Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said his party will pull out all of the stops to prevent a pipeline development in Quebec, but will not topple the Liberal minority over the expansion of the Trans Mountain project in Alberta and British Columbia.
“Apart from the fact that I don’t like our money being invested in oil, because it is the energy of the past and it is destroying the planet, I will let Western Canada do their own thing,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
The Bloc more than tripled its seat count in Monday’s general election, bringing the total to 32. However, Mr. Blanchet conceded at a news conference in Montreal that the Liberals have a “strong minority” because they can rely on either his party or the NDP to get a majority of votes in the House.
He promised the Bloc would adopt a collaborative approach in the House of Commons. While he said the Bloc’s mandate "is not to make Canada work,” he added the party “has a responsibility in terms of helping to make Parliament work.”
Still, he put the onus on Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to listen to opposition parties and to adapt to the realities of a minority government.
“The responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party is to make this Parliament function. It is their responsibility, not ours, not the responsibility of the NDP or the Conservatives,” Mr. Blanchet told reporters.
The Bloc benefited in the election from widespread criticism in Quebec of the Liberal government’s record on the environment. In addition, the party capitalized on the anger over the possibility that a Liberal government would join a court challenge against a Quebec law known as Bill 21, which prevents some provincial workers from wearing religious symbols.
Pipelines figured prominently in political leaders’ comments on the day after the election. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters he remains opposed to the TMX project, but would not say whether he would demand the Liberals abandon the pipeline in exchange for his party’s support. Green Leader Elizabeth May ruled out her party’s support so long as the construction continues. And the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan criticized the Liberals’ track record on the oil and gas industry.
Despite the fact it ran under the slogan “We are Quebec,” the Bloc finished in second place in the province with 32 seats out of 78 and 32.5 per cent of the vote. The Bloc was seen as a dying force in Quebec after its dismal showings in the 2011 and 2015 elections, but will now regain its status as an official party in the House, which comes with additional funding and speaking time during Question Period and on committees.
The Liberal Party finished in first place in Quebec with 35 seats and 34.2 per cent of the vote, for a net loss of five seats from the 40 it held at dissolution. No Liberal minister was defeated in Quebec, and the Liberals won two new seats in Montreal, including a victory by environmental activist Steven Guilbeault in Laurier-Sainte-Marie. Still, the Liberals lost ground to the Bloc in suburban and semi-rural ridings in mostly francophone parts of the province, known by the 450 area code.
The Conservatives finished with 10 seats, mostly in the Quebec City area, and the NDP fell to a single seat in Montreal with a victory by deputy leader Alexandre Boulerice.
Speaking in Quebec City, Premier François Legault said he wants to continue to work with the federal government on issues such as housing, the economy and the environment, without relying on the Bloc to relay his government’s wishes in the House of Commons.
"What I want is to work directly with Justin Trudeau," Mr. Legault said. "I will negotiate directly with Mr. Trudeau."
Mr. Legault said he told Mr. Trudeau in a telephone conversation on Tuesday morning that Ottawa should respect the fact that a majority of Quebeckers support Bill 21. Mr. Trudeau said during the campaign that the federal government could eventually participate in a legal challenge of the law.
Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said the Bloc will have leverage in the House, but not as much as it had in the 1990s and 2000s, when the party had more than 50 MPs. He added that Mr. Blanchet cannot ignore the fact the NDP can prop up the government and that the Liberals won more seats in Quebec than the Bloc.
“He has to show that he is a pragmatist,” Mr. Béland said. “Justin Trudeau still has a lot of legitimacy in Quebec.”