BLOC RISING: The BQ may have a big election day
This decade has been a deeply troubling one for the Bloc Quebecois. The humiliations of the 2011 and 2015 elections have made the party very plainly marked with nostalgia, not just for the days of Lucien Bouchard or Jacques Parizeau, but anyone who could lead the party without creating a factional divide or electoral thumping.
Until a few weeks ago, separatism, and the Bloc Quebecois along with it, had been considered dead. Although the 2015 election saw some improvement for the party, they still fell two seats short of official party status.
Barely three days into a CN Rail strike on Wednesday, Quebec claimed its fuel supply was threatened, making Bloc leader Yves Blanchet’s earlier cheap talk about Alberta’s “petrol state” status in the Canadian federation worth about as much.
According to Quebec Premier François Legault, the province is down to five-days’ worth of propane and has begun rationing, 85 percent of the fuel comes to Quebec by rail and hospitals and longterm care centres have been given priority.
After being sworn-in a second time as Transport minister earlier the same day, Marc Garneau told reporters he would not estimate any resolution and dodged a question about implementing back-to-work legislation.
“We are very seized with this situation and we are very much working with the two sides, CN and the teamsters. We feel that there is a solution at hand,” Garneau told reporters at Rideau Hall.
“We believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we’re going to push them as hard as we can because this is very important from the economy perspective. We also believe in the collective bargaining process.”
A day later on Thursday, Garneau emerged from the first meeting of the new cabinet with much the same messaging, that he was “seized” by the issue, wouldn’t put a timeline on negotiations and he “believes” in the bargaining process.
Of other crises, this one significantly longer and also with economic consequences, is the incarceration of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, arrested in China on Dec. 10, 2018 and part of the communist regime’s diplomatic assault against us that includes ongoing agriculture embargoes.
This belligerence is viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, currently under house arrest and fighting extradition to the United States.
Meng was taken into custody at Vancouver International Airport Dec. 1, 2018 and is wanted in the U.S. for fraud and conspiracy charges. Less than a fortnight from that one-year anniversary, Trudeau faced questions about Canada-China relations in the wake of his cabinet reveal.
“We have always understood two things about China. Obviously China’s a global economy [for which Canadian business depends upon],”Trudeau told reporters after his ministers were sworn-in, on day 346 of Spavor and Kovrig’s incarceration.
“At the same time, Canadians expect us to stand up for our values and our rights, and we are going to do that.”
Trudeau was responding to a query on whether China’s “hostage diplomacy” would cause him “to revisit and reshape the government’s China policy with a new understanding of the regime and the situation.”
The PM’s complete response was as contradictory as Canada-China relations have been under this decades-old notion that we can coax nations to our liberal democratic way of doing things, simply by conducting business with them.
“There are opportunities for Canadian businesses, Canadian exporters, and Canadian investors… with better relations, economic relations with China,” said Trudeau, before reiterating condemnation of the “arbitrary detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.”
On the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong and the fate of 300,000 Canadians who live there, Trudeau offered nothing new.
“We have repeatedly called upon China to respect the terms of the one country, two systems principles. We will continue to call for de-escalation and an end to violence.”
And so the ongoing challenges for the federal government on both the domestic and foreign front will continue to be a theme of Trudeau’s tenure as prime minister, and with the exception of a few cabinet post swaps, his minority government forges ahead with nothing in the way of a clear plan, at least not one that differs from the current strategy.
What’s in the rearview mirror will also haunt Trudeau this coming government, if Conservatives’ front bench pugilists Pierre Poilievre and Gerard Deltel are to be believed.
In either official language on Wednesday afternoon at West Block, they congratulated the PM for his cabinet picks, wished the government well before promising to resurrect the SNC-Lavalin scandal in committee and the bogus charges against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, if they could get the votes.
Poilievre went through a greatest hits of Conservative talking points; Bill C-69 “no more pipelines bill”; the carbon tax making the western business “impossible” but the thread of reality was the separatist sentiment on both sides of the country.
“It’s amazing. If I had told you three years ago that we risked the threat of a separatist movement with broad appeal in Alberta or Saskatchewan, you would’ve laughed, no one would’ve believed it,” Poilievre told reporters.
“But in one mandate Trudeau has ignited a (western) separatist movement… tat and the revitalization of the Bloc Quebecois, a movement that was dead four years ago.”
While few are laughing now about separatist rumblings in Canada, reporters had a chuckle when Poilievre shared his thoughts on Trudeau’s newest cabinet portfolio, the Ministry of Middle-Class Prosperity.
“I think it is a punchline,” said Poilievre.
“They raise taxes on the middle class but don’t worry. If you can’t afford to heat your home or drive your car, you’ve got a minister named after the middle class to make yourself feel better about it.”
