The real power

This took place during the 1993 federal election campaign. We were in a church basement, in the old town of Hull. The room was packed. Lucien Bouchard took the history of Quebec as witness to explain the birth of the Bloc Québécois. An expert in dramatic climbs, he explained our defeats, exalted our victories, stimulated our pride.

This exceptional speaker spoke to both our reason and our emotions. He could use words like “suitable solution” or “Jean Chrétien, Trudeau’s liege” and still make us want to attack, one against three, the powerful federalist forces of the Outaouais. The tribune was masterful, the times were great, the role of the Bloc was obvious.

During the 10 years following the betrayal of 1982, people like Brian Mulroney did everything to ensure that Quebec regained a place, and a little dignity, within Canada. The Meech Lake Accord and then the Charlottetown Accord failed. We had gone from Trudeau’s arrogance to Mulroney’s impotence, with a detour through Bourassa’s compromises. All the federalist leaders had failed. Now there remained the other option: independence.

In this context, the existence of the Bloc was self-evident. The elections of 1993 were to place sovereignists in Ottawa and those of 1994 to do the same thing in Quebec. A referendum would be called, independence would be achieved. The role of the Bloc played, it would disappear. I have an old t-shirt somewhere that says: “I participated in the one and last campaign of the Bloc Québécois.” We know the rest.

Since that time, at each federal election, we wonder what the Bloc is for.

This will not be the case during the next campaign.


From Quebec’s point of view, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre (left) looks dangerously like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right), writes our collaborator.

We are faced with a Prime Minister with a very meager record whose only electoral arguments will be to encourage us to be afraid of Pierre Poilievre, whom he will describe as a mini-Trump. For his part, the Conservative leader will hammer home the idea that a vote for the Bloc is a vote to keep the unpopular Justin Trudeau in power. On the surface, both arguments will be attractive.

However, in Quebec, this call for strategic voting will quickly reach its limits. In the majority of liberal-leaning ridings, the Bloc is the only one capable of beating the Liberals. In the majority of conservative-leaning ridings, the Bloc is the only one capable of beating the Conservatives.

For what ? Because in the vast majority of ridings, the Bloc is the one that best represents Quebec.

Indeed, from Quebec’s point of view, Mr. Poilievre looks dangerously like Mr. Trudeau. He too wants to continue to increase oil production. He too refuses Quebec’s requests for health funding. He also rejects Quebec law on secularism. He also never questioned federal immigration thresholds.

Like Mr. Trudeau, he is not overly moved by the French’s all-out decline. While Mr. Trudeau conceives of Canada as a postnational state which, in fact, denies the very existence of the Quebec nation, Mr. Poilievre does not denounce it.

Furthermore, even if he largely leads the race in Canada, Mr. Poilievre remains a conservative with whom Quebec conservatives themselves often have difficulty identifying. His aggressive, American style repels many. He voted four times against the fact that federal companies were subject to Bill 101, he opposed the bilingualism of judges on the Supreme Court three times. He supports Israel without nuance. He is hostile towards any “state daycare system”.


Pierre Poilievre at a Conservative rally in Ottawa last Sunday

Its approach to fighting crime, based on minimum sentences, takes us back to the Quebec-Canada confrontation over young offenders where the Canadian model, based on imprisonment, harmed the Quebec model, by far the most effective, based on prevention⁠1.

Ultimately, climate change seems the least of the Conservative leader’s worries. For him, the carbon tax is “radical”. A week ago, he was even ready to bring down the government on this issue while for many economists, on the right and on the left, it is one of the rare mechanisms to fight against GHGs that works.⁠2.

A strong illustration of the increasing insignificance of Quebec in Canada, Mr. Poilievre wants to make the carbon tax the issue at the ballot box… even if it does not apply to Quebec!

In 1993, Lucien Bouchard campaigned armed with a bold slogan: “We give ourselves real power.” What’s the point, he said, of being in the Council of Ministers in a conservative or liberal government if it goes against the interests and will of Quebec?

Real power therefore consisted of bringing Quebec’s voice to Ottawa without constraint. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Poilievre are building a Canada that looks less and less like us. The story repeats itself. The Bloc remains essential.

1. Read “Young offenders: the federal government should follow Quebec’s example” from Duty

2. Read “Carbon Pricing: 165 Canadian Economics Professors Make the Case for It” from News

What do you think ? Participate in the dialogue


Leave a Comment