono suggested that the ultimate goal is to boost membership numbers, which are in decline.

"Are we targeting 50,000 or 100,000? There is no specific objective. Of course 200,000 would be better," he said.

The announcement Saturday comes amid an attempt revive the flagging fortunes of a party that set Quebec's political agenda for more than 40 years, but that now sits in fourth place in the National Assembly, where it has not won a majority since 1998.

Leadership debates are expected between April 15 and May 20, though no dates have been set.

The vote to replace Jean-Francois Lisee is scheduled for June 19.

Lisee resigned after two years at the party helm when the Coalition Avenir Quebec surged to power in October 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2020.