Parliament reconvenes on Dec. 5 when a new speaker will be elected followed by a Speech from the Throne–the Liberal minority government’s plan, to be delivered by Governor General Julie Payette in the Senate chamber.
Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney has mocked Quebec’s propane shortage, telling the Quebecois that if they wanted more propane they needed to build more pipelines—a proposal which Quebec’s politicians shot down in recent days.
Kenney made these comments on a Facebook interview on Thursday. When he was asked a question concerning Quebec’s propane crisis, Kenney stated that there was a technology “that could guarantee you constant, stable access to propane and other fuels … They’re called pipelines.”
Quebec is currently suffering from a propane crisis after the CN railway strike left la Belle Province without gas it relies on. If Quebec does not receive propane imminently, there could be a province-wide shutdown of hospitals and barbeques.
So to avoid this disaster, Quebec’s CAQ government has chosen to ration its propane, hoping that the CN railway strike stops before their propane reserves are depleted.
Kenney’s comments will antagonize a Quebec whose parties have recently relished in provoking the population of western Canada. Although Quebec and Alberta have never been particularly fond of each other, this year’s election has unleashed province-wide bitterness towards Ottawa and Quebec. As a result of this, Kenney and Saskatchewan’s premier Scott Moe have threatened to disband the federal equalization program that has disproportionately favourved Quebec.
The two most senior politicians in Quebec, François Legault, and Yves-François Blanchet, have also enjoyed insulting an indignant Kenney and his irritated Albertan population. Recently, Blanchet suggested that Quebec contributes “billions” to the development of pipelines in Alberta. As well as this, Blanchet was audacious enough to say that Alberta did not give a cheque to Quebec, despite the Albertans sending $23 billion over the past five years.
Blanchet, who leads the vaguely separatist Bloc Quebecois, also took time last week to mock the Wexit movement, telling reporters that “the desire to do whatever they want with their oil might not be a sufficient reason to fuel a desire to become a country.”
Western Canada experienced a collective outcry of frustration during this year’s election. The Liberals campaign was so abysmal in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and northern British Columbia, that they failed to win a single seat in these regions. Although the Prime Minister has expressed solemn concern over the nature of this polarization, Trudeau has not promoted any senator from western Canada to his executive, meaning a third of the country is entirely unrepresented.
Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet has attacked Alberta Premier Kenney by saying that he needs to “start explaining things with truth.” Blanchet went on to say that Kenney had been spreading “false information” about the province’s equalization payments, according to Global News.
An indignant Blanchet told The West Block that Canada “does not send a cheque to Quebec … I would be glad if he started explaining things with truth instead of some false information as we see.”
When Blanchet was asked about the Wexit movement he stated that he understood “that some people in western Canada don’t feel comfortable in the presence of this country … but the desire to do whatever they want with their oil might not be a sufficient reason to fuel a desire to become a country.”
Blanchet’s comments is the latest escalation in the war of words between the Quebec and Alberta premiers. Last week, after leaving a meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau, Blanchet told a scrum of reporters that he would not indulge western Canada’s desire to build an “oil state”.
Due to Kenney making a point of criticizing equalization payments, even going as far as to threaten a referendum, Blanchet’s position will further antagonize an already disenfranchised western Canada
Since 1960, Alberta has paid $600 billion in equalization payments to Ottawa, much of which has then relocated to Quebec. Over the last few years, Alberta’s economy has begun to slow down, even falling into a light recession this year. Despite this, they still have had to pay $23 billion each year for the past five years.
Blanchet’s comments, then, add additional salt to Alberta’s wound, especially as Quebec posted a $4 billion surplus.
Yves-François Blanchet has said that he will not do anything to alleviate western Canada’s frustration. Speaking to reporters, Bloc head Blanchet said that he would not lift a finger to “create an oil state in western Canada.”
These remarks came after Blanchet’s meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa today. Trudeau has been meeting with the leaders of the federal parties to prepare for parliament reopening on Dec. 5. After this meeting, Blanchet stated that he will support Trudeau’s minority government in emission-reducing initiatives, however, he will fight the Liberals on the TMX pipeline.
The Bloc’s intent to halt the pipeline will not cause Trudeau trouble in controlling the majority of the House.
Blanchet also indicated to reporters that he did not expect the throne speech to get in the way of Quebec’s secularism bill. Bill 21, the deeply controversial bill that stops public employees from wearing religious symbols, has created tension between English and French Canada.
Over the previous week, Trudeau has been meeting with provincial leaders, as well as Andrew Scheer, in an attempt to placate the increasing sentiment of alienation in western Canada. Blanchet’s most recent comment will only likely further this rift.