Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Québécois, says it is time for Jason Kenney to “start explaining things with truth,” claiming the Alberta premier has been spreading “false information” when he speaks about Quebec’s equalization payments.
“Canada does not send a cheque to Quebec. That’s not true. That simply does not exist, and he keeps repeating that,” Blanchet told The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson. “I would be glad if he started explaining things with truth instead of some false information as we see.”
The spat between the leaders began earlier this week when, following a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Blanchet made it clear his party would oppose any initiative that would lead to additional gas and oil extraction in Canada, saying “if they are trying to create an oil state in western Canada, they cannot expect any help from us.”
Kenney was critical of Blanchet’s remarks, saying they came “a week after Quebec tabled a budget with a $4-billion surplus thanks to a $13-billion equalization payment from Ottawa,” which he says came from the workers that many oil and gas companies had to lay off.
Kenney said Alberta has paid $600 billion in equalization payments since 1960, adding the province has contributed $23 billion each year for the past five years.
“You cannot have your cake and eat it too,” Kenney said. “Pick a lane.”
However, Blanchet said equalization comes from federal income, and that “Quebec contributes more to federal income than Alberta does.”
“There would be no oil industry in Alberta if Quebec had not willingly or not contributed to the very beginning of that industry so many years ago. We were the ones providing money to them back then, and we’re not saying keep giving us that money. The Bloc Québécois does not say that,” he said. “The Bloc Québécois says at the end of the day, we would do better by ourselves without your oil, without your money.”
However, when asked about the 44 per cent of oil used in Quebec that comes from the West, and Blanchet’s reversal of the Line 9 pipelines, Blanchet said he never claimed that Quebec does not use oil, but that Canada should be using “less and less.”
“Forty-three per cent of electrical vehicles in Canada are in Quebec,” Blanchet said. “This is one very good way to reduce our oil consumption, and I was the one to authorize the change of direction of the 9B Enbridge line. Because of that, we are fully supplied in Quebec, and any other part of oil that would come from Alberta in Quebec would be for the single purpose of exportation through Quebec, then to New Brunswick and then transformation and exportation.”
When asked if he thinks the separatist sentiment in Alberta is genuine and if there is a genuine possibility the province could leave Canada, Blanchet said it is their decision to make, but that the desire to become a country “should be fuelled by something else than anger, resentment.”
“I seem to understand that some people in western Canada don’t feel comfortable in the present of this country,” he said. “It’s theirs to make that decision, but the desire to do whatever they want with their oil or their model for economic development based on oil might not be a sufficient reason to fuel a desire to become a country.”
Blanchet added that he is not going to support something “which is that dangerous for the planet and for Quebec.”
“We should start, all of us, consuming less oil, not more and more because we cannot as a country, as a province, as a planet, we cannot afford that,” he said. “And it seems to me pretty irresponsible to keep promoting this instead.”
But, despite their differing opinions, Blanchet says he is open to meeting with Kenney to settle the spat.
“A few years ago, I was known as ‘the goon’ because I had quite a temper,” Blanchet said. “Maybe I got older, but I’m doing every effort to remain very polite, very peaceful in the way I do politics. So if it might be helpful for me to go there and have a discussion with Mr. Kenney or anybody else, I think I have the responsibility to do this.”
During Canada’s federal election last month, the Bloc captured 32 seats, making it the third-largest party in the House of Commons.
Blanchet says the mandate the party received from Quebecers was “not to tear Parliament apart,” adding that the independent party will “vote in favour of what is good for Quebec and against what is bad for Quebec.”
“I do not believe that Canadians or Quebecers elected a minority government in order to go back in election in two years,” he said. “They just decided that that’s the Parliament they wanted. And I suppose that this comes with the obligation to collaborate.”
-With files from Heide Pearson