Bloc Quebecois expects to have leverage in new Parliament, keeps strategy secret
Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet takes part in the the Federal leaders French language debate in Gatineau, Que. on Thursday, October 10, 2019. Elyse Bodnar, a long-time Liberal voter, says she thinks Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is just "terrific." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, October 22, 2019 6:28PM EDT
MONTREAL - The Bloc Quebecois says it plans to leverage its 32 members to pressure the Liberal minority government into making concessions that benefit Quebec, but party leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is keeping his strategy secret for now.
Monday's election results saw the sovereigntist party more than triple its seat total from the previous election. The Bloc now has enough seats to ally with the Liberals to pass legislation.
But the NDP, with 24 seats, could also combine with the Liberals to reach a majority of votes in the Commons - without any help from Blanchet's party.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Blanchet said, “I expect us to have quite a good leverage .... You will have the pleasure to discover that along the way, as we all will.” Pressed for details, Blanchet did not explain how the Bloc caucus could push for Quebec-friendly legislation if it was opposed by the Liberals and NDP.
He suggested during his post-election speech Monday night and again on Tuesday that he'd like the new minority Parliament to last. But he said the duration of the 43rd Parliament is up to the Liberals.
“The responsibility of the prime minister and the Liberal party is to make this Parliament work,” he said. “There is a law that says the mandates are supposed to last four years and (the Liberals) should do what it takes, in complete respect of the decisions of Canadians and Quebecers, to make this work.”
Concordia University professor Guy Lachapelle said the Bloc is well-positioned to exercise influence when the House of Commons resumes sitting.
Lachapelle, a former Parti Quebecois candidate whose 2010 book chronicled the history of the Bloc, said with its return to official party status, the Bloc will obtain research budgets, staff, and parliamentary committee seats. The party can use those benefits to dig up information on the Liberals.
He said Bloc efforts helped expose the sponsorship scandal, revealing corruption in a federal program created under the Jean Chretien Liberal government to raise Canada's profile in Quebec following the 1995 sovereignty referendum.
Lachapelle said Monday's election results reveal deep divisions across the country that cannot be properly addressed by the current parliamentary system.
“Canadians don't all have the same values,” he said. “And we can forget about the idea of Canada existing as one nation, with one value from coast to coast.”
A regional issue that hurt the Liberals this election was the support in Quebec for Bill 21, Lachapelle said. The controversial law forces some public sector workers, including teachers and police officers, to remove religious symbols while at work.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault asked all party leaders during the campaign to promise not to challenge the legislation. Trudeau refused and the Bloc latched onto that decision to position itself against the Liberals as the true defenders of Quebec's autonomy within Canada.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City Tuesday, Legault said he was happy Quebec - and Bill 21 - took up a lot of space in the election campaign. Legault said he recognized that the Bloc's defence of Bill 21 is a major reason why the party did so well in the polls - and why the Liberals should pay more attention to what Quebecers want.
Legault said he spoke with Trudeau Tuesday morning and brought up the legislation. “I think Mr. Trudeau got the message with Bill 21,” he said.
He said he does not think Quebec's bargaining position has been weakened as a result of the alignment of parties in the new Parliament.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2019.