Can the Bloc Qubcois return from the brink?
This is a c._b._c. Podcast <music> crisper sitting in for jimmy push <music> so if you're an english candidate you're probably not paying much attention to the block quebec wa but remember back in nineteen ninety-three the block was the official opposition they had a lot of political sway or going around the fabric of dunedin institution but to make the heart of more aware of the aspirations of the people today but the last two elections have almost wiped them out and block has kind kind of crumbled beginning in two thousand eleven when it seats were reduced from forty seven to four they've had six leaders in the past eight years and now the block has a leader tasked with rebuilding the party. You have to build a lot with very few resources and with a lot of humility. I think that's a good thing for the idea for the party the movement today we're talking about e. Francois blanchett's. We've been doing these profiles of all the major party leaders in the run-up to the october election. I'm joined by martin patrick metric when he's a politics journalist based in montreal and we're gonna talk about the state of the block and whether blanchette has a chance to make them relevant again. This is front burner martin. Thanks for coming back on front burner. Thanks for having me so e francois blanchette. He came to politics politics from a pretty different place from the other party leaders so what was his life before he got into politics <hes> well he was a music manager so there's a quebec rocker rocker by the name of ethic lapointe and he sort of considered the bad boy of quebec rock floats up trying to think of a way we over here how to how to describe eric lapointe or points like nickelback crossed with joe cocker but in french and everything that entails so <hes> you know sort of a guy who's walking blue song like you know is basically a victim of his own proclivities and successes and all that kind of stuff you <hes> and he was his manager <hes> and that meant sort of making sure that he got on stage making sure he got paid <hes> so he went from that that name is also <hes> president of leads disc which is the independent recording industry sort of umbrella group i guess right <hes> and so he was in there for a long time and then he went into politics he went into he went with the pets cubic well then he was back doing punditry on here on rental canada politik. Should we make these is your and then through that back in and decided to go back to politics with the buchwa so what actually drew him into politics like what are his convictions. He's very very much a as you can tell from his background sorta steeped in quebec culture and he comes out with a very that old school mentality that <hes> <hes> quebec is fundamentally different from the rest of the country and you all you have to do is look at our language and our culture and that while we can be good neighbors. We should really be separate. <hes> <hes> quebec should be a separate country the idea for nation for people to have its own country cannot die in cannot be irrelevant. It's been chosen by so many people in the last century. Why would any of that be any bad for quebec and that's a very i mean look. It's very sort of a prominent worldview as far as of people within the artistic community here in quebec certainly a certain age of his ilk. I guess <hes> and so that's that's that's what he brought into politics and then you wrote a profile tim a couple of years ago and got to spend some time with him like what was that like. He's <hes> his nickname. It's funny nickname his goon known for short temper and his you know <hes> sort of blunt speaking style. He was nicknamed that by one of his colleagues and it just sort of stuck in talking with him. I was talking to them. In the context of the two thousand twelve quebec election during what you saw some of the the beginnings innings of the party cubic was saying french vive edge towards identity issues voted to what we have the right to be ourselves. We have the right to be proud and his big thing then when i spoke to him was <hes> was language and the existential problem that is montreal free all because of the spread of english to the detriment of the french ram. It's that sort of reductionist arithmetic that is to say if you hear english. You are necessarily not seen so. You're not speaking french and you're you're. You're you're speaking at the expense of french and so one of the anecdotes. He told me we're sitting there. In a tim hortons in drummond ville and the first thing is is that he was looking at his tim hortons cup still remember this he's looking at important scalp and it bothered him that it said caffeine tim hortons and not leak efi because that's grammatically correct right <hes> the and and the other anecdote that he told me was that he was he was getting dining at a vietnamese restaurant somewhere up in rosemont which is a historically francophone working class neighborhood and realized is partway through the experience of dining that he was doing most of his ordering in talking to the waiter in english and he and he sort of did that did this without it thinking that really bothered him and you know i it is really really easy for for people like us to sort of make fun of and say oh what an idiot but amongst a certain generation of sovereignist that is