Don't count on me to support western demands: Bloc Leader Yves Francois Blanchet

Image: Yves-Francois Blanchet/Facebook

OTTAWA — Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet says anyone seeking more independence for the West in the hopes of promoting the oil and gas sector should not come to him for advice.

“If they were attempting to create a green state in Western Canada, I might be tempted to help them,” the separatist-party leader said Wednesday. “If they are trying to create an oil state in Western Canada, they cannot expect any help from us.”

Blanchet made the remarks after emerging from a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Blanchet said Trudeau strongly suggested the Bloc will see areas of consensus in the upcoming speech from the throne.

That consensus will be needed when the Liberals, who were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, are faced with greater demands for power and autonomy from some western premiers and the rising nationalist sentiment in Quebec, where voters elected 32 Bloc MPs.

The Liberals, with only enough seats to form a minority government, will need the support of some opposition MPs to advance their legislative agenda.

Blanchet, who said his party will do what it can to make Parliament work, said his meeting with Trudeau suggested there will not be anything in the speech from the throne to cause his Bloc MPs to vote against it.

The speech opening the next Parliament lays out the government's broad plan and a vote on whether to approve it will test whether Trudeau has the confidence of the House of Commons.

As the meeting was about to begin, Blanchet said he was ready to collaborate on common issues raised during the campaign, such as climate change, supply management in the dairy sector and the cost of living for seniors.

Trudeau said he looked forward to a good meeting, describing his and Blanchet's “shared priorities” as including climate change, affordability, gun control and the protection of supply management.

“We will also have conversations in which we disagree, but it will be done in respect because I think Canadians expect different parties in Parliament to work together constructively and that's exactly what I intend to do,” said Trudeau.

After the meeting, Blanchet said he will not be looking for red lines in the throne speech.

“I don't want to see the speech from the throne as a source of problems, but I want to see it as a source of solutions and progress for the benefit of Quebecers who gave us a mandate and gave the other part of the mandate to the government,” Blanchet told reporters.

He also noted the throne speech is about high-level principles, and that decisions about whether to continue supporting the Liberal government would come as the Bloc sees how things play out in the budget, proposed legislation and committee work.

At the same time, Blanchet made it clear no one should expect the leader of a sovereigntist party to suddenly take on the role of Captain Canada.

“I still believe that Quebec will do better when it is a country, so I am not the one who will fight to have a nice, beautiful and united Canada,” he said.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who was in Ottawa Wednesday to promote the aerospace industry, said he does not think Canada is in a national-unity crisis.

“The country has had several episodes and moments where there's been regional tensions,” said Charest, who played an important role in the federalist campaign before the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty.

“We are one of the most decentralized federations in the world,” said Charest. “The level of intensity in regional differences varies from time to time and that is part of life in Canada.”

Trudeau is sitting down with opposition leaders one by one this week, trying to identify areas of common ground where he can get their support for legislation once the House of Commons sits again in December.

Trudeau met Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer Tuesday.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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