Newfoundland and Labrador 2019 Christmas Lights map
The power of tech companies comes from the business model in the ...
Nova Scotia startup cracks the shell of traditional seafood industry
Innovation at every level of operations key to Verafin’s success
East Coast climate change researchers shaking things up
What if work wasn’t crazy?
Change is inevitable. Here's how you navigate it
Disruptive innovation is much more difficult than we think
Innovating in the fight against climate change
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.
Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet reacts after Canada’s federal election in Montreal, Quebec, Canada October 22, 2019.
OTTAWA — Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet began his day on Wednesday in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but ended it in a spat with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
Dismissing calls for more independence for western Canada, Blanchet said he doesn’t believe Canada is currently experiencing a national unity crisis. He claimed Alberta and Saskatchewan are using concerns about western alienation to force the federal government’s hand in an attempt to garner more support for the petroleum industry. “And on that issue, my enthusiasm is obviously very limited,” he told reporters on Wednesday morning after meeting with Trudeau.
Blanchet, who has highlighted the fight against climate change as a top priority for the Bloc Québécois, was reluctant to draw any parallels between Quebec sovereignty and the growing calls from western Canada for greater autonomy. “If they were attempting to create a green state in western Canada, I might be tempted to help them,” he said. “If they are trying to create an oil state in western Canada, they cannot expect any help from us.”
Those comments were not well-received in Alberta, where Kenney responded directly during a speech to an industry association in Calgary. “If you are so opposed to the energy that we produced in Alberta then why are you so keen on taking the money generated by the oilfield workers in this province and across western Canada?” he said. “You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Pick a lane.”
Blanchet shot back on Wednesday afternoon after his party’s first caucus meeting in Ottawa. “You know what, I like my cake … and I will do what I think about it,” he said. “I think he can, as far as I’m concerned, have his own oil and do whatever he wants with it.”
The squabble gave Kenney another opportunity to voice his displeasure about Quebec benefitting from Alberta oil revenue through the federal equalization program, despite opposing oil and gas development. Blanchet countered that Kenney is distorting how equalization works by making it seem as though Alberta writes a cheque to Quebec — in fact, equalization payments come from federal revenue.
Blanchet, whose party supports an independent Quebec, was broadly dismissive of rumblings in favour of Western independence. “Is the desire to extract petroleum from the ground in western Canada in itself a motivation to want to achieve independence? I will let them ask themselves that question,” he said. “But evidently, it’s not a motivation that will get enthusiastic support from the Bloc Québécois.”
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who was speaking at an event in Ottawa on Wednesday, said it’s important to listen to concerns from western Canada, but he doesn’t believe the country is in a unity crisis. “We are one of the most decentralized federations in the world,” he said. “The level of intensity in regional differences varies from time to time and that is part of life in Canada.”
The dispute with Kenney was in sharp contrast to the meeting between Blanchet and Trudeau, who both made a show of getting along. Blanchet took a decidedly collaborative tone on Wednesday, saying he’s expecting the Bloc Québécois to agree with the government on many parts of the upcoming throne speech, slated for Dec. 5. “There are elements that could bring together just about everybody in Parliament,” he said. “And if that’s the case, there’s no question for me of trying to play political games, trying to find problems when there aren’t any. If it’s OK, it’s OK.
Ahead of their meeting, Trudeau said he was looking forward to discussing “shared priorities,” including fighting climate change, the cost of living for seniors, gun control and protecting 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,” Trudeau said.
Pick a lane
On the issue of Bill 21, which Blanchet frequently used to attack the Liberals during the election campaign, the Bloc leader had little to say on Wednesday. He gave few details about the conversation he’d had with Trudeau on Quebec’s secularism law, which bans religious symbols for some public sector employees, including teachers and police officers. He said only that they discussed it briefly and “agreed to disagree,” and that he doesn’t expect it to be a part of the throne speech.
During the campaign, Trudeau was the only federal leader who left open the possibility of intervening in a legal challenge of Bill 21, though the Conservative and NDP leaders also oppose the law. Blanchet positioned the Bloc as the only party that supports Quebec secularism. On Wednesday, he insisted that the party “won’t compromise on the completely legitimate jurisdiction of the National Assembly of Quebec to legislate on secularism.” But he also said he doesn’t expect it to be an issue in the short term.
“Eventually, in time, there will be groups that might be receiving support from the federal government that will use that money to fight (Bill 21),” he said. “And then we will denounce that and do whatever we can to fight that.”
The Bloc Québécois surged back to relevance during the last election, winning 32 of Quebec’s 78 seats, up from just 10 in 2015. The party capitalized on a renewed sense of nationalism in the province and dissatisfaction with Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. The Liberals won 35 seats in Quebec, down from 40.
Trudeau is meeting with all the opposition leaders this week as he prepares to govern in a minority Parliament. With 157 seats in the House of Commons, 13 shy of a majority, he will need support from at least one other party to pass the speech from the throne and future legislation. The NDP and the Bloc Québécois are the most likely parties to provide that support. Trudeau met with Scheer on Tuesday, and will meet with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on Thursday and former Green Party Leader Elizabeth May on Friday.
— With files from The Canadian Press
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019