Bloc's leader Blanchet prepared to work with Liberals despite pipeline talk
QUEBEC -- Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said Thursday that he's willing to work with a re-elected Liberal government, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Speaking in Quebec City, Blanchet said that he's not closing the door to discussions with any party, just because they don't agree on all issues.
"There are issues we'll agree on, sometimes with the Liberals, sometimes the NDP, sometimes the Greens," he said following a caucus meeting.
"When we're in agreement, we're in agreement. When we're not, we're not. But it's not because we can probably identify one or two major issues where we won't agree with the Liberals that we'll close the door to all forms of discussion."
Finance Minister Bill Morneau told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the expanded pipeline is not fodder for negotiating with other parties in the minority Parliament. Rather, he said, the $4.5 billion pipeline is crucial to financing Canada's transition to a clean energy economy.
The NDP and Greens have called for the expansion to be cancelled, but Blanchet, who has opposed having a pipeline cross Quebec, declined Thursday to outline what specific actions he would take concerning Trans Mountain in western Canada. He said he would wait for Trudeau to present his plan first.
The Bloc Quebecois held its first caucus meeting since Monday night's election, which saw the party more than triple its seat count to 32. The results suggests Blanchet's party could hold some sway in a minority Parliament, since the governing Liberals will have to seek the support of other parties to pass legislation.
But Blanchet said he felt it wasn't his role help topple the government, saying he doesn't believe voters want to return to the polls.
He said the new Bloc MPs will evaluate each piece of legislation on a case-by-case basis, voting in favour of those that are good for Quebec and against those that aren't.
"I will work with anyone who wishes it, there will be exchanges, and when the ideas converge there will be collaboration, and when they differ we'll each do our own thing," he said.
The Bloc's rapid rise has been attributed to the party's tapping into a renewed sense of nationalism embodied by the Coalition Avenir Quebec government of Francois Legault. Repeatedly, Blanchet campaigned on a promise to carry the voice of the provincial legislature to Ottawa and ensure its projects weren't stymied.
But on Thursday, it was suggested to Blanchet that Legault didn't necessarily return the Bloc's affection after the premier declined to meet with the Bloc leader as his caucus convened in the provincial capital. Legault's office later confirmed he wanted to grant Trudeau the first post-election meeting with a federal leader.
Blanchet insisted he hadn't felt snubbed, saying it's only "normal" Legault would want to meet with the prime minister first.
"I will be pleased to meet (Legault) at his convenience," he said. "It's his decision, which I fully respect."
Blanchet said Bloc MPs, returned to official party status, will approach politics "respectfully" and refrain from heckling, screaming, or insulting their rivals in the House of Commons.
He added that one of his first priorities when Parliament resumes will be making sure the government fulfills its promise to compensate agricultural producers affected by trade deals.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2019.