the that is the sore point. Yes is the ideas that you are in your you are in your city and here you are speaking english rush because the person across either doesn't want to or can't speak french or doesn't occur to them to speak french. Put put it that way and that is a visceral visceral thing <hes> because that opens up all sorts of old wounds and i i understand the knee-jerk reaction just sort of laugh at that like a laugh about the apostrophe and tim hortons or ray f as opposed you say to say that doesn't seem as important as the other issues that you have to take on when you're running a federal party that's right and to be fair to him is running into provincial party is her <hes> and and the the fundamental issues that it always comes down to that existential question here in quebec is that we are a people of eight million six and a half million of which are french speakers and we are in a sea of millions an hundreds of millions of people who don't speak our language so we have to have this garrison mentality in order for us to survive and to be perfectly frank is that there's a there's a bit of truth. There's certainly a bit of truth there <music> now quebec sovereignty. It's not really a top of mind issue. I think for a lot of people especially clean english canada coming into this election. <hes> and i think the big question you have to answer when you're the leader of the bloc is how much do i push sovereignty as her main issue. And how much do i push sir referendum lake where does blanchette stand on that. I was looking at the website this morning and so it it has mowed down which is the president sort of forward then it says <hes> the lady asked this is the second underneath <hes> if you look at all the literature and everything like that it's still very much friend of mine they present themselves as being <hes> the anteroom to sovereignty <hes> in ottawa one that it exists for the exact reason that lucian push art created the party in nineteen ninety-one which is to say we are here as a pressure party to get quebec out of the canadian federation thing that we we needed a different from what it is now with the rest of candidate. It'll be a radically different arrangement. That's in theory in practice sort of really the push and aggravate the differences between canada and quebec and so one of the things that blush pushes the lot on these days is the question of oil well oil pipelines this idea of adding people buying more and more and burning more and more oil which will bring to hold plymouth nowhere as a nation nation like any other nation. We have to put a lot of pressure on any country. That keeps doing that. We are killing this world. We have a complicated relationship with oil here in quebec that we use it nearly as much as any other north american society but we critique it a lot. There's a new angus reid poll out that tells ask the oil and gas industry is becoming a priority for canadians in this election year. There's support for pipelines in every province except for quebec makes it a lot lot more in the environmentalist movement is stronger here and a lot more vocal than elsewhere <hes> and blush it counts himself amongst one of those right in some ways oil is really an issue where you can draw draw a line between quebec and canada's represented by the west right like having pipelines. You have to have a pipeline. Come through quebec. If you wanna move albert oil to the east coast so that's that's how that issue kind of manifest itself. That's right so if trudeau wins the election <hes> in october he has less of a problem with someone like e francois blanchet because trudeau rudo isn't advocating for a an east coast pipeline so energy east was here as as everyone knows we had the plan put it in and then it got cancelled because the the the company pulled out transcanada edible though in a statement today transcanada said it made the decision after careful review of changed circumstances the massive pipeline expansion was put on hold in the wake of new and more stringent environmental approval requirements for the national energy board. Would you consider championing west east pipeline. It doesn't have to be energy east. It might go through quebec. If there's going to be <hes> such a proposal it has to come forward from the private sector it has and has essentially bought a uh-huh has bought a pipeline to push to the to the west coast so that takes care of that <hes> the interesting part is if the conservatives come in one of the key points in andrew shears. Plank is a quote unquote energy. <hes> what is it angie <hes> corridor running through canada canadian resources and energy coast to coast we could create wealth and opportunity while uniting statements like negligible and so necessarily that means putting a pipeline through quebec back and it's interesting he talks a lot about that very issue outside of quebec but mentions it hardly at all when he's actually in the province back and that extends to his language to you you look at some of the some of the stuff that they've put out the conservative party is put out in the it wasn't me figure this out. It was a journalistic quebec city that he uses the word oil in in english angus candidate uses the word energy in quebec energy's pipeline that would have taken energy from western canada eastern candidate displacing for now yeah when blush