Photo: Jacques Boissinot La Presse canadienne Yves-François Blanchet a pris la parole lors d’une conférence de presse dans une ferme laitière avant une réunion du caucus, à Saguenay.
Five years after the coronation of Yves-François Blanchet as leader of the Bloc Québécois, his return to a strategy of “gains for Quebec” is welcomed by former leaders and his activists, but not by his immediate predecessor, Martine Ouellet.
The portrait of the Bloc leader sits at the entrance to a hotel in Chicoutimi, where a few dozen fans of Quebec sovereignty flocked to attend a party organized on Tuesday to mark the five years of the leadership of Yves-François Blanchet. Marc Fortin, from Alma, is among them.
“Blanchet is not a guy who is here to play politics. He is there to move Quebec forward. And ultimately, it will be good even for Canada! »
The Saguenéen recently registered his name to get involved within the federal party, with the hope of seeing Mr. Blanchet “carry out the project” of Quebec sovereignty, at a time when he senses a renewed interest in this idea politics.
It is also the chef's mastery of the files that seduced Martine Dufour and Adèle Copeman, long-time sovereignist activists from Chicoutimi. “Luckily the Bloc is there, in Ottawa. Without that, we would know absolutely nothing about what is happening there,” says the latter, before criticizing the television news.
Support from former leaders
“I think he did that very well,” also salutes Gilles Duceppe, who led the party for a total of 21 years. The former sovereignist leader shares the stage with his son Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, himself a Bloc MP, during Tuesday evening.
In interview at Devoir, Mr. Duceppe remembers the visit that Mr. Blanchet paid him, after the controversial departure of the previous leader, Martine Ouellet, in 2018. He says he incited the former manager of Éric Lapointe — and ex-minister of the government of Pauline Marois — to launch at the federal level. He does not regret this advice.
“I think that [the work of leader Yves-François Blanchet] is a continuation of what the Bloc has been doing since its beginnings. […] He remained faithful to it, supporting what is good for Quebec, then opposing what is not good for Quebec. »
Gilles Duceppe takes care to emphasize that the arrival of the current leader, in January 2019, put an end to the difficult years of the Bloc, the starting point of which he places at the “orange wave” of 2011, where his party was washed away by the New Democratic Party (NDP). Eight years later, in 2019, Yves-François Blanchet tripled the Bloc representation in the House of Commons, with 32 elected officials out of the 78 in Quebec.
It was in this troubled interlude that Daniel Paillé became the leader of the Bloc (2011-2013). The latter also believes that his former party “seems to be doing well” under the leadership of the current leader.
“Mr. Blanchet assumes his responsibility [as chef] very well. If he did not do so, the trend would prevail […] and the level of the debate would tend to drop,” he says, in reference to the antagonizing style of his conservative rival, Pierre Poilievre, whom he presents as a trap to avoid.
A return that does not please everyone
Martine Ouellet, leader between 2017 and 2018, confirms that Yves-François Blanchet “brought the Bloc back in the footsteps of Gilles Duceppe, therefore working to make gains for the province of Quebec in Canada. » She reiterates to the Devoir how badly she thinks of this tactic.
“Not only are we not making gains, but we are moving backwards within Canada, decision after decision. So it’s a little contradictory with the desire to leave Canada. »
During her time with the Bloc, Ms. Ouellet wanted to refocus the party's message around the independence of Quebec. Instead, she faced a mutiny among her troops, to the point where seven of her party's ten elected officials briefly sat under another name.
Martine Ouellet believes that the Quebec sovereignist movement is still as divided, five years after her departure from the Bloc, and after having requested a seat in the National Assembly under the banner of her new party, Climat Québec.
“We have exactly the same fractures as before. There are people who are proactive, and others who don't want to bother. »
In Saguenay, the couple formed by Diane Beaulieu and Marcel Halley hope to see Yves-François Blanchet “for as short a time as possible” in Ottawa, since they are also in a hurry to see a winning referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec. They believe that the leader of the Bloc is capable of making this possible. “My father didn’t see it [the independence of Quebec] during his lifetime. At the age I am, I would like this to happen as soon as possible,” concludes Mr. Halley.
The 32 Bloc MPs are due to meet mid-week in a hotel in downtown Chicoutimi, in Saguenay, to plan the return of parliament in Ottawa next Monday.
The chiefdom of Yves-François Blanchet in five stages
2019: appointed leader, he promises to be less arrogant Yves-François Blanchet is the only official candidate to replace Martine Ouellet at the head head of the Bloc Québécois. He confides to the Devoir to want to tackle the problem of his own image, in particular to stop being perceived as arrogant.
2019: he defends Justin Trudeau's suitWhile old photos of Justin Trudeau with his face made up resurface, the news does not move Yves-François Blanchet. “I don’t think Justin Trudeau is racist,” he concluded his lenient reflection, which surprised even the Liberal ranks with its measure.
2021 : he disappoints environmentalists by supporting the idea of a 3rd link In the middle of the electoral campaign, the Bloc leader extolled the environmental virtues of the third highway link project then proposed by Quebec to cross the river near Lévis. This “personal opinion” is not accepted by environmental groups, even though the Bloc claims to have a green platform.
2021: he argues with the moderator of the debate in EnglishOn the set of the leaders' debate in English, Mr. Blanchet takes offense at a question asked by the host which implies that Quebec laws on secularism and on French are “discriminatory”. The other leaders are called upon to comment on this premise, and the Bloc benefits from unexpected momentum at the very end of a difficult campaign.
2023: he poses as an “adult” following the arrival of Pierre Poilievre The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Pierre Poilievre, gathers crowds and explicitly courts the Bloc electorate. Yves-François Blanchet responds by posing as a “responsible arbiter” between his rivals, treated as “extremists”, even compared to venomous animals. He rejects any possible coalition with the conservative leader.