took over the black abequa he had his he said we really have to reach younger people and it feels like kind of these identity issues and the issue sovereignty is not so top of mind for younger people. Oh but energy and oil really can be away that it can be both a quebec issue an like something that reaches younger people worried about climate change. That's right so if you were the <music> <hes> sovereigntists version one back in the day you would have aggravated the differences the linguistic differences in the cultural differences between english and french canada so what you're seeing now <hes> <hes> with mr blanchette is go look. Candida is a petro state. Look quebec is greener than green. We wanna make things very green. We are green <hes> and everything around us. <hes> <hes> that has to do with canada is is soaked in oil. That's the difference that he's gonna aggravate not so much linguistic one but the petrochemical based ones yeah. It's it's not the the cultural differences. Actually we have a policy difference on the rest of canada that makes it necessary for us to become more independent from them. There's a bit of truth to this. There's also a lot of myth making that. Quebecers are inherently greener than the rest of the country. Now we do use a little bit less oil than everybody else given the fact that there's a there's so much hydro hydropower here but look the top selling car here in quebec is <hes> is the f. one fifty people's by s._u._v.'s as much as they do anywhere else. Quebec is a massive massive province <hes> geographically geographically wise with a very small population. What does that mean. People drive more. <hes> look whereas addicted oil as anyone else regardless. The misir are difficult difficult break and i never said that kickers were saints which does not mean that have to be forced into being you come police to this development of tar sand oil. I wanna talk about one of the biggest challenges for blanchette and that is the party that he's actually the leading right now. Because the last years of the block becua- i looked into this it was they've had six leaders in the last eight years by my count. It's been like a pretty tumultuous leander's and interim you leaders right right exactly and if we go back to the last election i mean the party only had two seats they had been wiped out by the ep party says it's seeing a surge of support lord across the country but particularly in quebec they coax jill out of retirement to subsidize the m._v._p. Has failed to defend quebec's interests in ottawa. Al could sovereigntists be represented in ottawa with people always saying that their ideal what happened in that election because they did turn it around to some extent to some extent fisher so she'll this was brought out. There's a there's a great term in french. <hes> people can google this. It's called soviet <hes> and that means ba- essentially saved the furniture <hes> the the water's creeping up <hes> get the furniture on the roof so that you know we save. We don't doesn't doesn't get waterlogged and we all get drifted away to see that's basically what is you'll duceppe. <hes> did not election <hes> he was not to say he was a spent force but he had suffered a very sort humiliating defeat in two thousand eleven forget the phone. He says he's accepting responsibility for the crushing defeat and came back in two thousand fifteen used the last of his political clout to to turn things around. Did it work. He didn't win himself <hes> the his own seat but but it worked in the sense that people around managed to get elected when they probably would have the probably should've lost and anywhere in in other words though seats that would have gone <hes> that was probably gonna lose. Anyway didn't go to the liberals. They went back to the block so that's what they did so now they have. If i'm not mistaken if ten they won ten seats in the last one but they also ran a campaign that i think especially in english candida struck a wrong note for a lot of people. It ended up being a very controversial campaign. You're allowed to use the word abhorrent okay so that that's interesting testing <hes> that you bring that up. I'll explain is basically what the ad was that one of the main is was and it was pretty close to the election date. Basically it was <hes> a drop of oil sort of morphing into a kneecap humane sony protocol. I think nepal dini cap and even if we're not okay with wearing a niqab to vote or taken south thomas mulcair he's fine with it. It's one drop too many because the was the main was seen as the main opponents to them. If you elect the dp quebec will be overrun run with oil in kneecaps right now <hes> again. I use the word appoint. There and i stand by it. It's it's a it's a brutal thing. It's particularly brutal because jill duceppe himself elf when at the provincial level was going through all the sort of identity stuff and a charter of quebec values which would have seen the prohibition of the the of the hijab and the the key etc etc it would ban the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols. The minister responsible for this bernard granville says he thinks these rules are necessary because there's tension about this. He calls it a crisis. The state must be neutral jobs. Sep was sort of one of the ones who spoke out against it to the extent that he could and has said for as long as i can remember him being in politics that a quebecer quebecers comebacker <hes> to paraphrase justin trudeau <hes> <hes> so for him to come out and do this. It's sort of showed me exactly the limits of civic nationalism right because he's in trouble. He's got the breathing down his neck and what does he do. He reverts to this sort of scorched earth idea that was straight of his stephen harper playbook to say look if you don't if you don't vote for us we're the last bulwark against oil in kneecaps cabs. Did it work. I mean they did do. They did do better than they thought so in a way. Do you feel like the party the block becua- changed because of that election because has they have been seen for the longest time kind of socially progressive party like they had a policy of voting for same sex marriage for example when that came up years ago <hes> and now they're playing on these kind kind of identity issues and issues around specifically you know islam in quebec like did that fundamentally change what the parties about i mean the the block of it was is often seen as the poor cousin of of the particular and that's exactly what the party gave it d- <hes> in the two thousand twelve when they first elected in the election after that pushed as i mentioned before the charter quebec values the particular kwa which i will remind listeners started off as not quite multicultural but very very very open to newcomers difference within the society also close ranks so the fact that the bloc quebecois is doing that now doesn't really surprise me so i want to run through just the last couple of years because duceppe as you mentioned lost his seat in the two thousand fifteen election <hes> and then he went back into retirement and the party went through a little bit of soul searching and they ended up picking this woman martine roulette yup to run the party well. That's spoke about the party sovereignty anti agenda and how many underestimate the strength of the bloc quebecois leonova. Mike system is also very blue and she lasted a year sure. I mean it was a very tumultuous time like seven members of the ten person caucus quit in protest has right the seven fed up m._p. Say she didn't listen and they fundamentally under mentally disagreed about how to best pursue independence the way mrs won't at the cdc the our job. It's like being salesman. I i believe it should be independent but i don't believe that saying that they after day will make people believe the same you know. We'll let she came in. She lasted a year in this leadership position ended up being essentially forced out because she lost her entire caucus basically and into this void comes the francois blanchette and now now he's coming by acclamation. He becomes the leader of the party and he's walking into a party that clearly has had this kind of disorganization the last couple of years. What does he do to get the party back on track with bloodshed now. His convictions are very very well known. They have been for a long time what he brings to the party. Though i think is that name recognition everybody sort sorta knows this guy for for his time within a as manager for point <hes> as president of leads and then he was a pundit on on radio canada ah here on a show called his ex the cavs in this so the phony elective the console was on this law so he's a very very well known entity eighty <hes> and has experienced within politics frank so i think that's a lot of what he brings <hes> and you you know you sort of reflected in the polls. The bloc quebecois hasn't done anything thing because there's there hasn't been an election but the second that he was sort of elected leader the bloc quebecois went from dead in the water to <hes> not quite dead in the water within the space of a few weeks it was it it was actually interesting to watch. It's going to be very interesting. E francois blush. It will be in the debates. He's one of the five leaders who <hes> will be part of those so <hes> for people in english canada who he doesn't have a huge profile with like that'll probably be introduction. I think for a lot of people <hes> yeah yeah and <hes>. I hate to say it but he doesn't really careful since i mean fundamentally he doesn't he doesn't really <hes> he doesn't care about the rest of the country at all. I mean that's the that's the nature of the bloc quebecois. You know he's he's. He's says all the right things you know candidate candidate lovely country but but we're fundamentally different that's the way he is and that's the way it's always gonna be martin. Thank you so much for talking today. I really appreciate it. Thanks for have aw <music>. This is the third in our series of profiles on the federal party leaders. You can actually find our episodes on justin trudeau uh-huh andrew scheer in our feet. That's all for this week. Fritter comes to you from c._b._c. News and c._b._c. podcasts this week. The show is produced by shannon higgins. Imaging burchard matama and ashley mac derek vander. Wake is our designer. We had helped this week from billy heaton. Our music is by joseph. Chaban boombox sound this week. The executive producer front burner was elaine chao sitting in for nick mccabe locos. Your host of course is jimmy hustle and i'm chris birthday. Thanks for listening to front burner you for more c._b._c. Podcasts go to c._b._c. dot c._a. Slash podcasts.